Initially, it didn’t seem like the NFL schedule makers did the Detroit Lions any favors by choosing them to open up against the Super Bowl defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. For a team that has struggled with the start of seasons for the past two years, going up against the best team—and the NFL’s best player—looked to be a daunting task.
But it turns out Week 1 may be the best time to face the Chiefs this year. With defensive tackle Chris Jones’ holdout continuing and the recent injury to tight end Travis Kelce, it’s entirely possible the Lions will be facing off against a Chiefs team without two of their best three players.
Of course, the Chiefs are not going to be a pushover on Thursday night. They still have an impressive roster across the board, and Mahomes is a magician. He’s going to make plays that no other quarterback can make.
But how will the Chiefs adjust elsewhere? Which receiving option will step up if Kelce doesn’t play on Thursday? Can anyone fill the enormous hole left by Jones’ holdout?
We sat down with lead Chiefs analyst of Arrowhead Pride Ron Kopp to answer some of these questions on our first First Byte preview podcast of the season!
Here’s a taste of that conversation
On receiving options in place of Kelce:
“We haven’t seen this offense without Travis Kelce as the centerpiece. He missed one game with COVID during the COVID season. It was a game against the Steelers, not really consequential. So this is going to be a huge deal, especially with the over-change at wide receiver, too. There’s a lot of new names that have come up in the lineup through the preseason.
“Whether you’re talking about rookie Rashee Rice, everyone’s darling Justyn Ross—who, we’ll see how much of an impact he’ll have. I think Kadarius Toney, as well, is someone that was injured all preseason (but) he showed he can do something with us last year. He’s apparently fully healthy. I didn’t really expect him to be ready Week 1, so that definitely helps. But it is something that... we don’t feel good about it. Chiefs fans don’t feel good. It’s not like, ‘Oh, Mahomes, he’ll be fine. He’s missing this guy, he’s missing his left tackle, he’s missing whoever.’ No, this is Travis Kelce. We haven’t seen this offense operate without him.”
On the impact of missing Jones:
“Chris Jones is the Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs defense. There is no secondary—Tyreek Hill gets taken away and you can just rely on this guy. No, it’s all Chris Jones, and if you don’t have Chris Jones—especially not having Charles Omenihu either, who we signed from the 49ers this offseason. He was suspended the first six games of the season. Not having either of those two, it is going to be very interesting to see how they get pass rush on Jared Goff on Thursday. It’s not just because obviously, the Lions' offensive line is very good, you’re talking about a lot of inexperience on the Chiefs' defensive line.”
You can listen to the entire episode here, where we break down every matchup of the game and make predictions at the end.
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