The last football memory I have is Patrick Mahomes’ fluttering masterstroke to a broken-away Tyreek Hill, the play that flipped the course of the 2020 Super Bowl and helped the Kansas City Chiefs to their first championship in fifty years.
Along the way, Kansas City pulled off a mammoth comeback against the Houston Texans, fighting back to blow Houston out 51-31 after falling behind 24-0 early in the second quarter.
Now, those two teams will suit up for the first professional football game since February. Two seeming playoff contenders, a Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs, and a coach who’s taken more criticism than any consistent winner in the league in the Texans’ Bill O’Brien. Also, two of the NFL’s ten best quarterbacks, two MVP candidates: Patrick Mahomes III and Deshaun Watson, each from the 2017 draft. Here are a few things to look for in tonight’s football revival:
Line: Chiefs -9.5
Ten points, two points, twenty points, who really cares about a point spread when it comes to Kansas City. Since adding Mahomes, most of their games either come all the way down to the wire or are blowouts with bloody Mahomes stats. I could envision either, but in a frisky first weeknight game, I’ll opt for a competitive Texans win that has everybody chirping about Deshaun Watson tomorrow morning. Speaking of…
Mahomes vs. Watson
Two of the creative, productive offensive conductors in the NFL. Mahomes strikes awe with his practically bionic throwing arm, emphasized by his coach, Andy Reid, who’s littered the field with speedy playmakers and a bruising tight end in a scheme that explores all 100 yards of the field with a passer who can cover that distance with his feet in cement.
Coming off a Super Bowl, I wouldn’t expect a step back, especially since Mahomes was somewhat hampered all of last year with a leg injury. Instead, with the same lucid receiving core, 20 of 22 starters returning, and the running back replaced by LSU’s rookie fantasy darling, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City and Captain Pat are not going backward in 2020-21.
Watson, on the other hand, lost his best receiver, an undeniably elite pass-catcher in DeAndre Hopkins. Without Hopkins, a reliable offensive line, the true threat of a rushing game, and no longer the defense of the prime JJ Watt days, there’s ample doubt surrounding Houston and head coach Bill O’Brian’s management.
With Watson though, there is little question of his work ethic, his ability to throw the football, and his will to win games. Since coming into the league as an under-drafted college star, Watson has proved himself as one of the NFL’s building block talents with a roughneck style that resembles a couple-inches-taller Russell Wilson, as NFL pundits see it.
This matchup is the Jamal Murray vs. Donovan Mitchell of the NFL, two young stars just going AT IT. Fun stuff!
Andy Reid vs. Bill O’Brien
Does Andy Reid have the drive to push for more expansion with his generational offense and the cyborg under center? Was the hunger to win and prove doubters wrong the motivating force behind getting his banged-up team to the title last year? Has he lost his edge after summiting Mount Lombardi? I really doubt it. A life-long dedicated football nut finally got his picnic at the peak this offseason, and he’ll come back with the Belichick mindset: back to practice, time to work on winning another one.
O’Brien, on the other hand, is facing possible firing at the end of the year if Houston underwhelms. After Hopkins forced his way out because of his disagreements with O’Brien, and he obliged, getting an average running back in return, Texans fans are livid and the stench of giving up a 51-7 run in their most recent loss to these Chiefs isn’t helping. He needs his team to perform for his sake, and a win against the champs would silence critics…for now.
Kansas City: The Chiefs smartly handed Patrick Mahomes enough cash to buy the LA Galaxy (?$450 million) and ensured he’ll be wearing KC red for the entirety of the 2020s. In the draft, they grabbed LSU starting tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire with their first-round pick and snagged Mississippi St. linebacker Willie Gay with their second-rounder, their only rookies set to play large-snap-count roles this fall. Elsewhere, they added backups across the board and franchise-tagged pass-rusher Chris Jones as part of an effort to retain 20 of 22 starters in total. Not a ton of change, but keeping what’s good going.
Houston: Their primary offseason storyline was the departure of DeAndre Hopkins and the drama surrounding he and Bill O’Brien. Aside from Hopkins, they lost high-end tackle DJ Reader and veteran starters Jonathon Joseph (CB) and Lamar Miller (RB). Houston did add a pair of wideouts in Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks while drafting nothing but backups last April according to their depth chart. Not a great summer for what many thought could be a contender for years to come.
Only Houston fields former Wildcats and they have a pair of Cats from separate generations of UK Football. Randall Cobb comes in as a steady slot receiver who will certainly get more targets than he did in the loaded Dallas receiver room last year and probably even more than he did during his last couple years in Green Bay. Cobb’s always been reliable and should be a nice option for Watson who could have a surprisingly productive year for a playoff-contending team.
Johnson is still trying to crack the rotation in a meaningful way after posting some icky rookie pass coverage numbers. He’s still pretty young, and luckily, he’s part of a secondary that’s completely retooled over the past few seasons. If Johnson flashes any hint of talent, he’ll get the snaps he needs to make an impact and earn himself a starting role. The opportunity presents itself.
KSBar and Grille
Can you believe this??
The NFL is back and we've got Thursday Night Football TONIGHT with the reigning Super Bowl champs Kansas City taking on…
As if you’d be anywhere else during the NFL’s Welcome Back party involving the defending champs and two of the young stars in the American sports landscape. Plus, as you can see, KSBar has DEALS! Come on by!