Falcons vs Chiefs: 5 Keys to the Game for Kansas City
After an offseason in which general manager Scott Pioli seemed to have done all the right things, the Chiefs enter Week 1 with more questions than desired. The Falcons coming to town does nothing to help finding answers either.
Kansas City's defense is far from playing at full strength. Tamba Hali is suspended for the opener after violating the league's substance abuse policy and other key players on defense (Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis) are hobbled.
However, nothing in the NFL is a guarantee. While the Chiefs may be on the south side of the betting line, they are a very talented team in their own right and would do well to simply stick to their game plan.
Here are five keys for the Chiefs against the Falcons.
Chiefs Must Stay in a Position to Run the Ball
It is no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs intend on using running backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis a lot in 2012. But a potential shootout with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday could derail those plans early.
For the Chiefs to stick to their game plan, they must play with a lead or stay within striking distance for most of the game. Allowing the Falcons to control the pace will lead to a lopsided point total in their favor.
Matt Ryan and Co. have the ability to light up scoreboard early and often. Taking the ball out of the hands of Charles and Hillis is exactly what Atlanta wants.
Defense Must Limit Either Julio Jones or Roddy White
The secondary for the Kansas City Chiefs will have its hands full with the Atlanta Falcons' offense on Sunday, namely because it features two top pass-catching threats.
Sure, running back Michael Turner and tight end Tony Gonzalez play a huge part in the Falcons' success on offense, but wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White force opposing defenses into a corner.
This is the classic case of pick-your-poison for head coach Romeo Crennel and the Chiefs defense.
Does Kansas City allow one of the wideouts to have his way on the field in an attempt to shut down the other? With cornerback Brandon Flowers playing with an injured heel, the simple answer is, yes.
The Chiefs must find a way to keep either Jones or White at bay if they want to have a shot at winning. If both have success on the field Sunday, Kansas City is in for a long day.
Romeo Crennel Must Be Creative in Getting to Matt Ryan
Tamba Hali is the pass rush for the Kansas City Chiefs. And with No. 91 suspended for the opener with the Atlanta Falcons, finding ways to limit their offensive output just got a lot more difficult for head coach Romeo Crennel.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston came on strong toward the end of last year with 5.5 sacks over the season's final five games. But with him being the Chiefs second-best pass-rusher, the Falcons will know exactly where he is on the field at all times.
Crennel will have to get creative with the scheme to keep Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan off his game. Blitzes, stunts and stacks are necessary to limit Atlanta on Sunday.
If Ryan is comfortable in the pocket for most of the game, he will find it easy to pick apart the Chiefs defense, especially with Hali out and other key players not at full strength.
Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin Must Emerge as Reliable Pass-Catching Duo
Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin are certainly no Julio Jones and Roddy White. But in the Kansas City Chiefs offense, they don't need to be.
What they must be, however, is a tandem that does their job perfectly within the scheme.
The Chiefs will find the most success running the football in 2012. But with the NFL transforming into a pass-happy league, having reliable pass-catchers is imperative for sustained offensive success.
Bowe is an established wide receiver in the NFL and Baldwin is still trying to find his way in the league.
The fact that the Chiefs offense will feature Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis at running back, and Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss at tight end will allow the two wideouts the space to do their job the entire season; and that all starts on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Chiefs Offense Must Protect the Football
Winning the turnover battle in the NFL is a must for any team to endure season-long success. But in a game that could potentially light up the scoreboard on Sunday, protecting the ball becomes that much more important.
Turnovers can be fluky at times, but are also the product of poor decision-making and carelessness with the football.
It is imperative that the Kansas City Chiefs limit mistakes against the Atlanta Falcons. Putting the ball in Matt Ryan's hands more than it should be is a recipe for disaster with Atlanta's ability to score.