Here’s a closer look at the fantasy football impact of the NFL’s season-opening game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.
The season-opening football matchup featuring the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the New England Patriots is also a huge fantasy football matchup this week. There are multiple players on both sides who will have large impact in the opening week of the fantasy football season. While the rest of Arrowhead Addict guys do a fantastic job of breaking down the real game, I’m going to give you the run down for what you need to know looking through the fantasy football lens.
Let’s start with the most important position on the field no matter what football game you are playing: the quarterback. Tom Brady is coming into his 18th season in the NFL and shows no signs of slowing down. However, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has done a good job of slowing Brady down during his career as a defensive coordinator. Through seven games, Sutton’s defenses have held Brady to an average of 226 yards passing, 1.4 touchdowns and a passer rating of 88.8 per game. During those same games he also averages almost one interception and is sacked over 1 time per game.
I do not expect a huge game from Brady this Thursday and that’s why I think the Chiefs can stay in the game. I expect Brady to throw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Of course he is a must start every week of the season—just don’t expect Brady to carry your team this week.
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On the Chiefs side, you have Alex Smith. In two games vs Bill Belichick’s defense, Smith has had one good game and one bad performace. It’s hard to get much of a hint on how he’ll do. Andy Reid having a full offseason to plan for this game though, You have to assume the Chiefs will have a good game plan set for Smith. I see them coming out guns blazing to get the Patriots on their heels before settling down into the usual game plan of dink and dunk takes over in the second or third drive.
Smith will have to play well for the Chiefs to have a shot at winning, and I think Andy will put him in position to do that. I see him throwing for 250 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. He’ll have a good completion percentage and have the Chiefs in the hunt at the end. But fantasy wise, he’s not someone you should play this week unless you are scrounging for a backup to fill in for the surprise bye week of Tampa Bay and Miami.
Moving on from the quarterbacks the running back is the next position of concern in this game. The Patriots are a mix and match at running back and will have a new lead man every week. I would stay away from any of their backs because you are taking a shot in the dark at who will be the man this week. The Chiefs have a rebuilt run defense and the few times the Patriots try to run I don’t see it being successful, so do not start any of the Patriots running backs this week.
The Chiefs are a separate story and if you have Kareem Hunt he should be a lock to start every week, including this week. With the injury to Spencer Ware, Hunt now has the keys to the car as the feature back in KC. I expect Hunt to average at least 20 touches a game and the screen game to be a big part of the Chiefs offense this season. As a rookie teams will take a few weeks to get him on film enough to adjust their schemes to counter him. Until that happens he will be a free man to play his game and that will equal good numbers. Against the Patriots I fully expect Hunt to have at least 100 total yards and get two touchdowns. He is a 100% must start this week.
One thing about this game we know for sure, the ball will be thrown all over the field from both teams. I believe both quarterbacks will throw the ball over 40 times. The Patriots will do that because they trust Brady and have no running game, the Chiefs will do that because Andy can’t help himself but throw it. If they throw it this much, someone has to catch the ball and get the stats.
For the Chiefs it’s pretty easy to predict who will get the balls. Tight end Travis Kelce, Hunt and wide out Tyreek Hill will be the work horses of the passing game. Kelce will be Smith’s number one target as he has been for four years. The Patriots know this too though and while Kelce will get his touches, they will not let him beat them. I see Kelce getting five catches for 40 yards. That doesn’t sound like a solid game, but if you have Kelce on your team you have to play him. The number two tight end in the league has to start every game because all it takes is one miss tackle or one blown coverage and he’s got an 80 yard touchdown.
We’ve discussed Hunt already leaving the biggest wild card of the entire weekend sitting there as the number one receiver for the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill. Hill is the fastest player in the NFL and has the ability to take it to the house from anywhere on the field at any time. He will not be a factor in the return game, even if they send him back to return a kick or punt late in the game, Belichick will not allow his kicker to kick to him. So all of his points this week will come in the receiving game, and we just don’t know how he’ll play as the number one receiver that everyone now knows about. He’s not a secret weapon, he’s not a gimmick anymore, and he’s the man with a big target on him. He is a good receiver and Andy will make sure he gets the ball in his hands.
The question is are the Patriots ready for it and have him bracketed to keep his yards after catch down? If they can contain him than he could have a pretty quiet game, but with his speed all it takes is one break away. I think he will get free once in this game whether it’s on a screen play with good blocking or a broken tackle. I see Hill at six catches, 80 yards and touchdown. He is a must start if he’s on your team, his explosive big play ability can’t be on the bench for any game, especially prime time when he’s shined the most.
Rob Gronkowski will be Brady’s number one target and the Chiefs will not be able to completely shut him down. But like Kelce I don’t think the Chiefs will let Gronk beat them. He will be double teamed every play and should be getting hit the second he catches the ball. He will get his touches, but he won’t beat the Chiefs. He’ll get six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. If you are lucky enough to have Gronk you will start him every week no matter the matchup, this week he will be good, but not a game changer.
The Patriots are bringing a wide receiver by committee into the game with Edelman out. The number one option heading into week one should be Danny Amendola. He has the most experience with Brady and has been a consistent target even with Edelman on the field. Chris Hogan and Brandon Cooks will be the other usual suspects in this game who should see balls thrown their way. Whoever draws the assignment across from Marcus Peters will have a long game and won’t see many yards, but the other two should have good games going against Terrance Mitchell getting his first action and Phillip Gaines.
I expect Hogan to be the man in the slot going against Gaines so he would be my lock at receiver to start this week. If he goes against Gaines all game he will have over 100 yards and a touchdown while the rest of the receiving core will sneak out another 100 yards between them. As often as the Pats throw starting any of those three wide receivers is a good move, but I’d be hesitant on Cooks unless you have are desperate at receiver.
Then it call comes down to the kickers and defense. Either kicker is a solid start as both teams play bend but don’t break defense and both kickers are accurate from all ranges. But that’s enough about kickers; this game will come down to the defenses. In terms of both real life and fantasy, both the Pats and Chiefs had two of the top five defenses in the league last year. Both teams are returning most of their starters on defense, and where replacements where made they were upgrades. I’m expecting a game in the low 20’s for each team meaning fantasy points are there to be had. Both offensive lines are good but not great, so I think both teams will get a couple sacks and at least one turnover. I think this game all comes down to which defense can get that second turnover to seal the deal. Whoever wins, both defenses are a must start this week.
I don’t know about you but I’m tired of analyzing and wondering who will do what. Let’s kick this game off and see what’s real, and what’s just fantasy!