The Atlanta Falcons are scheduled to face off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 of the 2012 season. The Chiefs didn’t have a great 2011, but they are loaded with talent, and would prove to be a huge challenge to any team, especially playing at Arrowhead. However, there is news that greatly affects this Week 1 matchup, and it works in the Falcons favor.
Tamba Hali has been suspended by the league for violating its substance abuse policy. There aren’t any great details as to what type of substances Hali abused, but according to the article linked here, it doesn’t seem like the Chiefs are going to challenge this ruling.
This sort of thing is unfortunate, and I certainly hope that the Falcons don’t have any players suspended for violation of the substance abuse policy, but this really helps the Falcons out. The Chiefs are a 3-4 defensive team, and Hali is their premiere pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position. In the last two seasons, he has posted 26.5 sacks. Even when he isn’t getting the quarterback to the ground, Hali is constantly in the backfield doing horrible things to offensive players.
The Falcons greatest challenge offensively is protecting Matt Ryan in the pocket. Without Hali coming in every play to take Ryan’s head off, that challenge becomes much easier. I didn’t say Ryan will remain clean through the whole game, because there are still a bunch of talented players on that team, but every little bit helps. The longer Ryan has in the pocket to make plays down the field, the better.
One other player who may be out for that game is starting safety Kendrick Lewis of the Chiefs. There are no guarantees he will be out, but the less talent the secondary has, there is greater potential for the Falcons to take advantage of that in the passing game. He may return however, as I’m not sure exactly how long he will be out with this shoulder injury.
If a defense is weakened in the pass-rush and limited in the coverage the secondary can roll out, it certainly gives the offense an advantage. It is still upon the Falcons to execute when opportunity presents, but every little bit helps.
A final note to Falcons fans: pray that the Falcons players obey all NFL and civilian laws, and that nobody goes down with any injuries. Otherwise teams will be writing this same article about the Falcons.