Atlanta doesn't have the hardest schedule in the world this year, but they do some extremely tough opponents early on. Right off the bat Atlanta faces the Kansas City Chiefs. KC didn't fare too well last year finishing 7-9. Former head coach Todd Haley was fired after a 5-8 start and reported tension with the front office. Interim head coach Romeo Crennel took over and helped the Chiefs finish the season winning two out of the final three. The Chiefs decided to take the interim tag off Crennel and promote him to the full time head coaching job.
Romeo, oh Romeo
Looking at Crennel's career record, he's always been a superb DC and assistant coach. He won the Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 2003 as the DC on the Patriots. While with the Patriots Crennel won three Super Bowls while leading a very talented defensive unit that included Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Lawyer Milloy. After his third Super Bowl victory with the Patriots, Crennel became the head coach in Cleveland. During his four years with the Browns, they never made the playoffs and Crennel was ousted in 2008 bringing his career record as a HC to 24-40. After sitting out the 2009 season due to hip surgery Crennel returned to the sidelines as the DC of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010. In his first year the Chiefs made the playoffs, but fell to the Ravens in the Wild Card Round. Even though Crennel's career as a HC has been lackluster he's never really had the talent in place.
In Kansas City he has an extremely talented team especially on defense where he has talented players such as Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, and Glenn Dorsey. On the offensive side the major weapon is Dwayne Bowe, but he is currently in a contract dispute with the Chiefs and it could drag into the season. In addition to Bowe the Chiefs drafted Jonathan Baldwin to play across from Bowe in 2011, and so far through OTAs he has been impressing the coaches. Add in the fact that Jamaal Charles, who averaged 6.5 YPC in 2010, will be back after he tore his ACL in week one of 2011 and the Chiefs are in great shape offensively for the 2012 season.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Atlanta will be Arrowhead Stadium itself. It's not easy to play in KC; their fans are some of the best in the NFL. After Dirk Koetter revealed that Atlanta plans to use the no huddle more, playing in tough road games with crowds like the ones at Arrowhead, the Falcons could run into some problems getting their offense going during the game. The Chiefs finished 3-5 last year at Arrowhead, but they were hit with a ton of injuries with both Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles going down for the year early in the season and Matt Cassel going down for the year after injuring his hand in a week ten match-up against the Denver Broncos. Make no mistake Atlanta will have to play a great game to come out of this one with a win. However, with the aforementioned injuries Atlanta may catch a break playing KC week one as players like Charles and Berry may be cautious of their previous injuries and play a bit conservative to avoid re-injury.
Overall, when you break it down Atlanta matches up very well against the Chiefs. I'd give Atlanta an advantage on offense. Atlanta just has more overall firepower than Kansas City. In the trenches it looks like a wash. Both sides have great right tackles in Tyson Clabo and Eric Winston. Kansas City should be starting second year man Rodney Hudson in place of Casey Wiegmann. Jon Asamoah and Ryan Lilja are decent players, but I'd give an advantage overall to Peter Konz and Justin Blalock. Left tackle is the big question for Atlanta who has three potential starters at the spot in Sam Baker, Will Svitek, and Lamar Holmes. Kansas City has a rock at left tackle in Branden Albert who has improved every year he's started. On the Defensive side I would give Atlanta a slight advantage due to their depth at CB and DE. Overall, it should be a great matchup as both side are pretty close to one another. It will be hard, but it isn't impossible for Atlanta to walk out of Arrowhead with a W.
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The KC defense was ranked at 11th in the league last year, without Eric Berry. The ACL triplets are ahead of schedule on their rehabs and have all been cleared for training camp. The Chiefs will take the Falcons to pound town and Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis will likely rack up nearly 200 yards on the ground against the Falcons D. D.Koetter had better figure the KC defense out better than y'all have, because you will not be able to run the ball against KC. That leaves Tamba Hali and Justin Houston free to pin their ears back and get after Ryan. Romeo will send additional blitzers from all over Arrowhead at Ryan, that coupled with the 80,000+ rabid Chiefs fans will make it a long, hard day for the Falcons and their fans. Chiefs27 - Falcons 13
@dongtogolo You sound very confident about an offense that averaged 13.2 points per game last year. Also, the Chiefs defense only held their opponents to .8 less points per game than the Falcons defense (and a whopping 0.3 ypg) did so I'm not sure how they became such a force on the defensive side of the football. I'm all for optimism but it sounds like you've got some Chiefs colored glasses on. If there is one statistic that Kansas City really has Atlanta beat on it's the amount of punts that Kansas City had last year. Hands down, you guys are way more likely to be in position to punt than the Falcons.....or maybe not because in 19 less punts the Falcons put the ball inside the 20 the same number of times the Chiefs did. I think this game will be close but let's be honest here. The Falcons should win this game. It won't be a blow-out and the Falcons will have to come to play but the Falcons should walk away with their hands raised as the victor.
@CFBZ Thanks for the reply, CFBZ. If you're basing your counterpoints off of last years Chiefs performance, I can understand your confidence. Last year that wack job Todd Haley had a conditioning style training camp. The team played little football in camp and the starters never played more than a few series in the preseason games. Obviously, the team was not ready to play when the season began. Game 1 at Arrowhead the Bills (7-9) beat KC 41-7. Week 2 at Detroit the Lions kicked our asses 48-3. If you take those games out of those stats it's another story altogether. Tyler freaking Palko started 4 games... Tyler Palko! Yet the Steelers only beat us by 4, without Eric Berry, Jamal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Matt Cassel. This is not last years Chiefs team. We had PFF's worst ranked right tackle in the NFL, now we have the best. We had a 285 pound old man at center, now we have a 2nd year 305 pounder with a mean streak who played a lot at guard last year. We had Thomas "two yard" Jones as our starter and could not punch it into the end zone. Our stud rookie receiver, Jon Baldwin, missed most of the year, in a year with no OTCs or minicamps, with a broken wrist/thumb.
This is NOT last years Chiefs team, as you and Falcons nation will find out come Sept. 9.
@dongtogolo We'll see. Most experts have KC D ranked 10+ spots higher than Atlanta - but I'll take Ryan over your boy Cassel any day. After Bowe your receiving corp is pretty lackluster. If the Oline protects Ryan I like our chances. The line is at 1 - which to me seems fair. Arrowhead does give them the edge.
@vantuck Very fair and congenial reply. Always appreciated. KC D is stacked this year, especially if Dontari Poe is as advertised. My understanding is that his Memphis team was a really crappy team, was down from the git go most games and teams obviously avoided running plays in his direction. Both Romeo and Anthony Pleasant (DL coach and former Patriots DL under Romeo) have said that the kids work ethic was relentless and he is picking up techniques and the playbook very well, which leads me to believe that the kid has a great chance to be the starter week 1. Both Jamal Charles and Eric Berry have said they could play today if there was a ballgame scheduled. I expect a top 5 ranking for the D this year. KCs defense was ranked 6th against the pass last season without Eric Berry. As high powered as the ATL offense is regarded, it won't be easy to score on the Chiefs.
I would take Ryan over Cassel as well, but Matt has the best O line he's had in KC yet, and the Chiefs run game will be rather formidable with Charles, Hillis, and McCluster all getting the rock. In the passing game, DBowe is the go to guy, but Steve Breaston is a pretty good #2 and Jon Baldwin, although only a 2nd year guy, is a freak, running a 4.3 at 6'5, 230. He made circus catches routinely in OTA's and mini camp, benefitted by getting all of Bowes reps. Our tight ends, Moeaki and Boss, can both block and are good receivers as well.
Thanks for a good reply, and don't bet the farm on your boys week 1. This Chiefs team is stacked, and I believe the Falcons are gonna get a lot more than they want. For the next several years, the Chiefs are gonna own the AFC, and it starts this season. Just consider this game a wake up call.
I like the Chiefs this year; I find this to be a scary matchup for numerous reasons. I'm afraid we will need to fire on every cylinder to win this game.
@vantuck This is the type of game that we have to win on the road. The Chiefs should be a decent, and improving, team but we are a perennial playoff team with a lot more experience.