KANSAS CITY, Mo.—When the Kansas City Chiefs trimmed their roster to the 53-man limit less than a week before their opener in New England, all but 10 of the players they kept were on the roster last season.
There's a very good reason for that.
The Chiefs won 12 games and their first AFC West championship since 2010, earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.
And while injuries hamstrung them late in the year, and a hopeless performance by their offence doomed them in a post-season loss to Pittsburgh (at home, no less), coach Andy Reid still felt his team was on the precipice of going much deeper.
“I would surely tell you that we have an opportunity to do that,” Reid admitted during training camp.
“Now we have to do our work," he stressed. "We've had a good off-season but it starts now.”
What better place to start than against the Patriots tonight?
The prospect of opening up against the Super Bowl champions on the road makes it doubly nice that the Chiefs are stocked with veterans on both sides of the ball.
They won't be intimidated by Tom Brady and Co. in a hostile environment—a game that could well set the tone for the entire season.
Alex Smith is back under centre. The offensive line returns intact—and may be even better after acquiring 2016 first-round pick Cam Erving from Cleveland to serve as the swing tackle.
And despite a season-ending knee injury to running back Spencer Ware, the Chiefs still have plenty of weapons in speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt.
The Chiefs' strength should be defence, though, especially if they can stay healthy.
Pass rusher Justin Houston finally is 100 percent after dealing with knee injuries the past two seasons. Veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson is back from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
And while strong safety Eric Berry missed much of camp with a heel injury, he expects to be ready.
Throw in one of the league's top cornerbacks in Marcus Peters, new defensive tackle Bennie Logan, and depth across the board and the Chiefs could have one of the NFL's top defences.
“We had a couple of injuries last year but there are no excuses,” Johnson said.
“We have to put the pressure on ourselves,” he noted.
“Knowing that Andy is going to do his job with the offence and score a little bit, which is great, we just have to do our job.”