The NFL kicks off its 2020 season on Thursday night when the Houston Texans travel to Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs. It will be a unique start to the season, with no NFL teams participating in any preseason contests.
Thursday’s game will be the third meeting between Houston and Kansas City in 11 months. Kickoff on NBC is set for 8:10 p.m. EDT inside Arrowhead Stadium. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the stadium will be at 22% capacity when the teams take the field. Kansas City opens as a 9.5-point favorite, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Houston Texans
The Texans made noise recently with the signing of Deshaun Watson to a sizable and lengthy contract extension. The star QB agreed to a 4-year, $160 million extension with the Texans on Saturday. Houston finished last season winning the AFC South with a 10-6 overall record, but fell in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Chiefs, 51-31, after building a 24-0 lead early.
Houston will have to replace one of Watson’s favorite targets in DeAndre Hopkins. The four-time Pro Bowler was part of an offseason trade with the Arizona Cardinals that brought running back David Johnson to the Texans.
Often-injured Will Fuller V steps into the role as the primary receiving target for Watson. When healthy, Fuller can be a lethal threat on the outside with great size and speed at the wideout position. The Texans also signed Brandin Cooks in the offseason to compliment Fuller. Cooks was a member of the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Houston will continue to lean on Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt to anchor its defense. The Texans also signed veteran Whitney Mercilus to add a pass-rushing element to the outside linebacker position.
What to Know – Kansas City Chiefs
The defending Super Bowl Champions are the preseason favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again. Kansas City is coming off their first Super Bowl win in 50 years and will welcome back a bulk of the players that helped take it all last season.
Patrick Mahomes returns with a handful of playmakers at his disposal: Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce is back, along with speedster Tyreek Hill and highly-regarded rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Kansas City also returns Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson at wide receiver. All three made a significant impact on the Chiefs offense last season.
The Chiefs defense improved dramatically between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, going from 24th in the league in points allowed to seventh. Defensive tackle Chris Jones and safety Tyrann Mathieu return, while defensive end Frank Clark adds play-making ability alongside Jones.
The Pick is In
Houston came into Arrowhead during the regular season last year and knocked off the Chiefs in front of a loud, sold-out crowd. However, while the Chiefs maintained their core during the offseason, an argument can be made that the Texans got worse.
This will be Patrick Mahomes’ third full year under Andy Reid, and one could predict his performance will not decline. The Chiefs should cover the -9.5 spread and win this one comfortably.