Kansas City Chiefs (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Thursday September 7th 8:30 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:KC +8 / NE -8
The NFL is finally back with the New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night in the season opener. The game will carry especial importance for the fans in Foxboro as dictator despot Goodell will be in attendance for the first time since embarrassing himself and the league with his sham investigation into the Patriots a couple years back and those in attendance will finally have their chance to politely explain in person to the commissioner their feelings on the matter.
Drawing the defending Super Bowl champions in week one is no easy task, but with the second hardest schedule in the league for 2017, playing against the best is something that Kansas City will need to get used to if they plan on getting back to the playoffs after having made it in three of the past four seasons under head coach Andy Reid including this past one after having won their first AFC West title since 2010. The issue they face is their lack of success when they get there, as while Reid has led the team to a 43-21 regular season record, they are just 1-3 in the postseason including an 18-16 loss at home against Pittsburgh in the divisional round that ended their season a year ago.
In what was a strange move considering the timing, the Chiefs had a big front office shakeup in June when general manager John Dorsey was unexpectedly fired just weeks after an active NFL Draft that saw them trade multiple picks to build what they hope to be their offensive future with the selections of quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the 1st round and running back Kareem Hunt in the 3rd. The team was clearly enamored with both players, trading their 2017 1st round pick along with a 1st and 3rd in 2018 to move up to grab Mahomes and giving up 3rd/4th/7th round picks in 2017 to jump up fourteen spots to take Hunt.
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The drafting of Hunt was especially fortuitous as he was already gaining traction as a rookie sleeper and now that running back Spencer Ware has been lost for the season due to injury, expects to play a prominent role in the Chiefs offensive game plan and is the clear front runner in a backfield that also includes Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller. The receiving options for quarterback Alex Smith did take a hit with Jeremy Maclin lost to free agency, but still retains star tight end Travis Kelce along with speedy second year receiver/returner Tyreek Hill, who scored a touchdown every 9.4 times he touched the ball last season. During his exciting success in 2016 the NFL used Hill multiple times as the lead promotional picture on their media outlets, apparently having forgotten or simply just not caring about his previous arrest for strangling his pregnant girlfriend.
There are new faces on the defense as well with the Chiefs signing multiple players up front on the line, highlighted by tackle Bennie Logan as the major piece brought in to help replace the loss of two time pro bowler Dontari Poe who left via free agency for Atlanta. Thankfully for the team both linebackers who missed time last season due to knee injuries, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston, are expected to be back fully healthy and provide the team a solid core of strength in the middle. KCs defense ranked just 19th against the pass last season but should see marked improvement this year with two of the leagues best in strong safety Eric Berry and cornerback Marcus Peters patrolling the defensive backfield, though they will certainly have their hands full in week one against the Patriots vaulted passing offense.
After having won their fifth Super Bowl championship with a historic 34-28 overtime win against Atlanta to end last season, New England did the opposite of what they usually do in the offseason, making repeated big splashes by signing arguably the best defensive player available in cornerback Stephen Gilmore while also trading with the Saints for explosive star receiver Brandin Cooks. Much like the drafting of Hunt by the Chiefs, the acquisition of Cooks turned out to be bigger than expected with the Patriots just having recently lost receiver Julian Edelman for the season to injury after having torn his ACL in the preseason.
Despite the loss of Edelman, the Patriots offense should have little issue picking up where they left off from last season when they finished the season ranked 3rd in scoring, 4th in passing, 7th in rushing and 4th in total yards per game. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski is back after missing most of last season due to injuries, and along with the newly signed Cooks will be joined by Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and the just traded for Phillip Dorsett as receiving options for Brady.
The Patriots lost running back Legarrette Blount to free agency, but will have plenty of backfield alternatives after signing Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to go along with the duo James White and Dion Lewis, both of whom also offer Brady legit options through the air as well.
The signing of Stephen Gilmore to go along with fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler gives the Patriots one of the best coverage tandems in the league, which is only made that much stronger when considering they will be joined by two time Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty in the defensive backfield and should be able to quickly get past New Englands unfortunate stat of recording just two interceptions a season ago. The resigning of Donta Hightower to a long term deal was enormous for the team as he will be provide the strength in the middle of the defense for the foreseeable future, and will be joined by David Harris from the Jets at the position as they play behind a strong line up front highlighted by Trey Flowers, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and their other big free agent signing, end Lawrence Guy from the Ravens.
The Patriots and Chiefs have played just twice over the past three seasons, with New England having won 27-20 back in January of 2016 in the divisional playoff round and the Chiefs getting a 41-14 victory on a September Monday night in Arrowhead that had many around the NFL citing as evidence of a Patriots decline, which is especially comical now seeing they have gone 43-9 since with two Super Bowl titles.
While Kansas City is undoubtedly a solid team that should battle for what would be their second consecutive division title this season, it is near impossible to go against the Patriots in Foxboro, especially with Tom Brady at the helm seeing he is an absurd 53-1 at home against AFC opponents since 2007. The team plays well with a target on its back, especially against the spread, having gone 14-3 in their last 17 games versus the number when favored and 19-6-3 over the past three seasons at Gillette as a home favorite. With an arsenal weapons for Brady to choose from, a revamped defense that looks to be even better than the one that finished 1st in the league in scoring last season, a decided edge on the sidelines with Belichick versus Andy Reid and playing in front of a fired-up, blood thirsty crowd thanks to the appearance of Gestapo Goodell, I will be taking the Patriots to get a win and cover against the Chiefs on opening night of the NFL season.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -8
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