Disappointment. That should be the theme for both of these squads the last several years. Every year, specifically the Falcons, we hear from pundits and fans that this is their year. This is the year that Matt Ryan will finally lead the Falcons to a playoff victory. It isn’t a bad assessment at all, considering on paper, this is a team that looks like they should fill that billing. They have a capable enough quarterback, above average targets, and a bowling ball for a running back. Unfortunately, they couldn’t even muster up a chance to play in the playoffs last season; it doesn’t help when you play in the same division as the New Orleans Saints, though. The Chiefs on the other hand simply want to be in the playoff race come December. If they can achieve that, then it will be a productive campaign. The Chiefs finished at 7-9, resulting in last place in the AFC West. They will have the chance to get off to a good start against the Falcons in their own backyard at Arrowhead, getting favorable home field advantage.
The Chiefs team doesn’t look too bad on paper either. Just like the Falcons, they have a decent quarterback, solid options to pass to, and a pro-bowler in the backfield. This offense isn’t on the Falcons level just yet, but is a capable bunch. Last season the offense started slow, really slow. In fact, Cassel threw only one touchdown in the first two weeks in blowout losses against the Bills and Lions. The Chiefs didn’t find the win column until week 3 when they barely scathed by the lowly Vikings, 22-17. The Chiefs finished 27th in terms of total defense per game, averaging only 192 yards passing and 118 yards rushing. They were also 31st in points scored in 2011. There was no doubt that they were missing their biggest offensive weapon, Jamaal Charles. Charles’ season was cut very short, as he had to leave in week 1 with an ACL injury. He was having a productive afternoon prior to the injury, rushing for 56 yards on 10 carries. The season seemingly went down the toilet from there. Charles is healthy for week 1, and will give their offense an immense boost. They also acquired Peyton Hillis for short yardage duties, remember him? He probably won’t be the same Hillis we saw in Cleveland that one season, but he will play a big role in taking the pressure off of Charles. The Chiefs healthy looking offense won’t be facing a huge test in week 1 against the Falcons defense, but they are capable of shutting average offenses down. And that is what the Chiefs are at this point, average. The Falcons do have the ability to shut down the run, allowing only 97 yards a game (6th), but can be exposed through the air at 236 yards per game (20th).
While the offense had its problems with avoiding the injury bug in 2011 the defense was wrapped in bandages as well. The defense still did their best to try and hold this team together. The Chiefs were 12th best in limiting teams to points, so the offense was clearly the issue with this squad. Going into week 1, the Chiefs injury report defensively looks like a team that has played an entire season already. There are seven, count them, seven players that may not play, or will play banged up on Sunday. The most important of those is cornerback Brandon Flowers, and pro-bowl linebackers Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher. Not to mention terrific pass rusher Tamba Hali is suspended for the opener. All three are vital pieces of the Chiefs defense, but all will start the season as questionable. It appears that they will be game time decisions, so monitor this situation closely on game day.
The Falcons offense is no slouch; this would be significant losses for the Chiefs opening the season against a potent offense. Matt Ryan has a parade of weapons to give the Chiefs fits, so it would be in their best interest to have their best possible defense on the field. I believe the Falcons offense is getting better than we witnessed a season ago, primarily because Julio Jones will be heading into his second season after an excellent rookie campaign. If Jones lives up to his full potential the offense has the potential to register big numbers. Matt Ryan’s favorite target, Roddy White, will again be back after another successful season in Atlanta. 2011 was the fifth straight season that White has eclipsed the 1000-yard mark, finishing with 1296 yards and 8 TDs. Season after season experts state, especially in fantasy football circles, that running back Michael Turner is going to hit a rut and start declining. Turner’s running style is all about putting the shoulders down and plowing over defenders with his thick frame, so those predictions have merit. However, Turner continues to prove people wrong after putting together a 1,340 yard, 11 TD season in 2011. There will definitely be a time when Turner hits a wall, but he should do just fine against a banged up Chiefs defense.
Falcons vs. Chiefs Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons -2.5 (-110)
@Kansas City Chiefs +2.5 (-110)
Over 43.5 (-110)
Under 43.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Chiefs Pick:
When I looked at the week 1 card for the first time, the Chiefs getting points at home looked really attractive. This was before I seen the Chiefs injury report on defense, though. And the fact that Tamba Hali and his 12 sacks from last season will be on the suspension list. Replacing Hali will be former D-III linebacker from Wheaton, Andy Studebaker. With Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher already questionable going into Sunday, the Chiefs linebackers will have it tough against a good offense in week 1. The Chiefs will also be without their best corner as well, Brandon Flowers. If the Chiefs were healthy I would feel comfortable in making a play on Kansas City in this spot at home. The Arrowhead crowd may actually be the biggest weapon the Chiefs have on defense. Take the Falcons on a short line against a defense in shambles.
PICK = Falcons -2.5