The Fateful Eight: Which NFL Team Will Take On the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2024 Season Opener?

There are arguments for the NFL breaking trends for the annual kickoff game, but most likely the Kansas City Chiefs' opponent will follow a template.

The 2023 season ended in classic fashion with just the second overtime game in Super Bowl history — and the first in which both teams scored in the extra period, with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in Las Vegas.

But it’s never too early to spin the focus to 2024. And, more specifically, how it will begin.

Who Will the Chiefs Open Against in 2024?

Nineteen of the last 20 Super Bowl champions have opened the following season in the annual Thursday night kickoff game, with the lone exception coming in 2019 when the NFL had predetermined it would open the league’s 100th season with two of the oldest franchises, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

So you can count on the Chiefs kicking off the season at home in the Thursday night kickoff game.

The only defending Super Bowl champion to open on the road in the last 20 years was the 2013 Baltimore Ravens, and that was because the Baltimore Orioles, whose stadium is adjacent to M&T Bank Stadium and utilizes the same parking lots, refused to reschedule their game.

The layout is similar in Kansas City, but the MLB’s Kansas City Royals have an off day on Sept. 5.

Knowing which teams the Chiefs will play at Arrowhead Stadium in 2024, let’s rank those opponents in order of likelihood to be on the visitor sideline on opening night, going from least likely to the favorite.

8) New Orleans Saints

There really isn’t anything intriguing about this matchup. The Saints didn’t make the playoffs last year, and they don’t have anyone on the roster with broad superstar appeal.

The Chiefs probably would love it after losing at home to an NFC up-and-comer, the Detroit Lions, in last year’s kickoff game. But the league has final say, and Saints-Chiefs would be the antithesis of a ratings bonanza.

7) Denver Broncos

It’s a great rivalry, but while the league has leaned into Week 1 divisional games, it has mostly avoided them in the kickoff game.

The pre-arranged Bears-Packers tilt aside, the last time the kickoff game featured two teams from the same division was 2012, when the New York Giants played host to the Dallas Cowboys. The other time in the 20-year run of champions kicking off the season was 2008, when it also was the Giants welcoming the Washington Redskins.

6) Las Vegas Raiders

For all the reasons stated above, the Raiders are unlikely to be the opponent. Divisional opponent didn’t make the playoffs, etc.

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

You probably were expecting to see the other AFC West team in this spot, but there’s a certain new addition to the Los Angeles Chargers that would be great for ratings.

Instead, the Buccaneers land in the bottom half despite fitting a template for the kickoff game after a postseason run. Nine of the last 11 kickoff games where the defending champion was at home featured a road team that also made the playoffs the previous season.

But there are better options than the Buccaneers, who, like the Saints, are short on star/ratings power.

4) Cincinnati Bengals

As enticing as Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes might be, the league had a chance to make this the kickoff game last year and passed.

MORE: Kansas City Chiefs 2024 Mock Draft

The Bengals have the fifth-shortest odds to win the Super Bowl next year. The expectation is they will be relevant at the least and possibly in the hunt for a No. 1 seed. The three previous Burrow-Mahomes regular-season meetings were in Week 17 in 2021, Week 13 in 2022, and Week 17 in 2023.

Look for that to be the case again this year.

3) Baltimore Ravens

This follows similar logic. As huge as an AFC Championship Game rematch would be, the league will want to see Lamar Jackson vs. Mahomes later in the season.

In addition to passing on Bengals-Chiefs for the kickoff game this year, the league hasn’t staged a championship game rematch in the kickoff game since 2010, with Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

And that’s despite having plenty of chances to do so, including Bengals-Chiefs this year, Rams-49ers in 2022, Eagles-Vikings in 2018, and Seahawks-49ers in 2014.

2) Los Angeles Chargers

It’s no coincidence the league hasn’t had a divisional rematch in the kickoff game in more than a decade. The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of it with three of a team’s eight (sometimes nine) home opponents being options.

But if ever they were going to break the trend, this is it, with Jim Harbaugh taking over in Los Angeles. The head coach of the defending college champions vs. the head coach of the defending Super Bowl champions and Justin Herbert vs. Mahomes is made for prime time.

Plus, the Chiefs and Chargers have staged some wildly entertaining games with multiple lead changes in the fourth quarter.

1) Houston Texans

As intriguing as the Harbaugh/Chargers option is, slotting the Texans in this spot would be a direct comp to so much of what we’ve seen in the past.

Houston has a lot in common with Detroit as a rapidly rising team. C.J. Stroud is the defending Offensive Rookie of the Year. Will Anderson Jr. is the defending Defensive Rookie of the Year. It would feature two playoff teams, which, as mentioned above, is something that has happened in nine of the last 11 years.

And it would follow the exact path after the Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, when Kansas City opened the 2020 season against a Houston team that was also coming off a playoff berth.

KEEP READING: 2024 NFL Opponents — All 32 Teams’ Regular-Season Home and Away Games for Next Year

That 2020 opener was the last time we had a playoff rematch in the kickoff game. The Texans led the Chiefs 24-0 in the Divisional Round, only to lose 51-31.

In Vegas odds parlance, the Texans should be considered 2-1 favorites to face the Chiefs in the kickoff game.

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