Two teams that kicked off the 2012 preseason with polar opposite starts clash on Saturday night. The Chiefs are a team flying under the radar, while the Rams are a team still searching for an identity.
Typically, it's wise to fade the Week 1 winner and back the underdog in Week 2, but I'm going against the grain in this matchup.
Romeo Crennel made it very apparent in Week 1 of the preseason that this isn't your typical Chiefs team of old. When Todd Haley was at the helm, they would simply go through the motions en route to the regular season.
The Chiefs had a bad year last season, mostly thanks to critical injuries at key positions, but all of those guys are back and optimism couldn't be higher in KC. Crennel has instilled a completely different (and better) vibe around the organization and the players are loving it (ESPN.com).
Meanwhile in St.. Louis, I might have jumped the gun last week with my play on the Rams. I still like them to surprise people this season and be a lot more competitive than last year, but Jeff Fisher took a very conservative approach to kick things off and the turnaround isn't going to happen overnight.
Fisher has told the media that the starters could go a series or two deeper into the game, but that they would keep the same vanilla approach that they used in Week 1 (CBSsports.com).
This game opened at pick em and money came in on the Chiefs who now sit at -1 for the game (5Dimes). I don't see many reasons to extend this pick into the second half, though, and I see more value on taking KC at pick em for the first half where the advantages are more pronounced.
Who wins the first half?
Crennel isn't sure how long Matt Cassel will be in the game, but he said it's possible that Brady Quinn doesn't even see the field because Ricky Stanzi will get his shot as the No. 2 this week (CBSsoprts.com). Last week, Stanzi led them to 10 points, but he had short fields both times.
What is most important here is the comfort level of Cassel thus far in camp. He has been the target of a lot of media criticism this offseason, but he looked right at home in Brian Daboll's new offense. He has a lot of nice weapons around him, and his O-line has the chance to be special.
For the Rams, Sam Bradford might be equipped with a lot of natural ability, but he is still trying to figure out who to pass to. The WR position is completely up for grabs.
It wouldn't surprise me if they had more success than they did last week, but KC has an outstanding starting group and the task will be difficult. Kellen Clemens struggled last week, but he should be equal competition for Stanzi in the second group.
If I had to pick the most underrated team in the NFL heading into the season it would be the Kansas City Chiefs. I picked them to win the AFC West and go over the eight wins set by Vegas this Summer (Cantor Gaming).
When you go up and down the starting lineup on both sides of the ball, you can't help but come away very impressed. The first-team defense completely smothered the Arizona Cardinals starters last week and they have more than enough talent to do the same to a Rams team still in transition.
Offensively, I really like the options coming out of the KC backfield, and Cassel has some nice receiving options even in the absence of Dwayne Bowe. Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss, Tony Moeaki, Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston, and Dexter McCluster are names to keep an eye on in the first half on Saturday night.
This could be a dangerous pick because the Chiefs aren't going to have the home crowd excitement behind them and the Rams can't possibly be worse than they were vs. the Colts, especially at home, but I can't look at this first-half matchup and find many reasons not to like the Chiefs.
After you factor in the impact and philosophy of both head coaches, my play on KC becomes straight-forward.
NFL Pick: KC PK 1st Half.