Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally here. The Kansas City Chiefs are opening their 2012 NFL season against a very formidable opponent in the Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs are 3 point underdogs going in and like I’ve expressed previously, I am very worried about this game. It’s strange, because last year, when the Chiefs played the Buffalo Bills, I thought we would fare pretty well against a team that hadn’t been very good previously. In 2010, I didn’t know what to think because it was the beginning of a new time for the Chiefs. If anything, I thought the San Diego Chargers were going to have a field day against our new team. So what’s the point of telling you all this? Home openers are largely unpredictable. Just ask the New York Giants.
Going into this game, I am fully expecting to get our heads kicked in. Now, make no mistake, I don’t like going into this game feeling that way. After having something like 9 months of no Chiefs football, I want to believe in this team. I saw good things out of training camp out at St. Joseph. But I don’t know how we can optimistic here.
There is a bit of good news. Linebacker Derrick Johnson and cornerback Brandon Flowers have been limited in practice, so that’ s a good sign. The bad thing is that free safety Kendrick Lewis and nose tackle Anthony Toribio are both still sidelined and it’s likely both will miss Sunday’s game. If this is the case, this is the first time we’ll get to see Dontari Poe in regular season action. Also remember (as if you needed a reminder), that Chiefs star pass-rusher, Tamba Hali, is sidelined for one game due to his suspension. To top it all off, linebacker Jovan Belcher missed Thursday’s practice because of a sore groin and it looks as if Brandon Siler will be filling his shoes.
Our defense is decimated by injury. As the current situation stands, there are substitutes filling in for substitutes and it has seemed increasingly likely that the result will be a blowout similar to the one we saw last year against the Bills. This, to me, is inexcusable. As the situation stands, the Chiefs are in the top three teams in terms of remaining funds below the salary cap. I’m not saying I could’ve done a better job, but then again, I’m not the general manager. It’s Scott Pioli‘s job as the general manager of the Chiefs to make sure we have plenty of quality depth so that when injuries happen, like they did last season and like they are right now, we have the necessary resources to compete in this league. Right now, we definitely do not.
I know Pioli couldn’t have seen all of these injuries coming. But when these things do happen, you do not just sit back and let the team fly with what they’ve got, because it ain’t good enough! I would expect to hear a lot more of this kind of rhetoric if Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White have big games on Sunday. I’m not a fan of revisionist history, as I think it’s kind of lazy, so I’m not going to go much further with these critiques on Pioli. However, I will say that it looks like Pioli’s days in Kansas City as the general manager are becoming numbered.
The key to this game on Sunday is very simple. You have to stay competitive if you’re Kansas City. A huge part of Kansas City’s offense, as has been expressed a number of times, is the running game. That means, if you fall behind early (say 10-0, 14-0), you’re basically screwed. If we have to rely on Matt Cassel to sling the ball and win us the game, we might as well mail it in. Cassel has not shown the ability to carry this team when things aren’t going well, and thus, the Chiefs remain under a glass ceiling they can’t break through with this quarterback. Not to mention, the Falcons secondary, headlined by Asante Samuel, isn’t too shabby either.
I’ve heard some sports personalities this past week say that the Chiefs are capable of winning a shootout with the Falcons, that our defensive worries are getting blown out of proportion. This, to me, seems pretty fallacious. I would look for a strategy similar to the one that was used against the Green Bay Packers towards the end of the last season. That being the case, I think the Chiefs have to do three things well in order to come out on top:
1.) Clock management is key. The time of possession has to be lopsided in our favor. We can ill-afford Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to see the field any more than he absolutely has to.
2.) Another thing that will help that? No turnovers, boys. This means no fumbles, no interceptions, no stupid mistakes of any kind. I’ll throw dumb penalties in there, as well. Are you going to get away with some stuff you normally wouldn’t thanks to replacement referees? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you should press your luck. The Falcons don’t need your help, Kansas City.
3.) The running game has to be effective early. As previously noted, I don’t subscribe to the notion that you can win championships by building a great team around a mediocre quarterback, but if this is going to be our philosophy, so be it. Pound the ball down their throats. Let Peyton Hillis touch the ball 15 times. Have Jamaal Charles touch the ball somewhere around 20-25 times in hopes of him maybe breaking away a big gainer.
If the Chiefs are going to win this game, it’ll probably be in a low-scoring contest. Do I have zero faith in Kansas City? Not exactly. But if someone held me over a cliff and told me to pick the winner, I would choose Atlanta in a blowout. Have fun with this one, Tony Gonzalez.
Thank you for reading, and as always, be respectful when you comment.
Question for the readers: My projected score for the Chiefs game is 41-10 in favor of Atlanta. What’s your expected end result for Sunday’s game?