ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs is pressured by Kroy Biermann #71 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 13 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
We're only a day away from the first game of the season. If you're not excited, you need to stop shooting up with horse tranquilizers every morning. Just a spot of friendly advice.
Because the season has almost begun, it's about time we looked over the four most important matchups for the game ahead. If you're new to the blog, here's how it works. I look at the four most important matchups between either particular players or position groupings on both sides and take a closer look at why they're so important.
The Chiefs are no pushovers, so there's plenty of worthy candidates this week. With the Falcons needing to get off to a good start in the competitive NFC South, they'll want to exploit what matchups they can.
After the jump, we'll break 'em down.
The Chiefs are missing top pass rusher Tamba Hali, which should make things a little easier for Matt Ryan. What they will unfortunately have to deal with, unless he suffers a setback, is Brandon Flowers.
Flowers is one of the NFL's elite cornerbacks, and the Chiefs will certainly use him to track Julio Jones and possibly rotate him on to Roddy White when the situation calls for it. He's perfectly capable of shutting either down for long stretches, so the Falcons will need to throw away from him.
We know that the Falcons have options, so it shouldn't be the end of the world. They just need to pick their battles, because Flowers is one of three or four corners in the NFL who simply shouldn't be trifled with.
The Chiefs aren't 100% sure what they have in Dontari Poe, but he was the eleventh overall pick in the draft, weighs nearly 350 pounds and has enormous physical strength. He's going to be a tough matchup for our aging Mud Duck.
Again, the Chiefs will be without Tamba Hali, so they need to put their focus on others. Poe's pure physical presence makes him a threat, and he's a damn fine catalyst for the rest of the team's pursuit of Ryan. McClure will have to hold him at bay.
Falcons Front Seven vs. Jamaal Charles/Peyton Hillis
The Chiefs don't have the world's best passing game. They have Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin and Tony Moeaki, and those guys have to be accounted for. But what I fear the most is the team's ground game.
The Falcons are going to play out of the nickel plenty in 2012 and are missing both Corey Peters and Curtis Lofton, two of their most stalwart run defenders from a year ago. The Chiefs have the excellent Jamaal Charles and the power component in Peyton Hillis to be a huge problem for the Falcons' run defense.
Fact is, the front seven have to get the job done. They'll need to be aggressive and force the Chiefs to pass, where the new-look secondary can cause a lot of headaches for Cassel.
Falcons Defense vs. Chiefs Offense, Field Position Edition
Normally I wouldn't go this general, but this game presents a unique variable. That variable is the humorously named Ryan Succop.
Succop has a big leg, but that big leg doesn't come with great accuracy past a certain range. He's 100% in three years from the 20-29 yard range on field goals and 87% from 30-39. From there, though, his accuracy dips down to 70.4% from 40-49 yards and a dismal 54.5% from 50+. This isn't entirely unique for NFL kickers, but if the Falcons want to keep the Chiefs from scoring, they're going to have to keep them out of Succop's ideal range.
What are your four matchups to watch?