The 101st NFL season begins on Thursday night and promises to be the most unpredictable in the history of professional football, with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic hanging over the sport and the country as a whole.
The curtain-raiser could hardly be more intriguing, with two of the best quarterbacks in the league, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, going head-to-head as the reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the season opener.
- Kickoff time—The Chiefs host the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 10.
- TV channel—NBC
- Live stream—NBC’s digital platforms, the NBC Sports website and fuboTV.
- Odds—Odds via Unikrn have the Chiefs as 8.5-point favorites, with Kansas City 5/6 to cover the spread and a 1/5 favorite in moneyline terms, while the Texans are 3/1 outsiders. The over/under line in terms of total points scored is set at 53.5.
- Series history—The Chiefs have won two of the last three meetings against the Texans, with the all-time series balanced at 5-5.
Almost exactly eights months to the day since their paths crossed in the AFC Divisional Round, the Chiefs and the Texans meet again. In January, Houston looked to have done enough to end Kansas City’s bid for a first Super Bowl title in 50 years after racing into a 24-0 lead at the beginning of the second quarter, before Mahomes derailed the Texans’ train as the Chiefs scored seven consecutive touchdowns—an NFL record—and a field goal over their next eight drives to win 51-31.
The win against the Texans turned out to be the first of three memorable comebacks the Chiefs pulled off in the postseason, culminating in Super Bowl LIV when Kansas City scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.
The Chiefs begin the season as the team to beat after returning 20 of their 22 starters from last year as they look to become the first team in 15 years to win hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in back-to-back seasons. All the foundations are in place after a busy offseason in Kansas City during which Mahomes committed his future to the franchise by signing a monster 10-year extension worth a total of $503 million, the biggest contract in the history of North American sports. Head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach also penned new deals, as did defensive tackle Chris Jones and five-time Pro Bowl selection Travis Kelce, who last season became the first tight end in NFL history to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in four straight seasons.
The only negative news for the Chiefs is that offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running back Damien Williams, who scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl LIV, have opted out of the season due to coronavirus-related concerns. The Chiefs, however, should have ready-made replacement for Williams in the shape of rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, their first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. In his junior season at LSU, Edwards-Helaire rushed for 1,414 yards—the third-most in a single season in school history—and 16 touchdowns, adding 453 receiving yards as the Tigers stormed to a 15-0 season and the national title.
Like the Chiefs, the Texans have also signed their franchise quarterback to a huge new contract with Watson penning a four-year, $160 million extension. Watson’s new contract restores some much-needed optimism in Houston and buys Bill O’Brien some time, after the Texans head coach and de facto general manager shipped All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for a meagre return consisting of running back David Johnson along with a second- and fourth-round pick.
With Hopkins out of the picture, the Texans will turn to Will Fuller, who set career highs in catches and receiving yards last season, and new signings Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb.
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