Kansas City Chiefs (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS, 6-10 O/U) at New England Patriots (14-2 SU, 13-3 ATS, 6-10 O/U)
When and Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., 8:30pmET
Line: New England -8
The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots open the 2017 season with a matchup against Kansas City, who is coming off a 12-4 season. These teams last met in January of 2016 in the playoffs with the Patriots winning 27-20 at home. The Pats will enter the season without their top receiver in Julian Edelman (96 catches for 1,161 yards), who tore his ACL in the second game of preseason. Kansas City lost their top running back (Spencer Ware) for the season in the third preseason game due to a knee injury. The Patriots are the heavy Super Bowl favorite once again after coming back from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to defeat Atlanta to win their fifth ring.
Chiefs had strange offseason
Kansas City was certainly in the offseason. The Chiefs traded up in the first round of the draft to select quarterback Patrick Mahones, who has looked good in the preseason and should be a future starter. They also released talented receiver Jeremy Maclin and fired general manager John Dorsey three weeks later. Now that Ware (921 yards) is gone for the season, the Chiefs are missing a prime back. They could go with Charcandrick West, who had 293 yards but averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season. Ware offers solid running but also the ability to catch the ball (33 catches for 447 yards). They did draft Kareem Hunt in the third round from Toledo and signed veteran C.J. Spiller as a free agent in the offseason. That puts more pressure on veteran quarterback Alex Smith, who threw for just 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions and 3,502 yards last season. He targeted tight end Travis Kelce 117 times and he caught 85 balls for 1,125 yards to lead the NFL for his position. Rookie wideout Tyreek Hill scored 12 TDs as a receiver, three as a runner and three as a returner to become an instant weapon. Now they need a possession receiver to step up and replace Maclin.
Defensively, the Chiefs have to replace big nose tackle Dontari Poe, who left in free agency. The Chiefs struggled against the run last season, allowing 121.1 yards per game (26th) and 247.4 yards per game in the air (26th).
The addition of Cooks means even more now
New England pulled off a stunning trade in the offseason by sending a first-round pick to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks. They also traded a second for a third-rounder and DE Kony Ealy from Carolina, but ended up waiving him in the preseason. The Cooks move looks brilliant now that Edelman is out for the season. Cooks has 2,311 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Edelman was a gifted slot receiver and a pretty good punt returner. That means more responsibility for 31-year old Danny Amendola, who can do most of the things Edelman did but just not as well. Of course, having Tom Brady return at age 39 helps, even if he showed his age at times during the playoffs, he now has five Super Bowl rings. He threw for 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the regular season, despite missing the first four games due to a suspension (deflategate). Having a healthy Rob Gronkowski (25 catches for 540 yards) would also help make up for the loss of Edelman. The Patriots also just added wide receiver Phillip Dorsett from the Colts for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Dorsett has the ability to play outside or in the slot.
On defense, the Patriots were very sturdy last season, ranking sixth overall in the total defense (326.4 yards per game) and tied for third against the run (88.6ypg). They lack a dominant pass rusher but still managed 34 sacks last season. Their ends are better at setting the edge in the run game. Their linebackers are solid led by Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich, while the secondary has become a major strength of the team. They go five deep at corner led by Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty, while re-signing safety Duron Harmon was key.
Kansas City is:
- 6-0 ATS last 6 road games.
New England is:
The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champs and loaded on both sides of the ball. But Brady is 39 and basically a statue right now. The Chiefs will design stunts and blitzes to at least bother him. He’ll also miss his security blanket (Edelman) as Amendola is not the same player. Take the points.
Pick: Kansas City
New England was more of an under team last season, even though they erupted offensively in the playoffs. The Chiefs want to keep this game in teens or low 20’s. The Chiefs were 9-4 Under last 13 overall, while the Patriots are 4-1 Under last 5 in Week 1.