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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