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WEEK ONE CRYSTAL BALL: Hail (again) to Mahomes
Chiefs kick off NFL season tonight vs Dee-troit
My friends, the big day is finally here.
Patrick Mahomes begins his seventh NFL season this evening, continuing his nearly unprecedented path*
Of course, this campaign begins with a bit of uncertainty for the Chiefs as the QB’s top receiving target, Travis Kelce, is out this evening with a right knee injury and star defensive tackle Chris Jones remains a holdout. Offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who spent a decade in KC, is now calling plays for Washington, and left tackle Orlando Brown, Jr., a two-year Chiefs starter, has moved to Cincinnati.
Still, there’s no reason to think that this season will be any different for Mr. Mahomes. The first two reasons are a) the QB and b) his innovative head coach, Andy Reid. The third? An interior offensive line that I believe is the league’s best.
I mention the standout trio of left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey
Sure, KC starts two new offensive tackles this year with Donovan Smith protecting Mahomes’ blind side and Jawaan Taylor on the right, but truthfully, the Chiefs were not elite in either spot last year with Brown and Andrew Wylie, respectively. I see the additions of Smith and Taylor as lateral moves that will do nothing to derail KC’s offensive express.
With that backdrop, the Chiefs (17-3 in 2022, 2-1 in the 2023 preseason) face Dee-troit (9-8, 2-1) and head coach Dan Campbell tonight at Arrowhead Stadium. NBC covers the action, beginning at 8:20 pm ET.
These teams both hail from the Middle West but are far from regular rivals as they’ve met just 14 times with KC holding a 9-5 edge. Heck, these guys play one another as often as THE GURU skips dessert! In fact, Mahomes has only faced the Lions once, a 34-30 comeback win in 2019, his second season as a starter.
That Dee-troit team finished 3-12-1 and last in the NFC North, losing an agonizing eight games by one score. Matt Patricia was granted one more season and then put out of his misery, paving the way for Dan Campbell to assume control in 2021. And now the big fella has the Lions in position to make some serious noise.
The loudest sounds in Arrowhead this evening will come from the team’s 76,000 screaming fans, most of whom would gladly take a bullet for Andy Reid. Thankfully, they won’t have to make that sacrifice as no one in the metro area wants to harm the popular coach, the area’s most favored son since late Negro Leagues baseball legend Buck O’Neil
Greatness of Mr. O’Neil aside, there is a ballgame to be played this evening and, of course, that means I’ve got to make a prediction with my standard disclaimer: If you use my picks for any sort of wagering, you’re out of your mind.
All week long, I’ve been thinking Dee-troit is going to spring the upset and, despite Andy Reid’s 9-1 record in season openers with the Chiefs, I’m sticking with my bold prediction. Just don’t remind me of it when Mr. Mahomes runs roughshodover the visitors.
Week One in the NFL is, of course, famously tough to predict given roster turnover, coaching changes, etc. Still, we’ll give it a shot here before taking a much deeper dive in the coming weeks.
1 PM GAMES - FOX
Carolina (7-10, 0-3) falls in Atlanta (7-10, 1-1-1) but the calls for Taylor Heinicke to step in at QB for the Falcons begin immediately. Mark my words: the man will start by Week Six and become a fan favorite….
…Jacksonville (10-9, 3-0) batters the host Colts (4-12-1, 2-1). This Jags team is about to take the next step…
…Pittsburgh (9-8, 3-0) topples the visiting Niners (15-5, 1-2). Mike Tomlin & Co. were down in 2022 but they’ll quickly return to AFC North contention if the offensive line can protect Kenny Pickett and the defense can rush the passer…
…My Commies (8-8-1, 3-0) take down the Cardinals (4-13, 2-1) at FedEx. Three words: Slingin’. Sammy. Howell.
1 PM GAMES - CBS
Tennessee (7-10, 2-1) wins in Nola (7-10, 2-1). Fact: Derek Carr looks a odd in New Orleans, just as yours truly did in late June as I walked through the Big Easy in 95-degree heat, sweating like a construction worker in Abu Dhabi
…Minnesota (13-5, 0-3) pounds visiting Tampa (8-10, 2-1). The Vikings may not match last year’s 13-4 regular season, but they’ll be in the mix all season long…
…Host Baltimore (10-8, 1-2) beats Houston (3-13-1, 2-1). I’d bet on DeMeco Ryans to right the ship in Houston, but he’s attempting to turn around an aircraft carrier, not a speedboat. Time, and patience, are needed…
…Bengals (14-5, 0-2-1) win on the road in Cleveland (7-10, 1-2-1). Joe Burrow’s arm is as smooth as Smokey Robinson’s voice and as devastating as a late-night trip to Taco Bell. Indeed, I speak from experience.
4:25 PM GAMES - FOX
Seattle (9-9, 2-1) gets a home win against the Rams (5-12, 0-3). Geno Smith’s comeback continues as the Rams try to find their way after a disappointing 2023...
…Green Bay (8-9, 2-1) beats Chicago (3-14) on the road. Jordan Love is no Aaron Rodgers but, this week, he may not have to be.
4:25 PM GAMES - CBS
Visiting Las Vegas (6-11, 2-1) wins in Denver (5-12, 1-2). The Broncos should be better than they were in 2022 but it’ll surely take time…
…Miami (9-9) beats the Chargers (10-8) in LA. Tyreek Hill has a history of scorching this week’s opponent and here’s betting he’ll be primed on Sunday. Could be a magical year for FISHBOY and friends…
…Philly (16-4, 0-2-1) beats the Pats (8-9, 1-2) in Foxboro. I’m as anti-Eagles as a man can get but, truly, this Birds team is one to be respected. Is this the year Jason Kelce slows down and plays like a mere mortal?
8:20 PM GAME - NBC
The Giants (10-8-1, 1-2) get a home win against Dallas (13-6, 1-2). Best case scenario: a devastating Week One loss sends the Cowboys careening towards an 0-17 campaign with the Giants finishing 4-13, beating only Mike McCarthy and Nick Sirianni twice apiece. A fella can dream, right?
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL - 8:15 PM - ABC
The Bills (14-4, 2-1) beat the Jets (7-10, 2-2) in Aaron Rodgers’ home debut. I’m all in on A-Rod
That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great one!
The only other QB whose career started more auspiciously than Mahomes was Otto Graham, who led the Cleveland Browns to the league title game in each of his 10 pro seasons, winning seven championships. Northwestern’s finest.
Your author was living in Kansas City when Mr. O’Neil passed and the ensuing ceremonies were akin to that of a state funeral. I say, with great confidence, that there isn’t a town in the country that reveres any athlete more than the citizens of KC cherish Buck O’Neil.
When it comes to writing about sports, there are few phrases more satisfying to type than “runs roughshod,” with the possible exceptions of “arms akimbo” and “hotter than a depot stove.”
Much has been written about Heinicke’s flaws e.g., his struggles throwing the out-route and his tendency to over-improvise but his teammates will adore him from the first snap. This young man has the “it” factor and shapes up to be Desmond Ridder’s worst nightmare.
It borders on blasphemy to compare Howell to all-time great Sammy Baugh but, hey, these are desperate times in our nation’s capital and we’re seeking a football savior. Heck, we’ve cycled through 12 starting QBs in the past five years alone (!) and people are willing to sell organs in exchange for the right guy under center. Spleens, kidneys, gallbladders, urethras…everything is on the table.
A quick check of the weather shows the mercury at a tidy 116 degrees Fahrenheit in the UAE, roughly the same temperature as TOMMY BIRD’s undergarments when he bakes on an NYC subway platform in July.
I love the place but it’s important for one to pick his or her spots when walking through those doors.
I’ve never described myself as a Rodgers fan but, watching “Hard Knocks,” it was tough not to like the guy. A lot. That doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and enroll in a transcendental meditation class but check back with me in a few weeks. I may change my mind.