For fans across America, the start of the NFL season is cause for celebration. Sundays are suddenly the best day of the week, and everyone has something to look forward to on Monday night.
All eyes will be on Foxborough, MA on Thursday, the home of the polarizing New England Patriots. Tom Brady and the Pats are the defending champs, and as a result they earned the right to host the first game of the season. The match up will be intriguing. A young, talented Kansas City Chiefs team will be the opponent in the initial game of the 2017-2018 NFL season.
There are so many intriguing match ups, it will be tough to pick the most pivotal one. At certain spots, one team has a clear advantage, while in others the margin is razor thin.
An NFL game usually starts and ends at the quarterback position. With Tom Brady going up against Alex Smith in Week 1, the first category will be the easiest.
Quarterback: Advantage, Patriots
Tom Brady has accomplished it all. With five Super Bowl wins, countless regular season and postseason records, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t the best quarterback of all time.
After an epic 28-3 comeback win in last year’s Super Bowl, his legacy is cemented. The beauty of Brady at the quarterback position is that he makes everyone around him better. Countless running backs, wide receivers and tight ends owe their career to Brady. He demands the best out of every play that surrounds him, and throwing a pass that is easy to catch helps as well.
His new favorite weapon will be speedster, Brandin Cooks. The Patriots acquired him in an off season trade, and will be excited to see his potential now that he is paired with Tom Brady. Unfortunately, Brady’s go-to target, Julian Edelman tore his ACL this preseason and will miss the entire year. Should be a minor speed bump for Brady, but the absence could be a noticeable one.
As for Alex Smith, he is no slouch, he’s just not Tom Brady. For much of his career, he was saddled with the label, “game manager.” With 79 career wins and two Pro Bowl appearances, Smith has risen above that. This season will be his biggest yet as the Chiefs are looking to get past just being a playoff team.
Smith has won 11 games three times during his tenure in Kansas City, but has only won once in the playoffs. A big test against Tom Brady will be a barometer for how the Chiefs will handle themselves this season.
Head Coach: Advantage, Patriots
Another easy call for the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick will go down as one of the best coaches of all time. For the past two decades, he has ruled the AFC, and for the most part the entire NFL. With the most Super Bowl wins for a head coach, his resume is unmatched. Besides two miracles from the New York Giants, it is very possible that Belichick could have been a spotless 7-0.
He is a defensive mastermind, and his calling card is taking away what the other team does best. Whether it is a player or even a certain play, Belichick shuts that down and has teams try and beat him with their second or third best options.
On the other side of the field, the Chiefs have a Hall of Fame caliber coach as well. Andy Reid led the Philadelphia Eagles to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. After he couldn’t win the big one, the Eagles ran him out of town. He has taken his fast-paced offense to Kansas City, and become a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. He got the upper hand on Belichick a few seasons ago with a 42-14 win, but that game sparked a fire under the Patriots that has led to two Super Bowl wins since.
There is no doubt there will be some bad blood between these two teams, and it should make for an enticing opening night match up.
Tight End: Advantage, Chiefs
This is the first close call, but the advantage favors the Kansas City Chiefs in this game. Travis Kelce has become the premier tight end in the NFL with the Patriots missing Rob Gronkowski over the past couple seasons.
Sometimes in the NFL, your best ability is your availability. Although, Gronk is unstoppable when he is on the field, he has missed significant time over the past couple seasons that has fans worried. He has missed 22 games in the past four seasons, but when he is on the field he is the best in the league.
There is a popular saying in the NFL, “A tight end is the quarterback’s best friend.” That is the undeniable truth for Alex Smith and Travis Kelce. His 85 receptions for 1,125 yards were good enough for his second straight Pro Bowl appearance. He has the ability to run over or run past would-be tacklers as he is the perfect blend of strength and speed. He is usually the first option for Smith on passing plays, a rare occurrence for a tight end.
There is no doubt these two players are some of the best at their position in the world. Kelce gets the edge because he is the younger and healthier of the two.
X-Factor: Advantage, Chiefs
It’s hard to imagine that a running back that has the Super Bowl record for most receptions in a game isn’t the X-factor. Normally, James White would blow away the competition in this category. His incredible record breaking performance included 14 catches, three touchdowns and over 130 yards.
However, in the off-season the backfield in New England got a lot more crowded. James White will be splitting time with the dynamic Dion Lewis, who when healthy is usually option A for the Pats. They also acquired Mike Gillislee from the Bills and Rex Burkhead from the Bengals. I doubt the Pats will be quick to forget James White’s heroics, but during the early part of the season I’m sure all parts of the offense will be involved.
The X-factor that is most likely to change this game for the Chiefs is wide receiver and kick returner, Tyreek Hill. Although his return duties have been slightly modified, there is no doubt Hill comes in to this game as the most explosive player. Whenever he touches the ball, he can score.
He went from barely making the team, to now being its number one wide receiver. In emergency situations, Hill will return to his punt return duties. That’s where he initially made his mark on the NFL scene.
Other Must-See Week 1 Match Ups:
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