NFL expert Danny Graham (@DannyGPunter) shares his expert opinion on the 2020/21 curtain-raiser as the Houston Texans take on Kansas City Chiefs.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs | Friday 11th September 2020, 01:10 | Sky Sports
Seven months have passed since Superbowl 54 when the Kansas City Chiefs were crowned winners of the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time in 50 years. Those seven months will seem like a lifetime for many and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt throughout the league for this season and beyond.
Over 50 players around the league have taken the option to withdraw from playing this season on health grounds, fans will not be allowed in to some stadiums, and other grounds will be limited to around 20% capacity.
There are not many places where the absence of fans will be felt as much as Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, and host to this season's opening fixture. It’s probably the loudest stadium in the NFL and visiting teams will no doubt be in for a slightly easier ride than they normally would on their travels.
That said, NFL games are played on the field, not in the stands, and the visiting Texans will have their work cut out against arguably the best overall unit in the league.
Led by wonderboy Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs carried all before them in an electrifying run to the title last time and they are set for another assault on the big prize once more. The loss of Damien Williams at RB will be keenly felt (opted out of season due to COVID) – the bulk of his usual load will likely fall to rookie Clyde Edwards-Hilaire which may be a big ask but it’s through the air where KC rip teams apart and the receiving corps is still laden with massive talent.
Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson is enough to send shudders through most defences and you have to think that they will have ample opportunity to get at the Texans 28th rated overall and 29th against the pass defence from last season.
The Texans come into the new season having just tied down their own franchise quarterback DeShaun Watson to a four-year $160m contract making him the second highest paid player in the league behind Mahomes. Their defensive performance here will rest heavily on star D-man JJ Watt. Riddled by injury for years now but when fit and healthy still the most fearsome player on defence in the entire league. It’s crucial to the Texans chances not only in this fixture but the entire season that he performs.
On the offensive side of the ball they will have to deal with the loss of their main running back Carlos Hyde and their best receiver DeAndre Hopkins who have both departed for pastures new. Hyde averaged 4.4 yards per-carry last season but his replacement David Johnson only managed 3.7 YPC so it’s a definite downgrade strictly on the stats. They have talent at wide receiver in the shape of Cobb, Cooks and Fuller but the Chiefs corners and secondary should have enough to keep them quiet.
Kansas City Chiefs and Over 51.5 Points (21/20 Betfair)
From a punting perspective, when I first launched the markets for this game and was hit by Houston +10 my instinct was ‘wow that’s pretty big'. A delve into the roster depth, trades and draft picks through the off-season make it easy to see why the line has been chalked up around that mark.
It has shifted slightly to around the +9 mark but I still think that’s probably about fair. Handicap lines are notoriously difficult to judge in the first couple of weeks so I will look elsewhere for a couple of punting plays.
One thing that’s not in doubt here is that KC are worthy favourites to win the game and a play on them to win the match, coupled with Over 51.5 Points line at 21/20 looks worthy of an investment with Betfair. Make sure you select the correct points line here if you follow as the Match Points are pitched three points higher at 54.5.
Both teams have potent offences, clean bills of health, and will be raring to go in a fresh season. Houston should be able to contribute to the points tally with no crowd impacting on their play calls and snap counts.
KC defensive or special teams touchdown (4/1 Betfair)
An additional bet I’m going to place on this game is a KC defensive or special teams touchdown at 4/1.
KC ranked fifth in the league for turnovers last season and are up against a Texans O-line that ranked 25th for sacks allowed on their QB. Allow that to happen too much here and KC could be forcing fumbles and interceptions galore especially if they get an early lead and force the Texans to the air sooner than they would like.