In this series of posts I will be breaking down each regular season matchup for the Falcons in 2012.
Week 1, at Kansas City
The Chiefs finished 7-9 in 2011, putting them dead last in the AFC West. After losing their stud running back in Week 2, their starting quarterback nine games in and several other big names along the way, you can't really blame them for regressing from the 10-6 playoff campaign in 2010.
Romeo Crennel was allowed to remain in control of the team after finishing 2-1 as interim head coach at the end of this past season. His only prior tenure as a head coach with was Cleveland from 2005-2008, and it didn't exactly go so well. But can you really fault anyone for not being successful with those Browns rosters? Didn't think so.
Jamaal Charles hopes to be ready by the beginning of the season, and the Chiefs will also have some new weapons at their disposal. Let's take a look at what Atlanta will be going up against to kick off this 2012.
All-time series record: Chiefs lead 5-2. Their last meeting was in 2008, when the Falcons dominated at the Georgia Dome, winning 38-14. Atlanta has never won in Kansas City.
Key Additions: Eric Winston, Peyton Hillis, Stanford Routt, Kevin Boss, Dontari Poe, Brady Quinn (just kidding, who cares about him?)
Overview: Kansas City's run defense was abysmal last year, ranking 26th in the league while allowing 132 yards per game on the ground. Things should be a bit better this year, though, with Crennel's defensive mind at the reigns and plenty of talent in the front seven.
Eric Berry also returns to bolster a secondary that gave up just over 201 passing yards per game in 2011. Brandon Carr left for Dallas, but Routt steps in and provides a veteran corner to take his place.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs are more talented than people might believe. Evan Silva ranks their offensive line fourth in the league going into next season. The addition of Winston puts them up there as one of the best.
We don't know how good Charles will be after returning from a torn ACL. He is an extremely shifty back with more finesse than power, which worries me a bit for his future. Still, Hillis can provide a solid backup/starter/whatever they need him to be. Dwayne Bowe is an outstanding No. 1 receiver, and Jon Baldwin is an athletic freak who should step up in his second season.
Matchup to watch for: Brian Daboll vs. Mike Nolan
This probably isn't a matchup you're typically used to seeing, but it's one I'm most interested to watch play out. For those of you who don't know, Daboll was the OC for Miami last season. They liked to run the ball, repeatedly. With 469 rushing attempts the Dolphins ranked sixth overall.
For those of you who don't know that Mike Nolan was the DC in Miami last season, I'm not really sure where you've been for the past few months. Nolan (do we have a nickname for him yet?) knows how to stop the run. The Falcons allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards last season, while Miami wielded the third-best rush defense. Looks like we're in for more of the same.
These two guys are obviously familiar with each other, so I'm intrigued to see the play calling from both sides.
Prediction: I'm not necessarily going to make a definite pick for each game at this juncture, but I'll at least argue which side I'm leaning towards (get ready to see a lot of homerism). The Falcons are a better team than the Chiefs overall. That being said, this isn't going to be a slaughter like the last time the Dirty Birds took on KC.
Both teams are going through changes, and both have plenty of talent throughout the roster. It's likely going to be a close contest, but the Falcons have better trios. Roddy/Julio/HD and Asante/Grimes/Dunta outweigh the Chiefs in those two areas.
We've seen flashes of brilliance from Matt Cassel in the past, but I don't expect him to blow anyone away in the first game of the season against three great corners. The Falcons have more firepower on offense as well, and while the Chiefs have the ability to stifle opposing attacks, I think Koetter's crew comes out on top here.
What's your take on Week 1?