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Thursday Night Football Preview: New England vs. Kansas City

Thursday Night Football
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Thursday Night Football Preview

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Patriots – 9.5 | Over/Under 49

The NFL Kickoff festivities are finally upon us as fans count down to the start of the 2017 NFL Season. Before I get into this game preview, make sure to check out all of Gridiron Experts NFL Picks here for week one here.

Fun Fact: Since 2004, the Super Bowl champion has hosted the Thursday night season opener. Only twice has the defending champion lost in these previous thirteen years. Yet, one of those two losses was Baltimore when they had to give up the home field when the Baltimore Orioles would not share the parking lot.

New England Patriots

Thursday Night Football Preview

There is an excellent chance that Tom Brady is going to finish this season within the top three among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Brady is not prone to mistakes, and the Patriots have built this offense to cater to the way he plays. He is not mobile, but the Patriots surround him with slot receivers, tight ends and pass catching running backs. Brady started with 270+ yards in six of the first seven games of 2016 but did slow to only one game over 280 yards over his last five. Still, he will not cost you points with interceptions, even against the tough Kansas City Chiefs defense. Brady will have a strong day with the home crowd and the celebration going on around him.

Brady will be bolstered by some additions in the backfield. The Patriots picked up Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee in the offseason. These are now the two highest paid running backs on the roster. After seeing how James White could dominate the Super Bowl as a pass catcher, the Patriots loaded up. In terms of your fantasy team, they loaded up too much. There is no way to know who will get the ball most or who will get the most snaps. With that being said, Gillislee is the likely the new leader in the backfield. Moving forward expect that White’s spectacular season and postseason mean nothing to the Patriots this season. The Patriots only live in the now.

The biggest news of the offseason was the trade for Brandin Cooks. This trade was accented when Julian Edelman went down with a torn ACL. Despite the way Tom Brady spreads the ball around, Edelman finished third in the NFL in targets (159). He turned that into 98 catches while bringing in 61.6% of his targets. Of the returning players, only James White had more than 38 targets (Martellus Bennett and Michael Floyd are gone). Cooks turned 117 targets into 78 catches last year, falling behind Michael Thomas in New Orleans. He could be in for a fabulous season with his new team. Cooks will start off with a tough test against the Chiefs defense, but should still provide WR1 numbers this week.

The Patriots could very well try to balance the attack and use Cooks to draw the defense. Chris Hogan has some value as a Flex with good upside. Hogan has been more the deep threat though, averaging 17.9 yards per reception last year.

Kansas City Chiefs

Thursday Night Football Preview

Alex Smith provides stability and does not hurt his team with negative plays. Still, in fantasy, you are only starting him in the deepest of leagues or 2QB leagues. Smith saw Jeremy Maclin drive off to Baltimore this offseason, leaving Tyreek Hill as the big weapon in the passing game and Chris Conley supporting him.

Hill is the interesting x-factor here, as he has big play ability but is very raw and unproven as an every down wide receiver. Andy Reid used him in the slot, out wide, and in the backfield last year. Hill had 860 yards between receiving and rushing with nine touchdowns. He added scores in the return game as well. Furthermore, Hill had more targets than Maclin last year. So, with the likelihood of Hill’s targets and touches increasing this season, we should see some strong fantasy numbers from the young receiver. Andy Reid is one of the few coaches who knows how to get a multifaceted talent like Hill involved in the offense. Which, Reid will need to do because the Patriots cornerbacks are very good.

The lead target monster in this offense is still Travis Kelce. The Patriots obviously know the value of a tight end and they will want to focus on defending Kelce. Regardless, you are still starting him (because chances are you don’t have a suitable backup) but beware he may be in for a down week. The Patriots are well known for taking away your primary weapon.

Just like the Patriots, the Chiefs had a serious knee injury this offseason. Spencer Ware went down and now Kareem Hunt is stepping into the starting running back role. The young rookie will get his chance to prove himself on a tough stage. There are good days ahead for Hunt, but this should be a solid start without huge fanfare. Expect Hill to get some of the carries and Charcandrick West to step in now and then. Still, Hunt will lead the way and should get significant carries. He would generally be a low-end RB1, but he will be more of a high-end RB2 this week.

The Game

Expect the Patriots to control this game. These are two good defenses. The Patriots led the NFL in scoring defense 2016, where the Chiefs were seventh in 2016. The edge in this game will be on the momentum of the defending champs and the stronger offense. Expect this to be a somewhat low scoring matchup, but the Patriots offense will too multifaceted to be kept from the end zone.

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About the author

Jonathan Barnett

Jonathan Barnett

Jonathan Barnett is a son of Wisconsin, born and raised. He grew up playing every sport he could. After High School he attended Seminary before moving on to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Jonathan went on to study History and Economics in undergraduate work before attending UW Law School. Jonathan is also a retired Army Combat Engineer officer. Jonathan uses his considerable training in research to manage his many fantasy teams. Jonathan writes for several different websites focusing on professional football and fantasy sports. Jonathan is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Jonathan now practices law in Central Wisconsin.

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