Most of the time, a team and their fan base finishes a season thinking of how they can improve to prepare themselves for the next season. However, when a team goes out as the champion things are a little different.
It’s old news that the New England Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champions, but they are still looking to defend their title in what could potentially be their sixth season bringing home the Lombardi trophy. And they’ve made some moves to try to return to the big game.
Seven months later, it is time to see how the Patriots will do. This Thursday, the five time winners will host the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s opener at Gillette Stadium. These teams finished the 2016 regular season as the top two in the AFC, and we can expect an excellent matchup.
Here are some questions for the upcoming game:
1. Can the Patriots win without Edelman?
The simple answer to this question is yes. They didn’t lose anyone noteable from their receiving corp over the offseason but still made the addition of speedster Brandin Cooks. Cooks and Edelman are two different players. Edelman is more of a slot guy, and while Cooks is less capable in the slot, he still is and can stretch the field. They won last season with one top notch receiver on the field, and would have had two. They still have one. Cooks is the answer, and has meshed very well with Tom Brady in training camp.
2. Can the Chiefs win without Spencer Ware?
Ware wasn’t a superstar. But he was the starting running back in Kansas City last season after Jamaal Charles was unable to come back from an injury. His 921 rushing yards are replaceable, however a rookie making his regular season debut might not be the answer against last season’s stingiest defense. Kareem Hunt will see a lot of action, as the Jeremy Maclin-less team has few options. Kelce and Hill have the ability to be major contributors for KC, however Gilmore and Butler should be able to limit the passing game. I think the third rounder has a chance, but Kareem Hunt will need to prove himself for me to think he’ll do well against the Patriots defense.
3. How much has the defensive identity changed for Kansas City since last year?
Last season, the arrowheads were ranked in the bottom ten in yards allowed, right in the middle of the pack in passing touchdowns, and allowed the sixth least rushing touchdowns. They lost their big man up front in Dontari Poe, and did not replace him with a player as capable of stopping the run. There will be a lot less pressure on the middle of the line with his departure, and that will fare in the Patriot’s favor.
In this coaching rematch from Super Bowl XXXIX, the Belichick led team has an advantage. Edelman’s injury is a blow for the team, but in total it is not a major step back from last season. Gronkowski is on the field (for not at least), and I think New England’s secondary will set the tone for this game. We’ll see the Chiefs make it closer in garbage time than it seems throughout the game.
Patriots 27- Chiefs 20
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