Alex Smith on Facing Defending Champs on TNF: "That's Why We're All Here"

The Chiefs prepare for the NFL’s opening game of 2017 Thursday night in New England

Every year is different. Every team is different.

And while there's no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to the NFL, the closest you can probably get is the expectation of success from the New England Patriots. 

They are the defending Super Bowl champions and have been to six straight AFC Championship games. They have also won the AFC East division in 13 of the past 14 seasons.

Simply put: they are the pinnacle of consistent success in the NFL.

So, they are exactly who you want to face if you're a team with high expectations, and that's exactly what the Kansas City Chiefs have in 2017. The Chiefs are coming off a 12-4 season with an AFC West title, and they return 43 of the 53 players who were on the roster last year.

It's a matchup of two of the best teams in the AFC as the Chiefs and Patriots kick-off the 2017 NFL season Thursday night.

"You love it. You love competition," Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is 7-2 in his last nine season openers, said Sunday morning of the opportunity to open up against the Patriots. "If you're in this business, that's what you thrive on, and I'd tell you both sides feel that way. The players, that's why they play the game. They want to play against the best.

"You want to coach against the best—that's a beautiful thing."

Before Thursday's game, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be raising their fifth Super Bowl banner—adding to what should already be a fantastic environment in a place the Patriots have consistently thrived.

Since 2000, Belichick has a record of 110-26 in Foxboro.

"It's a great environment," Reid added. "It should be a heck of a football game…the guys are excited to play."

Quarterback Alex Smith, who has led the Chiefs to three-straight wins in regular season primetime games, spoke about the opportunity Sunday morning.

"I think the hard thing is that it's not here quite yet," Smith said. "You still have to handle the week or preparation and build towards Thursday night. It's a big challenge—play the defending world champs on the road and kick off the NFL season.

"But that's why you play the game. That's why we're all here. We're pumped about it, but we've got to do all the right things leading up to it."

The Chiefs began their preparations for the Patriots before this week, but things definitely ramped up Sunday afternoon as the Chiefs returned to the practice field. They all understand the challenge that awaits them.

Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, who has already established himself as one of the best to ever play the game, has a home record of 101-17 in his career.

"I think it's a great opportunity—not only to see where we're at, but just our mindset," Justin Houston, who laughed as he said his approach to facing Brady is to 'hit him,' explained. "It's going to a great atmosphere, it's going to be loud—pretty much like a playoff atmosphere when you go there. We're going to see where we're at mentally, and where we're at on the field.

"It's going to be a big test for us."

"We've got big expectations for the season, but it's about taking it one game at a time," safety Eric Berry added.

Two years ago, the Chiefs faced the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs in Foxboro—dropping that contest, 27-20.

"They made more plays than us," veteran Derrick Johnson recalled of that game. "They did a good job executing their plays and we were a step slow."

The Chiefs head into this game much healthier than they did in that playoff game two years ago, when a hobbled Houston played just eight snaps, and two of the starting offensive linemen—Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif—didn't play at all as they were inactive with injuries.

As it has been a main storyline all offseason, Houston looks healthy now, and the Chiefs go into this game having won 22 of their last 26 regular season games, including 10 of 12 on the road.

These two teams last met in the regular season in 2014, which was another primetime game on Monday Night Football and a memorable one for the Chiefs, who won at Arrowhead, 41-14, in a game that stands as the second-to-worst loss in Belichick's career with the Patriots (-27).

But all that means nothing Thursday night.

"We are ready," offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif added. "It's going to be a great feeling. We have been preparing for that throughout training camp, throughout OTAs. We have four preseason games behind us.

"I think everybody in the locker room is looking forward to it."

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