Rob Gronkowski Eric Berry
Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs attempts to tackle Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots are betting favorites over the Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season. Getty Images

Three days before the first NFL Sunday of the 2017 season, the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs will compete in the annual Thursday night Kickoff Game. The betting odds favor the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1 as they play their first meaningful football since their historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons seven months ago.

The betting odds favor New England at home by 8.5 points, and the over/under is 48, via OddsShark. Here’s a closer look at the Week 1 game, including a prediction against the spread:

Why New England could cover the spread

Heading into every game this season, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Patriots will win handily. If having the best head coach and quarterback in league history isn’t enough, boasting the defense that allowed the fewest points in all of football a year ago might do it. It’s why New England is the runaway favorite to win Super Bowl LII, and why the defending champs are probably opening the season with a victory.

The Patriots are just about impossible to beat at home. Sure, there are exceptions, like when the Seattle Seahawks escaped Gillette Stadium with a win after a goal-line stand last November. Such instances are few and very, very far between.

Tom Brady is 51-1 since 2007 when facing AFC teams at home in the regular season. The lone loss came in a meaningless Week 17 contest three years ago against the Buffalo Bills when Brady didn’t play the second half. New England won both of last year’s home playoff games by at least 18 points, and they didn’t have much trouble when they hosted the Chiefs in the playoffs immediately following the 2015 regular season.

Despite the injury to Julian Edelman, New England might still have their best team of the last decade. Not only did they trade for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, but the Patriots have a healthy Rob Gronkowski to start the season. The tight end missed half of the 2016 regular season and all of the playoffs. New England won by at least two touchdowns the three times that he totaled over 100 yards, and Gronkowski grabbed seven receptions while finding the end zone twice when the Patriots beat the Chiefs in the postseason two years ago.

Kansas City isn’t going to score a ton of points against New England. The Chiefs made a trade in order to pick a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft because Alex Smith often times has trouble moving the ball against upper echelon defenses. Thursday could be more of the same.

Why Kansas City could cover the spread

Give or take a few wins each season, Kansas City has essentially been the same team since Alex Smith and Andy Reid joined forces in 2013. The Chiefs are always a playoff contender, led by a defense that doesn’t give up many points and an offense that limits mistakes. Without a top quarterback and much offensive firepower, they are never quite good enough to compete with the top Super Bowl contenders.

There’s a good chance that’s the way Thursday’s season opener will unfold—with Kansas City able to hang around with New England for much of the way, but not good enough to pull out the victory. That’s essentially what happened two years ago when the Patriots beat the Chiefs 27-20 and eliminated them from the playoffs.

Smith does have some weapons in 2017 that can make things interesting against a team that can put up points in a hurry. Gronkowski is the only tight end that’s better than Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Tyreke Hill emerged as one of the NFL’s best playmakers a season ago.

The Chiefs don’t necessarily have to move the ball up and down the field to stay competitive. The Patriots will likely be careful with Gronkowski, given his injury history, and New England could feel the loss of Edelman in the first game of the season. Brady targeted Edelman 13 times in the Super Bowl, and he’ll be going up against the defense that ranked No.3 in opponents’ passer rating in 2016.

Kansas City suffered just one loss by more than one score in 2016. Never since 2013 have they been beaten by at least nine points more than twice in the same season.


As good as the Patriots are, the Chiefs shouldn’t be nearly double-digit underdogs in any game. It’s easy to forget just how much success Kansas City had a season ago, given the way that they were eliminated from the playoffs.

New England hosted the Thursday night season opener two years ago when they started their fourth title defense. With much of the betting public supporting the heavily favored Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a late touchdown to force a push. Don’t be surprised if the inflated betting line keeps the game interesting until the final minutes, once again.

Kansas City has what it takes to at least test New England for most of the night, and the 8.5-point spread is just big enough to allow the Chiefs to cover.

New England over Kansas City, 27-23