After winning the last game of the 2016 season, the New England Patriots will host the first contest of the 2017 NFL season. Kicking off Week 1 and the defense of their fifth Super Bowl championship, Tom Brady and Co. are scheduled to face the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night.
The NFL’s season opener starts at 8:30 p.m. EDT at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. NBC will have the TV coverage, and fans can watch a free live stream of the game with NBC Sports Live Extra.
Even though the game is on Thursday, it’s technically part of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” schedule. “Thursday Night Football” for the 2017 season officially begins next week when the Cincinnati Bengals play the Houston Texans.
New England will be back on the field playing meaningful football for the first time since Super Bowl LI in February. The Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime, overcoming what had previously been a 28-3 deficit.
With Brady and Bill Belichick back for yet another season, New England is a heavy favorite to repeat. The team has made it to the AFC Championship Game in six straight years, winning 13 of the last 14 AFC East titles. The Patriots haven’t had a losing record since 2000.
Kansas City was almost the biggest threat to New England a year ago. Going 12-4 and finishing atop the AFC West, the Chiefs had a first-round bye in last season’s playoffs. However, the team came up short in the postseason, losing at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first playoff game.
While the Patriots are the class of a weak division, the Chiefs are back to defend their crown in what might be the NFL’s best division. The AFC West had three winning teams in 2016, and the fourth-place Los Angeles Chargers are expected to be much improved.
The Chiefs are usually among the best teams in the league, putting together four straight winning seasons since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013.
“They have playmakers,” Brady said of Kansas City’s Defense at Monday’s press conference. “Derrick Johnson is one of the best linebackers in the league. He does so many things for that defense. You can tell it really hurts them when he’s not out there. And Eric Berry is a big-time playmaker. Marcus Peters – more interceptions than anybody since he came in the league. [Justin] Houston and [Dee] Ford, I mean, they strip sack the quarterback. So, they’re very explosive and really force the ball out of your hands quick because they get a good rush and then their playmakers in the secondary have eyes on the quarterback and they’re trying to make plays, too.”
Depending on how the season goes, the Patriots might not find themselves as the underdog in any game this year. They are heavy favorites Thursday night, giving the Chiefs nine points with the over/under set at 48.5, via OddsShark. The betting line has steadily climbed all week, despite the preseason injury to Julian Edelman that ended the wide receiver’s year.
New England might end up being the biggest favorite in Week 1 when the season’s first Sunday slate of games finally arrives.