Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Three Key Matchups

Russell FikeCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Running back Larry Johnson #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against  the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Coaches in the NFL don’t care if a win is ugly, a win is a win. Right now the Kansas City Chiefs wouldn’t care if their win resembled a three-eyed mountain goat with a unibrow, but unfortunately the opponents don’t get any easier for KC in the immediate future.

The Philadelphia Eagles have been a mainstay among the NFC elite for the past half dozen seasons, but are amidst some turmoil given key injuries, the offseason loss of their cherished defensive coordinator Jim Johnson who lost his fight with cancer, and the hoopla surrounding the return of quarterback Michael Vick.

Kansas City will look to capitalize by pulling an upset.

Three Key Matchups in Week Three:

1) Larry Johnson vs. 4-3 Defense of the Eagles:

Partially credited to the talent of the Raven’s defense and partially credited to the effectiveness of the 3-4 scheme, Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was held to 20 yards on the ground in Week One. Against the Raiders in Week Two LJ took advantage of a little daylight and earned a hard fought 78 yards. The Ravens are the No. 1 defense in the NFL against the run after two weeks. Kansas City’s defense is improved against the run through two weeks compared to last year. What’s the common thread? Both the Ravens and the Chiefs run a 3-4. Expect LJ to have a decent showing against a strong Eagles defense that shows a 4-3 and allowed 4.6 yards per carry to the New Orleans Saints in Week Two. The Chiefs will remain committed to the run to temper the blitz-heavy Eagles defense and allow quarterback Matt Cassel time.

2) Matt Cassel vs. the Doubters:

Driven highly on speculation the Chief’s quarterback situation has been made muddy by media coverage. On Sept. 22, NFL.com provided the headline “Cassel Will Continue to Start at QB for Chiefs.” On Wednesday’s episode of Around the League on NFL Network, Jason La Canfora added more spice to the curry by citing head coach Todd Haley’s past as proof that he will bench a guy that’s paid more to play a guy with the better chance to win. With the purging of former head coach Herm Edwards’ players from the Chiefs franchise it is odd to imagine that Edwards’ proposed franchise quarterback could shoulder the load. Frankly, Cassel will be, and should be, provided more than one game to show that he is meant to be the leader of this team. Will Cassel persevere against the ball-hawking Eagles D that leads all teams with six interceptions?

3) Michael Vick vs. the World:

Plaxico Burres, Brett Favre, and Michael Vick were the three headliners to the flurry of offseason activity. In Week Three it’s Vick who reclaims the national spotlight by taking his first regular season NFL snaps since his release from prison. Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb didn’t participate in practice this week and Week Two starter Kevin Kolb will likely start against the Chiefs, but fans can expect a lot of Wildcat formations that give Vick a significant role in the offense. The three biggest playmakers on the Eagles, McNabb, running back Brian Westbrook, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson were all inactive in practice this week and in their absence on Sunday the Eagles will call on Michael Vick to be a playmaker. Has Vick shaken off the rust? Has he lost a step? In Vick’s last preseason game he threw one pick and was sacked four times. For a quarterback who has struggled finding his NFL identity perhaps the Wildcat and such does more harm than good.