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Chiefs opening 2023 season against a tough Lions team

Kansas City’s head coach and quarterback respect the challenge facing their team in Thursday’s season opener.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

You can tell the Kansas City Chiefs’ regular season has arrived.

“We’re gonna prepare ourselves for a heck of a football team,” said head coach Andy Reid of Thursday’s NFL season opener against the Detroit Lions, “in a great environment here at Arrowhead.”

But Reid wasn’t simply paying lip service to another team in a parity-driven league. The Lions finished last season 9-8 under head coach Dan Campbell, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn — not to mention former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff and 13 top-100 selections from the last three NFL DraftsHutchinson. This year, they acquired running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick.

“They’ve got a nice group of offensive linemen,” said Reid. “Obviously the quarterback is a heck of a player. They’ve got a new addition in there with the rookie that is a dynamic player — and they’ve got good wide receivers and tight ends.

“I mean, they’re fully loaded at all the different spots — [and] it showed that last year. So you’ve got to be ready for the running game and passing game; they do a variety of different things. Ben does a nice job with the offense.”

“The obvious thing is they play hard the entire game,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes of the Detroit defense during his turn at the podium. “No matter if it’s a good play or bad play, they’re gonna come back that next snap and play extremely hard. Then they do a lot of great stuff scheme-wise. They had a lot of young guys playing last year.”

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

One of those, of course, was Hutchinson.

“He’s a good player,” noted Reid. “He plays both sides; he goes right or left. But he’s a heck of a player. Their defensive front is solid, man. They’re a good bunch right there. So the offensive line has got to really have a good week of preparation for that.”

“He’s one of the guys I was talking about,” said Mahomes of Hutchinson. “You can see at the beginning of the year, he played hard. He was trying to figure everything out. But as the season went on, he really kind of started to come into his own... He’s a great football player. [He] has the physical talent, but [he’s] also a smart football player. I mean, he had three interceptions last year — so you know he can do a little bit of everything. We have to account for him every snap, because he’s a game-changing type of player.”

Mahomes also pointed out that Detroit added two cornerbacks in free agency: Cameron Sutton from the Pittsburgh Steelers and C.J. Gardner-Johnson from the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Obviously, I played [Gardner-Johnson] a couple of times; he’s a great football player,” Mahomes reminded his listeners. “So they’ve added talent — with young guys and veterans — and they play hard, and they got better [than] even last year. So we know it’s gonna be a heck of a football game. If we don’t play our best football, we’re not going to go out there and win.”

But we shouldn’t take that to mean Mahomes is worried about... you know... losing.

“I’m always confident in my guys — offensive line, everybody,” he declared. “I’m confident in them. I know they’ve been working their tail off, and they’re excited to showcase what they have and what they’ve been doing.”

For Mahomes, that begins with his group of (mostly) young wide receivers — which, according to Reid, might even include Kadarius Toney, who missed all of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“I mean, the talent that he has — the competitor that he is? To be able to go out there and have that weapon? It would definitely be a huge positive,” said the quarterback. “He’s done a great job in the practices that he’s been in so far. I’m looking forward to him continuing to step up and be even better — and be more like his normal self.”

But it’s not just about Toney. Mahomes believes in the wideouts the team has assembled during the offseason.

“We have a lot of talented receivers,” he noted. “A lot of them can do a lot of things. We’re gonna try to use that to our advantage — moving guys around [and] giving guys the opportunity to make plays. That receiving room is taking pride in being a room that can go out there and excel — no matter who is the guy getting the football.”

“We have the flexibility to do that,” said the head coach. “We’ll just see how things go. I think we’ve got a good plan for that. Aaron is gonna give you a million different looks on the other side; he does a great job coordinating that thing. It’s important that our guys focus in on getting to know what he does — and then have the confidence that they can function out there.”

It ought to add up to quite a battle for the season opener.

“It’s gonna be a fight,” predicted Mahomes. “I’ve said that to all the guys: ‘This team is coming in and they expect to win — and we expect to win.’ So that’s when you get the great football games.”

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