Friday, September 7, 2012

Kansas City Chiefs - Atlanta Falcons Preview

The Chiefs’ 2012 regular season kicks off this Sunday with a 12:00 p.m. home game against the Atlanta Falcons. Currently, Vegas favors the Falcons by three points.

There is good news and bad news for Chiefs fans entering this game. The good news is that it appears that both Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers will be able to play on Sunday. Johnson had injured his ankle, and Flowers has been sidelined with a nagging foot injury before returning to practice on Wednesday and seeing snaps with the first-team defense. Stopping the Falcons without these two players would have been nearly impossible, and if they are close to full-strength, it is a huge boost for Kansas City’s defense.

The bad news is that the Chiefs are still missing several key players for this game. Tamba Hali is serving a one-game suspension, and starting safety Kendrick Lewis is also out. The team has several other players banged up on defense, and as we saw this preseason, the Chiefs’ defensive depth is nearly non-existent. The team cannot allow Matt Ryan to have all day to throw, and Kansas City may have to get a bit creative with their blitz schemes to pressure Ryan and try to force some turnovers.

The game will also serve as a homecoming for legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is likely entering the final season in his hall-of-fame career. Gonzalez was traded to the Falcons in 2009 for a second round pick, which the team used on defensive back and kick returner Javier Arenas. Gonzalez holds the Chief team records in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, and this will be the first time he has faced his former team.

Atlanta enters this season with huge expectations, and the biggest question mark surrounding the team is whether or not it can take the next step and contend for a championship. The Falcons have lost to the eventual Superbowl champion in the last two playoffs, getting blown out by the Packers two seasons ago and falling 24-2 to the Giants last year. Matt Ryan is a good quarterback, and he is surrounded by talented playmakers. Ryan played very well in the second half of last season, and if he is on against a depleted Chiefs defense, Kansas City might not have much of a chance.

Defensively, the Falcons added four-time pro bowl cornerback Asante Samuel this offseason, pairing him with Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson to form a dangerous secondary. The Falcons’ biggest question mark on defense will be whether or not it can effective rush the passer and contain the Chiefs’ running game. Atlanta’s front seven may very well determine the outcome of the game.

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