The defending Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs, open the 2020-21 NFL season as they host the Houston Texans (8:20 PM ET Thursday on NBC).
Read our Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs predictions and preview for this long-awaited first game of the football season, along with our concluding betting picks.
An NFL Season For The History Books
Fall is for football and the 101st NFL season is upon us. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding this season of the NFL, no shortage of which has come with the prospect of playing in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of the world’s major sports and events were either cancelled or postponed, but the NFL stood mainly unaltered. It was a benefit to the league that the worst of the United States’ shutdowns occurred when the NFL was in its offseason.
The NFL Draft happened on schedule, if not a little differently. The main goal of the event was there as teams around the league drafted players with hopes of them being able to make an impact as soon as this season. Team meetings, much like the draft, took place virtually in the ensuing months, as did some early workouts. By July, teams were united again, taking part in their training camps the way they always had. While all preseason games were cancelled as a precaution, many other elements of what we know an NFL offseason to be, were still there. In fact, to the NFL, it was almost as if the pandemic had never happened.
It is remarkable how the NFL has been able to negotiate these waters in order to prepare for the season. The plans are all in place to play the full, what is now 18-game schedule for each team, with hopes there won’t be any interruptions. If there are, the league is prepared to handle it and make adjustments.
Now we focus on the present, as the Chiefs and Texans kick off the new year, with a rematch of last year, where, including playoffs, these teams met twice with each taking one win. It was the Chiefs’ huge playoff win over the Texans however, that set Kansas City up for their Super Bowl run.
Hail to the Chiefs
For several years now, in fact, ever since the team drafted the explosive Patrick Mahomes, the question of the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl has always been a when not if. Kansas City went 12-4 in the regular season before winning each of their postseason games, most of which came in decisive fashion. It marked the first championship win for head coach Andy Reid, who to that point, had been one of the most successful coaches in NFL history never to have won the big game. The Chiefs put forth a great year in 2019-20 and there is no reason to believe they won’t have another strong campaign, and possibly even repeat as champions this year.
Many teams coming off a Super Bowl run have to address key vacancies, be it assistant coaches who get offered head coaching jobs elsewhere, players with expiring contracts, the element of players opting out (a rarity reserved for this season) and just the general nature and difficulty that comes with trying to win back-to-back titles. For the Chiefs, if anything, they didn’t get worse this year, they just got better. Mahomes, who threw for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last year in the regular season, is now paid like the million-dollar man (450 to be exact) he has always been. His weapons have remained largely unchanged as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are still a trio to be feared around the league. Last year, Kelce totaled over 1,200 receiving yards with Hill and Watkins adding a combined 1,500. All three players had key roles in the Chiefs’ victory over the Texans in the playoffs last year.
The biggest, if not the only, possible issue for the Chiefs on offense will be the lack of Damien Williams as the running back made the tough call to opt out of this season due to COVID concerns. Fortunately for the Chiefs, of whom everything has seemingly gone their way, the team drafted a running back with their first-round selection. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a fine runner with good speed and a lot of upside to be used in both the running and passing games, will get the chance to make a bigger impact than likely even he thought on draft day. Darrel Williams should also see more carries than he did last year as Kansas City figures out how best to use their two rushers.
Life without DeAndre Hopkins
For the better part of the last decade, ever since he was drafted into the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins has been with the team who drafted him, the Texans. During that time, Hopkins has been bar none, one of the best receivers in the entire league. As the 2020-21 season opens, it will be historic in many ways, and for the Texans, will represent a year without Hopkins on the field. Houston made a huge, if not questionable to many, trade in the offseason when they shipped Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson. Now, Johnson definitely helps Houston’s running game, which has struggled in recent years since the team lost Arian Foster, but is Johnson’s upgrade more than Hopkins’ downgrade? That remains to be seen.
What is known however, is that Deshaun Watkins will be without his favorite weapon. As the young quarterback has gone through his career and the growing pains that have come with it, he has always had Hopkins as a security blanket. That changes this year. Sure, the Texans still have Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills, but life without Hopkins will certainly be something Watson and his coach have to navigate.
Focusing on Watson for a moment, he is coming off a strong year, one of his best in fact. He threw for over 3,800 passing yards, over 400 rushing yards, and threw for 26 touchdowns. Watson, like Mahomes, is a top-tier quarterback in this league and the two have already begun to develop a friendly and competitive rivalry. On Thursday night, the next chapter will be written as both men will look to get their teams off on a winning start.
Our Betting Preview’s Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs Predictions & Picks
It is hard to pick against the Chiefs and Mahomes. It is hard to oppose a team that has consistently put up huge offensive numbers, setting and then shattering their own records. Even with the USA online betting bookmakers offering a lofty opening 9-point spread, it is still difficult to go against the NFL’s defending champions. So, with our Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs predictions, we won’t. These are the picks for this NFL opening game preview: