Week One Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens
Finally the eternity without football is over and we can all look forward to next week when the NFL season officially begins.
For the Chiefs, a new year means a new beginning as they can begin to concentrate on the future and forget about last years horrific season. Kansas City finished the 2008 season with a record of 2-14, finishing last in the AFC West.
The Chiefs two wins did come against their division rivals in Denver and Oakland, so if Kansas City looks to improve this season they better play well against their division foes seeing as the Chargers look to be the front runners once again in the division.
On the other hand, the Ravens are on the opposite side of the spectrum as they had a great turn-around season last year. In 2007, Baltimore finished the season at a mark of 5-11 and last year they reversed their record from the previous season finishing with a record of 11-5.
Baltimore was led by rookie head coach John Harbaugh and a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco. The two managed to set a new record for most wins ever by a rookie head coach and quarterback with 13 victories.
After finishing second in the AFC North to their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore earned a wild card spot and made it into the playoffs. The Ravens made easy work of Miami in round one and had some difficulty with Tennessee in the second round but managed to come away victorious.
Unfortunately for Baltimore, their incredible run on the shoulders of rookie Joe Flacco was cut short in the AFC Championship game as Pittsburgh beat them by a final score of 23-14.
After the disappointment of seeing Pittsburgh win yet another Super Bowl, the Ravens are out for redemption and look to battle with the Steelers once more for the division title and a shot at the Super Bowl.
The Ravens were led by Joe Flacco who threw for 2,971 yards with a completion rate of 60%. Flacco also threw 14 touchdowns but his weakness was in throwing interceptions as he threw 12, but time will improve that problem and Flacco, with a years experience under his belt, will know when to throw and when not to force the issue.
Baltimore’s rushing game was headed by Le’Ron McClain who carried the ball 232 times for 902 yards with 10 touchdowns. Willis McGahee also did his fair share carrying the ball 170 times for 671 yards with seven touchdowns.
The receiving core was led by veteran wide out Derrick Mason who caught 80 passes for 1,037 yards with five touchdowns. Mark Clayton and Todd Heap also helped out on the receiving side as Clayton caught 41 balls for 695 yards with 3 touchdowns while Heap caught 35 passes for 403 yards with 3 touchdowns as well.
The true heart and sole of the Baltimore Ravens is the defense as they once again ranked as one of the top defenses in the league.
Led by Ray Lewis who accumulated 117 total tackles and four sacks to his credit, the Ravens defense still proved to be their strong suit. Ed Reed led the team as well as the league in interceptions last season with nine, returning two of those back for touchdowns. The closes to Reed on the team were Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister, and Samari Rolle with three interceptions.
Baltimore’s key additions over the off season include quarterback John Beck from the Dolphins, tight end L.J. Smith from the Eagles, and first round draft pick Michael Oher, tackle from Ole Miss.
Key losses for Baltimore include two defenses stars from last season in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard who both went to the Jets as well as veteran kick Matt Stover who has been around since the Ravens franchise was formed.
The Ravens are poised to make another deep run into the playoffs and we shall see whether or not if Joe Flacco can lead his team to the Super Bowl this season?
As for the Kansas City Chiefs, there is a lot of promise as the team has a new head coach in Todd Haley as well as a new quarterback in Matt Cassel. The Chiefs are trying to get back to their winning ways and this season should be an improvement from last years.
In acquiring Cassel from New England, the Chiefs have answered their weakness in the quarterback position but they have lost a key weapon in their offense with the loss of future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was the leading receiver last season for the Chiefs with 96 receptions for 1,058 yards with 10 touchdowns. This will be a question all season long, how the Chiefs will deal with trying to fill the shoes of Tony Gonzalez at the tight end position.
Kansas City’s leading quarterback last season was Tyler Thigpen who completed 230 out of 420 passes for a 54.8 completion percentage. Thigpen threw for 2,608 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Matt Cassel completed 327 out of 516 attempts with a completion percentage of 63.4. Cassel threw for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions which is fairly similar to Thigpen’s numbers.
Kansas City was led by Larry Johnson at running back who rushed 193 times for 874 yards with five touchdowns. Thigpen also carried the ball 62 times for 386 yards with three touchdowns of his own.
The receiving core was led by Tony Gonzalez but Dwayne Bowe faired pretty well catching 86 passes for 1,022 yards with three touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball is where Kansas City struggled last year, led by Bernard Pollard who led the team with 98 total tackles while Tamba Hali led the team in sacks with three and Jarrad Page led the team in interceptions with four.
In addition to Matt Cassel, some other key players acquired are Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas, and Bobby Engram. Some key losses include Tony Gonzalez, Donnie Edwards, and Patrick Surtain.
I believe that the Chiefs will improve from last season and win five or six games. This process will need some time to improve before the Chiefs are competing with San Diego for division titles but this season should be an essential starting point to that goal.
As for the game itself, I believe that the defense of Baltimore will prove to be too much for Kansas City and the Ravens will win by 13 points in their home opener.
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