Patriots begin quest for 6th Super Bowl with primetime tilt against Chiefs

FOXBOROUGH, MA (WHDH) - The NFL will kickoff the 2017 regular season Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough as the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots square off with the Kansas City Chiefs. The game won’t only mark the return of superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is also expected to be in attendance.

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When the Patriots unveil their fifth Super Bowl banner in front of a crowd that plans to relentlessly waive Barstool Sports towels that feature a clown-faced commissioner, Goodell will make an appearance in some capacity for the first time since the infamous “Deflategate” saga.

Gronkowski will grace the gridiron for the first time since suffering a season-ending back injury last November. With Julian Edelman out for the year with a torn ACL, Gronkowski will be one option who 40-year-old Tom Brady will look to for help in replacing the lost production.

Gronkowski has not played a full season since 2011, but he says he is fired up and ready to go.

“Just as a whole, as an offense, we have to step up,” Gronkowski said. “Going into my eighth year, I’ve taken on way more responsibility.”

Another man who could fill Edelman’s void is newcomer Brandin Cooks. New England acquired the speedster in a trade with New Orleans in the off-season. Cooks, who is entering his third season, has 20 career touchdowns. Old faces such as Danny Amendola, James White and Dion Lewis will also be back on the offensive side of the ball.

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On the defensive side, it’s New England’s secondary that’s a strength. Malcolm Butler and ex-Buffalo Bills corner Stephon Gilmore are one of the best tandems in the league. Veteran safety Devin McCourty will lead the unit.

The linebacking corps is a bit of an uknown. Longtime stalwart Rob Ninkovich retired before training camp and Shea McClellin will start the year on injured reserve. Third-year defensive end Trey Flowers will look to build on a strong 2016 campaign and hold down the front seven with Dont’a Hightower.

The Chiefs will be looking to avenge their AFC Divisional playoff loss to the Patriots last season. They won the AFC West crown last season and will be looking to deal a blow to New England.

The game will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. The banner ceremony will be held at 8 p.m.

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