The Falcons are at full strength offensively and defensively. It looks like all of their offensive starters in particular will be ready to go in Week 1. The same cannot be said for their Week 1 counterparts, the Kansas City Chiefs defense, which will be missing one important cog, and others could play a diminished role.
It’s already been well documented that the Chiefs will be without their best pass-rusher in Tamba Hali, as he serves a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Tamba Hali is a big part of their pass defense due to his ability to sack and disrupt the quarterback. Without Hali, the Chiefs will have to use different individuals as pass rushers, or blitz in different ways. Basically, the KC defense won’t be playing it’s normal game, they will be trying to compensate for a missing player. It will could mean less pressure on Matt Ryan, more holes in pass coverage, or both.
Half of the elements of the Chief’s pass defense have been affected adversely. The other half is pass coverage, and defensive backs in particular. To be honest, I think there is more good news for Falcons fans when looking at the KC secondary.
In a piece passed along from the Kansas City Star, the author notes that starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, a fine defensive back, has been missing significant practice time and could potentially miss the Week 1 matchup. It’s important to note that nobody said Flowers would miss the game, but it is a distinct possibility. Also in that piece is the potential that Pro-Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson could miss the game. He is questionable for practice, and certainly questionable for the game on Sunday.
One important thing to note is that injury reports are often a strategic tool for NFL head coaches. I don’t know Romeo Crennel very well, but if he is anything like Bill Belichick, who he once was defensive coordinator for, he will list key players as questionable even when they are certainly going to play. I think he has listed Tom Brady as questionable for the past eight years. These injuries seem like more than a gimmick or game, but it is important to keep in mind that these could just be a ploy to disrupt the Falcons offensive game plan.
Finally, check out the safety situation in Kansas City. Starting Chiefs strong safety Kendrick Lewis is doubtful to play, which would bring another backup into that secondary. However, the biggest news from this Chiefs secondary comes from Arrowhead Addict, Fansided’s Kansas City Chiefs blog. In the piece, Patrick Allen writes that he thinks that Eric Berry hasn’t looked particularly good. Before suffering a torn ACL early last season, Berry was a tremendous play maker and ball-hawk, coming up with big plays in the passing game, using his instincts and outstanding athletic ability. Berry is looking healthy and athletic after going through endless physical therapy, but for whatever reason looks to be behind the curve from a mental aspect. The thought here is that Berry’s absence from games for a season has affected him adversely, and he could make bad reads, be tentative rather than aggressively making plays, or find himself out of position. Those will all improve, but if the Falcons can take advantage of Berry’s mental lapses in the first week of the season, they could be incredibly productive against the Chiefs.
These are all best-case scenarios for the Falcons. Things rarely go this well for one team or this poorly for the other team, and I would think that realistically some of these players will play and play extremely well. Even if they don’t it’s not like this Chiefs defense is devoid of talent–free-agent corner Stanford Routt is a very good corner and will be starting in week 1 no matter what. Fine play in the 3-4 defensive front from Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey frees the linebackers to make plays. This is still a dangerous defense, even if all of these players do miss the game, which simply won’t happen. I would like to say that I am always an adherent to the ‘to be the best you have to beat the best’ school of thought, but in Week 1 in a rowdy Arrowhead Stadium, I’ll take a win over trying to win on specific terms.