As I promised last week, I said that I would come up with a week by week preview of each and every game of the Falcons 2012 season. I’m going to go into matchup problems the Falcons will be able to create, and which the Falcons may be susceptible to. We will start with the Week 1 matchup against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
The first thing to look at is the fact that Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, with a lot of passionate fans filling an absolutely colossal stadium. The Falcons have said that they are trying to allow Matt Ryan to run a lot more no-huddle offense, and their communications outside the huddle will be tested right off the bat with the loud and raucous fans in KC. The weather will likely be good, but the setting will no doubt be a huge challenge.
The Falcons offense will probably not have a tremendously difficult time moving the ball against the Chiefs defense. The Chiefs drafted big Defensive Tackle Dontari Poe to give them a push up front and play the run well, but it will be the first game of his rookie season; I doubt he will be much of a factor. As a result, the Falcons will be able to run the ball effectively, and then use the play-action pass to hit our receivers. As a writer from Rant Sports notes, our wide receivers represent a huge matchup problem for their defensive backs. I’m not saying that they will dominate their cornerbacks, but I think they will win their matchups. The writer also said that Tamba Hali, their All-Pro pass rushing outside linebacker, will be able to get a lot of pressure on Ryan and prevent him from being effective. I think the offense will be able to keep Hali on his heels and looking for the run just enough to keep him off of Ryan, and allow us to connect on some deep passes to Julio Jones and Roddy White in the intermediate and deep passing game. Our offensive line may not be world-beaters, but I believe they are better than KC’s defensive line. That being said, the Chiefs do have FS Eric Berry patrolling the deep middle of the field, and he is a dangerous ball-hawking safety. If Ryan can keep the ball away form Berry, the Falcons should have no problem scoring points.
The Chiefs have their own ways of creating matchups offensively. Dwayne Bowe is a near clone of Roddy White, and could easily pick on our corners. I feel that Asante Samuel would be able to keep him in front just long enough to prevent him beating us for a big play, but Bowe will still get his catches. The other receivers are Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin, one who is a reliable slot receiver, and the other who is a second year player with a lot of potential who has a bit of a focusing problem. If QB Matt Cassel has time to deliver the ball, these receivers can make things happen. That being said, Cassel is the type of QB that the Falcons can eat alive, especially with a player like Samuel who can bait him into bad throws that become turnovers. The Chiefs are in much the same position on their offensive line as the Falcons are; they are trying to put together a line that is much better than it was last year. With a lot of inexperienced players and free-agent signings, I would imagine their line would experience some hiccups, especially in the first week of the season. The Falcons will have the opportunity to abuse a line that hasn’t yet gelled, and that will hopefully build confidence for the defense.
I think this game will almost certainly be a victory for the Atlanta Falcons, but I am not naive enough to think that they will blow the Chiefs out. They have a lot of good weapons on offense, and they have two or three very solid players on defense. Given the fact that it will be a road game for the Falcons, I can’t expect that things would be easy, and Atlanta’s offense could experience a couple hiccups of its own. I think the score could be something like 17-13 or 20-17, just because of the venue. I have no way of knowing what the final score will be, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all with a low scoring affair going the Falcons’ way.