Matt Ryan certainly looked the part of an elite quarterback during the first week of the NFL season. Against a Chiefs defense that was ranked sixth in the NFL against the pass last year, Ryan went off to the tune of 299 yards passing and 3 TDs, plus another score on the ground.
With a lot of experts anticipating another strong defensive showing from Kansas City this year, Ryan's performance has to give Falcons fans and fantasy owners alike a lot to look forward to.
There's just one problem—the Chiefs defense that Ryan and Co. faced in Week 1 was an incomplete unit. First of all, neither of the Chiefs' starting cornerbacks from last season participated in the game. Kansas City's best defensive back—Brandon Flowers—didn't play in the game due to an injury and Brandon Carr now plays for the Cowboys. The absence of two of the greatest contributors to the sixth ranked defense from a year ago forced the Chiefs to start second-year man Jalil Brown in Flowers' spot and to give Carr's old spot to Stanford Routt—two very subpar cornerbacks.
Secondly, All-Pro outside linebacker (and the Chiefs' best pass-rusher) Tamba Hali was suspended for the game for violating the league's substance abuse policy. And while Justin Houston is emerging as a nice pass rush complement to Hali, second-string OLB Edgar Jones does very little to keep offensive linemen up at night.
Finally, the Falcons offense was the beneficiary of turnovers on three consecutive Chiefs drives, the first coming on John Abraham's sack and strip of Cassell which was recovered on the Chiefs' seven yard line and the next two coming on Cassell interceptions which also occurred in Chiefs territory. The three turnovers amounted to 13 points for the Falcons.
All things considered, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ryan and the Falcons struggle with their Week 2 opponent, the Denver Broncos.
Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter looked good in their debut together, holding Big Ben to two scores on 245 yards through the air, while also intercepting a crucial pass and returning it to the house to seal the game. While Bailey and Porter may not be considered by many to be a top cornerback tandem in the league, they are light years better than Jalil Brown and Stanford Routt.
And if the Broncos had been facing any quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger, the passing totals for the game would've been even lower because the number of sacks would have been considerably higher. Roethlisberger has the special ability to make plays out of the pocket and his talents were on full display against the Broncos.
Von Miller looked like a man possessed, notching two sacks, but he was constantly harassing the Steelers QB and forcing him to make plays on the move. With the addition of rookie defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, the Broncos appear to have a much-improved pass rush, featuring Miller and Elvis Dumervil off the edge and Wolfe up the middle. The bad news for Ryan is that Miller, Dumervil and Wolfe all figure to play next Sunday.
Finally, the Falcons-Chiefs game was close in the early goings, and they were actually tied at 17-17 before turnovers derailed the Chiefs. The 13 points the Falcons scored off of turnovers allowed them to blow it wide open. The Falcons cannot assume that they'll be afforded the same opportunity against Peyton Manning and the Broncos—especially now that the Falcons have lost top cornerback Brent Grimes for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.