The NFL is back and what a season it promises to be with plenty having gone in the off-season – through the Draft, trades and free agency – to really get the juices flowing going into the new campaign.
The road to Super Bowl LV begins on Thursday with the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, playing host to the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in what could potentially be a cracker.
The Chiefs had to wait longer than Liverpool to finally end their title drought, but 50 years of hurt were brought to an end when they lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy back in February after overcoming San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Miami.
The Super Bowl, of course, will be back in Florida this season, this time in Tampa, and the Chiefs are the favourites at
6/1 to successfully defend their crown.
The Texans may take some time to recover from what might have been, having blown a 24-0 lead over the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional play-off game, caving under a rampant offensive attack to yield six unanswered touchdowns to more than surrender the initiative before ultimately losing 51-31.
What effect that will have on the Texans going forward is open to question but they couldn’t get an earlier opportunity to avenge that play-off defeat.
Mahomes is the Best in the Business
One of the big stories of the off-season was the Chiefs signing superstar quarter-back Patrick Mahomes down to a 10-year deal worth an estimated $450m.
Mahomes won the NFL MVP award in 2018, his first season as starter, while he led the franchise to Super Bowl glory last season, earning the MVP gong in the showpiece.
He clearly is the future of the franchise as well as making Kansas the most feared offence in football, which tends to be reflected in the prices.
The home side are
2/9 to win their opener on Thursday, while they have been given nine points to overcome in the handicap.
It is not hard to see why the Chiefs are rated so highly as the obvious dangerman, Mahomes, still has his chief weapons Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill available, while acquiring Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks a shrewd move.
Kelce bagged three touchdowns in that come-from-behind play-off success and he will be a threat on Thursday, priced at
10/11 to score a touchdown any time.
An Upset is Not Out Of the Question
There is no doubt that the Texans look up against it, and under pressure, as they traded away star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the off-season, acquiring David Johnson as part of the deal with Arizona Cardinals.
The Texans will be counting on Johnson having overcome his recent injury issues to remain a key player through the season but he is sure to play an important role on Thursday.
There is hope of an upset at
7/2, given what happened last season in the regular season, with the Texans defeating the Chiefs at Arrowhead 31-24, while they can take positives (from the first quarter at least) from going 24-0 up against the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions.
Deshaun Watson is a quality quarter-back, both with his feet and through the air, and he can give any defence the runaround on his day. Although he may not have Hopkins to go to anymore there are decent options with Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb both having been brought in.
Texans Need to Boss the Clock
However, they will likely need to keep Mahomes off the field and boss the clock again if they are to win, having enjoyed 39:48 time of possession in their victory last season, while 34:35 TOP was not enough in the play-offs.
A shortened pre-season due to the coronavirus pandemic will not have helped either team but the fact that only a nominal number of fans will be allowed in the stadium makes Arrowhead a less intimidating place to go,
Whether the Texans can make best use of such factors is open to question as they will be taking on THE best player in the league.
*All odds correct at time of writing