Tom Brady may be 40 and may be without his favorite receiver in Julian Edelman, but he’s also 8-0 with an average of 26.8 points a game in his career in home season-openers. Along the way, the future Hall of Famer has passed for 19 touchdowns, just three interceptions, 2,098 yards, and posted a 109.5 QB rating. This one could be over at halftime, but it’s more likely New England pulls away late. Ratings will be there regardless. Football’s back!
The Kansas City Chiefs players arrive in New England
As has been the case yesterday, six players were limited during today's practice. All six have therefore been declared as "questionable" to play in tomorrow's game, with Slater and Ebner the most plausible players to suit up. But even if they were declared active, it appears limely that the team monitors snap counts to help them fight their way back from injury.
Bill Belichick’s Patriots unfailingly devote extra defensive resources to stopping their opponents’ most dangerous weapon, and I think it’s conceivable if not likely that they envision Tyreek Hill as that guy in Week 1. Hill is a 4.29 speedster who scored 12 all-purpose TDs as a rookie despite handling just 85 offensive touches. Hill never reached 600 receiving yards in a college season, however, and he is still learning to play wideout full time. Hill turned in a quiet preseason, catching just three of Smith’s 32 pass attempts for 52 scoreless yards. Having paired Stephon Gilmore with Malcolm Butler, the Patriots are loaded at cornerback. Hill’s big-play ability gives him matchup-proof potential, but I’m approaching him as a boom-bust WR3/flex until we see on-field evidence Hill is capable of handling a lead wideout role.
"Time will tell, but I’d say hopefully in the next month or so," said Ragland, the Bills’ second-round draft pick last year. "There’s a lot to learn about this defense. But it is similar to Rex Ryan’s defense (last year with the Bills). It’s not like I’m starting from scratch. And my knee is doing (well), so I don’t think it will be that much longer before I’m playing."
Don’t let the Chiefs get solid gains on 1st and 2nd down: The best way to handle Alex Smith is to force him to play behind the chains. He’s very good at managing drives when his offense is on schedule, but when forced to play behind the chains he struggles a bit. The most important part to this is good tackling and prevent extra yardage in the play. That means not letting what should be 2nd and 8 situations turn into 2nd and 5 or 2nd and 4 situations. With the way the Patriots are able to force long fields for opposing offenses and how stout the run defense has been, I’m pretty confident they can get off the field without allowing points, even if they give up a couple first downs.
The third key, however, is rarely talked about. One of the reasons Brady is elite is because of his ability to spot defensive tells before the snap. This can be a stunting defensive lineman, for instance, who falls into the habit of tilting, ever so slightly, in the direction he plans to knife, or a blitzing linebacker who shifts his weight to his toes right before the snap in an effort to build a head of steam.
All these things and more, Brady sees. It’s why it only took Brady an average of 2.49 seconds to deliver the football last year, the quickest in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit, which is a national chain based in Dallas, will be another familiar offering in Section 301, since it has five locations in the Kansas City area.
BRGR Kitchen + Bar set up shop in Section 102, featuring four burgers and other fare familiar to fans who have visited their locations in Prairie Village and Kansas City's Power & Light District.
Another new restaurant teaming up with the Chiefs this season is Chickie's & Pete's, a Philadelphia icon that serves crabfries, cheesesteak sandwiches and boneless chicken wings.
The Chiefs are good enough that they won’t often be able to pretend nobody believes in them, so this is a chance they won’t let pass.
Justin Houston cannot talk about his knee without putting it in terms of recovering quicker than expected. Alex Smith is still motivated in part by the belief that Jim Harbaugh’s decision to go with Colin Kaepernick in 2012 cost the 49ers a Super Bowl. Marcus Peters seems genuinely offended by a quarterback even looking his way.
From the top of the roster to the bottom, this is a group driven in part by proving people wrong.
Speaking of that, DeVito and Chatham talked about the Patriots being a different offense today than they were even two years ago. They run the ball more now. The Patriots were third in rushing attempts last year (but 25th in yards per attempt ... hmm). DeVito said you’d be tempted to go into your base personnel with them running it more but that’s probably not the right call. You have to stay in nickel and dime because you fear Tom Brady more than you do their running game. What this does mean is that the Chiefs nickel and dime defense has to be able to stop the run, too. This will be one of the biggest keys to the game and it’s an area where the Chiefs really struggled last year. Here’s to hoping Derrick Johnson’s return makes the difference.
For this prediction we have to do something with the Maybe teams from above. Since there are six Maybe teams and they are a 50/50 shot to make the playoffs we should split them in two. Now we have nine non-playoff teams and seven playoff teams in the Chiefs schedule this year.
Using the win percentages from previous years we can do a little math and come up with our prediction....
At NFL.com, four of the 15 experts predict the Chiefs would win the AFC West. Nine went with the Raiders and two chose the Chargers. In the breakdown of wild-card teams, four people think the Chiefs will be the top wild-card team and three others saw they Chiefs as the second wild-card.
Kelce is one of the top three tight ends in the league, along with Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen. He’s the Chiefs biggest offensive weapon and the Patriots will need SS Patrick Chung to have an encore performance of their 2015-16 playoff match-up, where Chung prevented Kelce from doing anything.
“When you play 261 games, pass for 61,000 yards - or whatever he has - you're playing against a football player, a quarterback that's really talented. It's just a huge challenge. You know as a coach, as a player, you really have to be at your best when you go into this. It's going to be a fun night, a challenging night. He's certainly one of the best to maybe have played at that position. So big challenge for us. One that we're looking forward to."
- Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton
Professional respect aside, the matchup will be an early glimpse of how formidable the Patriots are after only losing a few pieces off last season’s roster. They will reveal a new-look running game after not re-signing LeGarrette Blount, last season’s rushing touchdowns leader. In addition, receiving stalwart Julian Edelman is out for the season following a preseason knee injury.
And on defense they’re without a dedicated edge rusher with Chris Long leaving in free agency and Rob Ninkovich retiring. But several familiar and important contributors remain.
Andy Reid. Plain and simple. Andy Reid has won over 60 percent of his regular season games and in fact has won over 67 percent of those same games in Kansas City. However in the post season Reid struggles to the finish line. He has a sub .500 record in the playoffs and he is just 1-3 in KC in games that matter most. Plus 11 of his 18 seasons he had double digit wins but only once made the Super Bowl.