The moment you’ve all been waiting for since Feb. 5 is finally upon us.
The New England Patriots are set to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening game of the 2017 NFL season, as the team is set to hang a fifth banner at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night.
While fans will be drawn to the pregame festivities, if we take a step ahead and look at the match up, the Patriots have a tough test in their first installment of their title defense.
Kansas City has always been a team that will not shy away from its game plan, as head coach Andy Reid loves to take his time on the offensive side of the ball, often bringing the play clock down to the waning seconds, much to the dismay of viewers who want to see a continuous flow of action.
Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith is not going to wow you with his throwing strength, as his passes will be short-to-intermediate routes.
After cutting Jeremy Maclin in the offseason, his primary weapons in the passing game are speedster Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
The key to defending these two is to be physical at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, thus making it difficult for them to get into their breaks and accelerate towards route running.
Malcolm Butler will more than likely line up against Hill, having a safety over the top to help out on streak routes.
New cornerback Stephon Gillmore may have a tough test early in his Patriots career, as he could be responsible for covering Kelce, along with bruising safety Patrick Chung, who handled him well in the playoffs back in 2016, holding him to six receptions for a measly 23 yards.
On the offensive side of the ball, a match up that is critical to the Patriots success will be the play of the offensive line against the wily veteran pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
A way to combat this is to have quick routes with a five-step drop that keeps Brady upright and Kansas City on its heels. Expect to see a lot of dumps to the flat with the likes of James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.
Speaking of the passing game, Brady will have to keep a watchful eye on the ball-hawking secondary in the form of safety Eric Berry and cornerback Marcus Peters.
Even with all the weapons at his disposal, Brady will have to take care of the ball.
Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. The game can be viewed on NBC.
Patriots injury report: LB Shea McClellin (IR), OT Cameron Fleming (questionable), WR Malcom Mitchell (questionable), DT Vincent Valentine (doubtful), WR Matthew Slater (questionable)
Chiefs injury report: CB Steven Nelson (IR), G Parker Ehinger (doubtful), LB Reggie Ragland (doubtful), S Ron Parker (questioable)