Friends, we made it. After the oddest NFL offseason in history — which included a virtual draft, no Hall of Fame ceremony and exactly zero preseason games — football is finally back in our lives tonight when the Kansas City Chiefs begin their title defense by hosting the Houston Texans in a playoff rematch from January. Oddsmakers expect the Super Bowl champs to roll, with this matchup featuring the highest point spread of Week 1. But will they?

While a 51-31 final score in the divisional round of last season’s playoffs that featured a 51-7 run to finish the game suggests Kansas City could win this one by any margin, let’s not forget that Houston had the eventual champs on the ropes after a little more than a quarter of action, and that’s not something many teams can boast. Revenge could be a factor for Bill O’Brien’s team, as could a potential lack of homefield advantage in a stadium that’s limited to 22 percent capacity due to COVID-19 concerns.

We’re going to get you ready for the matchup on the gambling side of things in this space, including what you need to know about each aspect of the game from a betting perspective. All odds via William Hill Sportsbook.

For another view on this game, check out the play from the SportsLine Projection Model, which is up over $7,000 on its top-rated picks.

How to watch

Date: Thursday, September 10 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
TV: 
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free) 
Follow: CBS Sports App

Texans at Chiefs (-9)

This line first opened back in May at Chiefs -10, and it took until the beginning of September for it to drop to Chiefs -9.5. On Monday night, William Hill moved the line down to Chiefs -9, a clear indication the sharp action is on the underdog.

There’s reason to think a nine-point spread in this matchup is still inflated. Per the CBS Sports research team, favorites of eight-plus points in Week 1 are 0-7 against the spread over the last five years. While that’s a relatively small sample size, if you add in the 10 years prior to that stretch, you get an 8-20 ATS mark over the last 15 years for favorites of eight-plus points in Week 1. Blindly betting on the ‘dog in this situation has come in far more often than not.

It’s also rare to see the Texans, a playoff team last year, go into their Week 1 matchup as huge underdogs. If the line closes at Texans +9, they’d be tied for the largest Week 1 underdog since 2000 for a team that made the playoffs the year prior (Patriots, 2016; Colts, 2011). Deshaun Watson has been a profitable QB to back when he’s an underdog, as he’s 12-6 ATS in games started as the ‘dog in his career.

Pick: Texans +9. It certainly feels dangerous fading the Chiefs after they tore through the NFL last season with a healthy Patrick Mahomes, but this is just too many points to give a playoff team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a history of success in the win column, even if they’re annually considered offseason losers due to questionable personnel moves. The Texans O-line came together for the first time in a long time last year, and that stability will help Watson and Co. keep pace with the former MVP on the other side of the ball, especially if J.J. Watt can take advantage of a Chiefs interior offensive line in flux.

Play moneyline at Texans +360? Watson is capable of beating any team on any given day as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so I don’t hate backing the Texans as a huge underdog on the moneyline and hope his talent combines with the uncertainty inherent with playing a game in COVID-related conditions (few fans, no preseason) to give the Texans a better shot to win than projected. I certainly wouldn’t make it my primary play, however.

Over/Under 54.5 points

This looks like a big total now, but it opened even higher in early May at 56.5 points. William Hill quickly knocked it down to 55.5 points the morning after it opened before it settled at 56 for the first week it was on the board. After that, it was back down to 55.5 points for about two months before moving to 55 points in mid-July. The current total of 54.5 first came on the board at the beginning of September and has mostly stayed put, aside from a brief trip to 54 over the weekend.

You can find reasons to back either side of this one. If you think defenses will have issues getting into the swing of things early on and want to take the Over, note that the last time we had an unusual training camp during the 2011 lockout, Overs went 12-4 in Week 1. If you think offenses will struggle to get in rhythm under the bright lights of primetime football, note that Unders went 6-1 in primetime over the first two weeks last year and 19-6 over the first eight weeks.

Pick: Under 54.5. This one is a stayaway for me until we see which side of the ball looks most affected by the strange offseason of 2020, but if I have to pick one side, I’ll go with the Under with the expectation teams could be a little conservative as everyone gets up to game speed.

First half: Chiefs -6, O/U 27

The first-half line for the game has bounced between 5.5 and six points.

Pick: Texans +6. If my choices are between taking Houston +9 on the full game and Houston +6 in the first half, I’m going with the first-half number. I think Bill O’Brien will have his offense ready to go. But it’s worth noting that the Chiefs outscored the Texans by almost seven points per game in the first half last year, while the Texans outscored the Chiefs after halftime on the season. Perhaps taking the Texans +205 on the second-half moneyline is a nice hedge against a Chiefs blowout in the first 30 minutes.

Player props

Deshaun Watson

O/U 22.5 completions
O/U 37.5 attempts  
O/U 269.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Over -145)
O/U 30.5 rushing yards

Playing in a negative game script in the second half, Watson managed to finish with a line of 31-of-52 passing for 388 yards and two TDs in the playoff matchup between these two teams. That’s obviously close to his ceiling in completions and attempts here, but it shows you that it is possible for him to not just hit the Over in many of his player props in this Week 1 matchup, but blow by it. Of this group, I like going Over on 22.5 completions, as I can see a Chiefs defensive gameplan of making Houston put together long drives by taking away quick scores on deep routes.

Patrick Mahomes

O/U 25.5 completions
O/U 37.5 attempts
O/U 303.5 passing yards
O/U 2.5 passing TDs (Under -170)
O/U 19.5 rushing yards

Forced to rally early in the playoff matchup between these two teams, Mahomes finished with a line of 23-of-35 passing for 321 yards and five TDs in the January game. Note that he doesn’t need volume in completions or attempts to put up big totals in yards and TDs. The Chiefs quarterback had more than 25 completions in just six of his 16 games (including playoffs) last season but topped 303 yards eight times. Mahomes’ legs were a big part of the Chiefs’ offensive success during the postseason, when he ran for 135 yards during the team’s three wins, but he didn’t do much running early last season, going over 19.5 rushing yards just once in the six starts before his injury and coming close just one other time.

Five more props to consider

David Johnson Over 21.5 receiving yards -120

After taking so much flack for the DeAndre Hopkins trade, you know O’Brien is eager to feature Johnson as a dual-threat weapon in primetime with the world watching. But also take note of the matchup: No defense saw more targets go to running backs than the Chiefs, whose explosive offense caused opponents to throw the ball early and often. The Chiefs also allowed the third-most catches and second-most receiving yards to running backs last year. This looks like a prime spot for Johnson to go well over 21.5 receiving yards.

Darrel Williams Over 27.5 rushing yards -120; Over 0.5 rushing TDs +300

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the Belle of the ball in Fantasy this year after the Chiefs used their first-round pick on the talented back and watched Damien Williams opt out of the 2020 season. But I’m usually a believer that rookies are overhyped early in the season, as we just don’t know how much of a workload the coaching staff will place on their shoulders early on. It would be right up Andy Reid’s alley to feature a timeshare between Edwards-Helaire and No. 2 back Darrel Williams in the opener, and I like the latter’s chances of receiving 10 or more carries in this game. That’ll be enough to put him over the total, and his 224-pound frame makes him a great candidate for goal-line carries as well.

Travis Kelce Under 69.5 receiving yards -115

Kelce destroyed the Texans in the playoff matchup, racking up 10 catches on 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Slowing him down absolutely has to be the Texans’ focus on defense, even if it allows the Chiefs’ receiving corps to take advantage of mismatches. Kelce has also been dealing with a minor knee injury, which at least has the possibility of limiting his snaps should he tweak it during the game.

Mecole Hardman first Chiefs TD scorer and Randall Cobb first Texans TD scorer +14000

Is it weird that I don’t hate this bet? Hardman is capable of taking it to the house on any play, and with the Texans likely focused on stopping Kelce after his huge playoff performance, I could see Hardman breaking one in single coverage. And on the Texans side, the offense could be without Brandin Cooks, who’s questionable with a quad injury. If he can’t go, that just increases the potential targets for Cobb in the passing game. At 140-to-1, it’s certainly unlikely to hit, but this seems like a fun lottery ticket to root for early in the game.

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