The Kansas City Chiefs will no doubt be glad to take the field so they can move on from an epic collapse in last season's wild-card round at Indianapolis. Kansas City is an opening 6-point home favorite on NFL odds for its opener against Tennessee.
Sankey To Carry The Load?
Looking for great value on NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2014? Consider Tennessee running back Bishop Sankey. The former Washington star was the first back taken in the draft, going No. 54 overall. He might be the main guy from Day 1. The Titans released Chris Johnson this offseason and there's talk they might do the same with Shonn Greene. He has had two knee surgeries in the past nine months and wasn't very good while healthy last season with the Titans. Cutting him would save Tennessee around $1.7 million toward the salary cap.
Sankey, 12/1 at sportsbooks for OROY, rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 scores last year for the Huskies, also catching 28 passes. The Titans also have another new running back in Dexter McCluster. He spent his first four seasons with the Chiefs but mostly was used as a receiver. Last year he caught 53 passes for 511 yards and two scores while only carrying the ball eight times.
Both starting quarterbacks in this game could be elsewhere in 2015. Kansas City's Alex Smith was a Pro Bowler last season and is in the final year of his contract. He and the team haven't made much progress yet on an extension, and the Chiefs drafted Georgia QB Aaron Murray in May. Smith completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns last year in a very conservative, short passing offense. It certainly wasn't his fault that the Chiefs blew a 38-10 third-quarter lead in their 45-44 playoff loss to the Colts. Smith was stellar, throwing for 378 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Kansas City lost its best offensive player, Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, to a knee injury on the team's first possession of that game. He's really about the only offensive threat the Chiefs have. For some reason, they didn't address receiver in the draft, a weak spot even before losing McCluster. The team believes it found a McCluster-type back in Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, a fourth-round pick in May.
Meanwhile, Titans quarterback Jake Locker also doesn't have a contract past this season, with the team declining to pick up the option on his rookie-year deal. Locker, the No. 8 overall pick in 2011 out of Washington, has been inconsistent and injury-prone in his three seasons. He also was not the choice of new coach Ken Whisenhunt, who might want to install his own guy at the position. Tennessee took LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger with its sixth-round pick in May. Many of the early 2015 mock drafts have the Titans taking a QB in the first round.
The Chiefs were 2.5-point favorites at sportsbooks when they traveled to Nashville in Week 5 last season and won 26-17 to improve to 5-0. Kansas City was up 13-0 at halftime but fell behind 17-13 early in the fourth quarter when Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting for an injured Locker, scored on a 9-yard touchdown run. The Chiefs went back ahead for good when Charles scored on a 1-yard run with 6:23 left. Charles finished the day with 108 yards on 22 carries. Smith was 20 of 39 for 245 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Fitzpatrick, now in Houston, threw for 247 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions (both late in the fourth quarter). He missed his first five passes and the Titans went three-and-out on their first five series before scoring 17 straight points in the second half.
NFL Free Picks: This might be the lowest-scoring game of Week 1; the total is 44 on the odds boards. Go 'under' with your NFL picks here. The Titans might take a while to get used to their new coaching staff, so take Kansas City on the side even though it failed to cover its final five home games last year. The favorite has covered the past four times these teams have played.