By Danny Cox
The New England Patriots are starting off this season with some new faces and some missing players, and they’re hoping to defend their championship run from last season. As usual, they will kick off the season in the opening game and will take on an AFC rival in the Kansas City Chiefs. It will be no easy task to finish Thursday night with a victory.
Last season, the Chiefs finished atop the AFC West with a 12-4 record—which was matched by the Oakland Raiders—but KC still ended up with the divisional crown. Head coach Andy Reid has really turned this team around, and he returns a lot of his roster from last season—a roster which did very well, and could do even better in 2017.
It all starts on Thursday night, when the Chiefs take on the defending Super Bowl champions.
Kansas City Chiefs Season Record: 0-0; Preseason Record: 2-2
During the preseason, the Chiefs split their four games with losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks while picking up victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans. There were some mixed feelings and the starters didn’t play a whole lot in any of the games, but it was the preseason and nothing was overly shocking.
Well, there was one thing, and it wasn’t good for the Chiefs’ offense.
Chiefs On Offense
In the third game of the preseason, running back Spencer Ware suffered a knee injury that ended up being much worse than anyone had hoped. Ware was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday, which officially ended his season. He will need surgery on his knee for expected PCL and LCL tears.
Now, KC will rely on the legs of rookie Kareem Hunt to lead the rushing attack with Charcandrick West as his back-up. C.J. Spiller was released during final cuts, but was then brought back a day later.
Patrick Mahomes II looked very good during the preseason and will fit in as the back-up quarterback, but Alex Smith is still going into the season as the starter. Smith has great targets in tight end Travis Kelce and wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, and Chris Conley, which will have the Pats’ defenders looking all over the field.
Chiefs On Defense
The addition of Bennie Logan adds even more power to an already strong defensive line that has a great pass rush and puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The offensive line of the Pats will need to watch every single side of Tom Brady, or Thursday could be a very long and brutal evening.
KC has a very deep secondary with Eric Berry leading the way, but their strongest area is with their linebackers. Justin Houston and Dee Ford will patrol the middle of the field while also adding even more to the pass rush at times, but having Tamba Hali back is something everyone in the franchise would like.
Chiefs Players To Watch: WR Tyreek Hill and NT Bennie Logan
Tyreek Hill may be the most dangerous player on the entire Kanas City Chiefs roster, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows it. Belichick can’t be sure exactly how much and how differently the Chiefs will use him, even though he’s listed as a wide receiver. Hill is not a huge player, but he’s very fast with extreme agility, and he can hurt opposing teams on offense or special teams.
Bennie Logan could have returned to the Philadelphia Eagles for a big money deal, but he turned it down and ended up signing with the Chiefs. He fits right into the defensive line where he can cause a lot of havoc and may be featured even more in Andy Reid’s system than he was in Philly.
This is not going to be an easy first-game victory for the New England Patriots by any stretch of the imagination. Tom Brady has his team ready to go and eager to defend their championship, but the pressure will be on them to bring about the perfect season. The thing is, there aren’t a lot of people in the organization that care about remaining perfect—most simply want to win another Super Bowl. Flawless record or not, it’s going to be a true test to get the first win of the year against the Chiefs—but the Pats should be able to pick it up.