New England Patriots to play host to the Kansas City Chiefs
September 07, 2017 6:36 AM
by Bob Christ
For the 14th consecutive year, the defending Super Bowl champions will help kick off the new season when the New England Patriots play host to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night in a battle of division winners.
In 11 of the previous 13 openers, the reigning champs prevailed. Only the NY Giants in 2012, losing at home to Dallas, and Baltimore a year later, falling at Denver, did not get off to a winning start. Those Ravens, though, had an excuse. They were the only defending champs in this span to open on the road and were an 8.5-point underdog.
The Patriots are the most heavily favored defending champ in its opener since Baltimore in 2001, when it was a 10-point choice over Chicago, winning 17-6. Dating to that season, world champs are 10-3-3 ATS in their openers the next season, with New England having a 2-0-2 ledger. In the 16 seasons before that, however, the Super team was 3-13 ATS.
Anyway, on to forecasting how the 2017 opener should play out. The odds are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Time: 5:30 p.m. PDT
Line: Patriots by 9 (48)
Facts: The line opened at 7 at the SuperBook and escalated despite NE losing WR Julian Edelman (119 catches last season, counting playoffs) for the season with a knee injury. KC took a jolt when RB Spencer Ware (956 yards in 2016) was lost with his knee injury. Also, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is nursing a calf injury... In last season's Super win over Atlanta, the Patriots ran 93 plays to the Falcons' 46. That 47-snap margin is the widest over the past seven seasons in any game... NE's season opener last year was a 23-21 win at Arizona despite being an 8.5-point dog and with QB Tom Brady in the DeflateGate pokey. That's the only time in the Pats' past 35 games they've been a dog... In 2014, KC waxed visiting New England 41-14, which is the worst loss for the Brady/Belichick combo since 2003... The Patriots welcome back TE Rob Gronkowski, who missed 11 games last year. NE went 11-0 without him, covering the spread each time.
Analysis: Sure, Brady will be without Edelman, who was targeted 194 times last year, but there's a solid replacement in former Saints No. 1 pick Brandin Cooks, who caught 78 balls for New Orleans and had a better catch percentage (66.7) than Edelman (61.3). KC's talented secondary will be spread thin tracking Cooks and Gronk. And there's NE's offseason RB pickup Mike Gillislie from Buffalo. His norm of 5.7 a rush last year was the best for any qualifying running back the past four years. KC will counter with a rookie Kareem Hunt, but he could well be blinded by the bright lights in his first real game. What made the Chiefs special last year was its league-best 33 takeaways and eight scores off defensive/kick returns. New England foes didn't have any return scores in the regular season and the Patriots tied for a league-low 11 giveaways. So much for that edge for KC. And finally, there's big talk out of Kansas City about collapsing the pocket and roughing up Brady. Last season the Chiefs had only 28 sacks, fifth lowest in the league.
Forecast: Patriots 30, Chiefs 16