The New England Patriots will play its first game of the official season Thursday evening against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chad Finn, sports reporter for the Boston Globe, joined NHPR’s Morning Edition to give a preview of the game and the Patriots’ upcoming season.
You know I'm wondering what you think the prospects are for the Patriots and chiefs tonight.
It’s a pretty interesting team for the Patriots open this season with. They've had a little bit of a weird history with them fairly recently. I mean, nine years ago was when Tom Brady suffered his knee injury in the season opener against the Chiefs. He's been basically, as far as we know, injury free in terms of missing games since then. But it's also a team that two years ago, the 2014 season, so three years ago now, crushed the Patriots in the fourth week of the season and it got to the point where people were wondering if maybe Jimmy Garoppolo, the backup quarterback, was going to get a chance. Bill Belichick was asked in a post-game press conference and he kind of snickered and didn’t even respond. And the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl last season after getting crushed by the team. So kind of a turning point there. Kansas City is a playoff team well coached by Andy Reid, a lot of talent on both sides of the ball there. They’re kind of conservative. The quarterback Alex Smith isn't going to take chances down the field, but it's a formidable opponent for the first game of the season and it should be a pretty good game.
Could it set the tone for the season if there was an opening loss you think?
You know, I don't know because I think the Patriots, they’re always building toward December and then the playoffs beyond that. They have a real history, with Bill Belichick as the coach going into his 18th season now, of getting better as the season goes on. The team you see in September, the team you see on opening night, is pretty different from the one that you're going to be in week 14, 15, 16 and then headed into the playoffs—presumably since those seem to be there. So if they lost tonight, and I don't think they will, but if they did it really wouldn't be much of a blow probably. If they had a couple losses in a row then you’d start to wonder, but this looks to be one of their most talented rosters that they've had, which is saying something. And a loss tonight seems unlikely. It wouldn’t be a total shock, because Kansas City is a good team, but it does seem unlikely. And it’s always going to be that way all season of this team. You’re never really expect them to lose with the roster that they have.
Well I got to ask you about Julian Edelman suffering the complete terror of his ACL during the preseason game against the Lions. How will that injury affect the team's performance you think this season?
Definitely a blow. He is a guy Tom Brady relies on probably more than anybody else. The last four or five years they’ve had two guys who are really crucial offensive weapons for Brady—Edelman and Gronkowski. And they won it last year with Gronkowski on the sidelines with the Super Bowl having suffered a back injury. Now, it might be tougher for them to try to win without Edelman, who is the guy who always seemed to get eight yards on third down and seven, who Brady always knew was going to be in the right place at the right time. There’s just this great mental rapport with those guys. They’re on the same page as the cliché goes and always seem to be thinking the same thing. And Brady values that. So, it’s going to hurt, but they are so talented on offense with Brandin Cooks, the new receiver coming in from the Saints. He’s a down field threat, and some holdover guys. Gronkowski’s back healthy, Chris Hogan, guys like that, or Danny Amendola is still here. He's got a lot to work with without the guy that probably has been his most reliable receiver for the last half dozen years.
What do you see in the upcoming schedule that does worry you, if anything at all?
They've got a back-to-back stretch where they play Denver at Denver, which is always difficult. They never really seem to win there no matter what the circumstances are and how things are going during that particular season. And then they play the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City. Those two games are right after each other. So theoretically two road games, two tough road games. You know, a 16-0 talk of the Patriots is kind of absurd. I mean, from 2012 to 2015 they won 12 games each of those regular seasons. It’s really difficult to win 13, 14, 15 games let alone 16. They're going to have some bumps in the road here. If you’re looking for a place where they might hit a couple of those bumps, it’s probably in that two stretch.