Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Chiefs' Week 1 Action

Brett Gering@BrettGeringCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2013

Image edited by Brett Gering
Image edited by Brett GeringDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

This Sunday, the clock will strike 12 (Arrowhead time), and the Kansas City Chiefs will ring in the new year versus the Jacksonville Jaguars

However, the first ball that drops will be met with head-hanging anguish, not fist-pumping cheers. 

New Year's resolutions won't revolve around far-fetched diets to deflate beer bellies; the only six-packs in fans' futures are topped with crackable tabs and twistable caps. 

The pledges are more like joint resolutions: If the Chiefs stay competitive, Daddy won't throw the remote and frighten the family pug.

Rejoice, tailgaters, your stint in preseason purgatory has come to an end.  

When Kansas City's group of (active) 46 storm out onto EverBank Field, there are three individual matchups to keep an eye on.  

NT Dontari Poe vs. C Brad Meester

Dontari Poe is a changed man.

He abolished barbecue from his diet—which, in Kansas City, is equivalent to Tim Tebow returning the Bible to his library—and subsequently mauled every center opposite of him throughout the preseason. 

At 36 years of age, Brad Meester is the elder statesman of Jacksonville's offensive line. He's also the weakest link. 

In the 2013 installment of the B/R NFL 1,000, Matt Miller ranked Meester as the No. 32 center amongst the top 35.

He writes:

An aging veteran who may not be back in 2013, Meester saw his game fall off in 2012 as he struggled to handle defensive linemen in one-on-one situations. A former strength in the middle of the line, Meester is now a liability at times.

Unfortunately for Jaguars fans, Meester was retained in the offseason. Unfortunately for Meester, Poe was affectionately nicknamed the "340-pound dancing bear" by Mike Mayock throughout the offseason. 

If Poe drops it like it's hot, I'll be giving up barbecue too. 

One twerking bear is more than enough. 

In all seriousness, No. 92 has devoured centers throughout the preseason. Coaches who leave the rotund snappers in one-on-one situations with Poe might as well ditch them on a deserted island after "Messin' with Sasquatch."

Exhibit A:

Here, Kansas City's nose tackle rag-dolls New Orleans Saints center Brian de la Puente like an annoying little brother and rumbles down the line of scrimmage to engulf Mark Ingram. 

Hoping for different results, the Saints repeated the same experiment later. 

Same results.

Poe clubbed de la Puente's inside arm, opening a clear pass-rushing path to a wide-eyed Drew Brees. New Orleans' center clings onto the 335-pounder like someone who just lassoed the world's angriest bull, which buys enough time for Brees to sidestep the initial pressure. 

However, the tag team of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston eventually swallows him. 

According to Pro Football Focus, there were 36 centers who lined up for 25 percent of their team's snaps last year. Meester finished at No. 35.

WR Dwayne Bowe vs. CB Dwayne Gratz

In Dwayne Bowe's last preseason contest, the longtime standout torched Pittsburgh for six receptions in one half of work. 

Three things come to mind when the former Pro Bowler is mentioned.

Starting off, Bowe is a meticulously sharp route-runner. 

He doesn't tote blurring straight-line speed, but he makes crisp cuts and rarely reveals his hand before it's played. 

Secondly, once the wideout owns possession of the ball, he morphs into a 6'2", 221-pound bucking bronco.

Tackling him is just as challenging as defending him, if not more so. 

Thirdly, he locates the ball with ease and has a knack for highlight-worthy grabs amid contested passes. 

No. 82 will be matched up with a fellow Dwayne (Gratz) on Sunday. Only the latter is a third-round rookie. 

Don't let the label fool you, though: Gratz is a well-rounded prospect who netted a pair of preseason interceptions.

He's a 5'11", 201-pound physical corner who thrives in press coverage and shows an insatiable thirst for contact. 

But if a receiver gains a step on Gratz, he doesn't boast the recovery speed to compensate. Bowe also dwarfs the rookie by roughly three inches and 20 pounds. 

History tends to repeat itself, and Bowe has a colorful past of rope-a-doping NFL newcomers. Ask another stout, physical corner, Jimmy Smith:

OLB Justin Houston Vs. T Luke Joeckel

Both Kansas City's Eric Fisher and Jacksonville's Luke Joeckel were drafted as franchise left tackles; both will debut as right tackles on Sunday. 

Fisher battled through three separate injuries during the preseason and thus encountered his share of struggles. However, he began to round the corner in his preseason finale against Pittsburgh. 

The No. 1 overall pick will spend the majority of his afternoon squaring off with defensive end Tyson Alualu. 

The No. 2 overall pick, Joeckel, will find himself at the foot of a much steeper uphill climb.

In facing three preseason opponents—Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons—Jacksonville's first-rounder has only allowed one quarterback hit and two hurries. 

However, the aforementioned rosters don't present a threat on the level of Kansas City's Justin Houston. 

Last season, the lauded edge-rusher doubled as the only 3-4 outside linebacker to score positive marks in all four major categories—pass rush, run support, coverage and penalties—from Pro Football Focus.  

Joeckel, who battled a hip flexor during camp, excelled in run-blocking throughout his trio of exhibitions. On occasion, pass-rushers were able to expose chinks in his freshly equipped armor, though.

The Chiefs' Pro Bowler flaunts a rare breed of strength, speed and discipline. Even when tackles resort to using hands to the face, safety isn't guaranteed.

If Joeckel survives Sunday's endurance test, Houston's pass rush will be one less headache for the Jaguars to stress over.

But if he flunks it and Blaine Gabbert reaps the consequences? 

Pure unadulterated fear.

Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

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