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It’s an interesting opener in Kansas City on Sunday as the Falcons look to finally take the next step from good to great team, while the Chiefs open their first full season under head coach Romeo Crennel looking to build off last year’s finish under Crennel but otherwise put an injury-ravaged 2011 season behind them.
The Chiefs return key starters S Eric Berry, QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles and TE Tony Moeaki, who all suffered season-ending injuries at various times during the 2011 season. Cassel and Charles return to lead an offense that will feature WRs Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster in addition to Moeaki. If Cassel struggles this season as he did last, his time in Kansas City likely is up.
On defense, LB Derrick Johnson leads the way for Kansas City after setting a franchise record with 179 tackles (131 solo) last year. DEs Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson return and welcome the addition of fi rst-round pick (11th overall) DT Dontari Poe.
The Falcons have as much skill position talent as QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez – the future Hall of Famer and long-time Chief makes his return to Kansas City for the first time. The 12-time Pro Bowler has never played against his former team and will likely get a hero’s welcome, back at the home of the franchise with which he holds team records in receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940) and touchdown catches (76).
The Falcons want to strike early in this game because the Chiefs lack the firepower to play catch-up. Look for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to attack Kansas City with some downfield throws early in an attempt to loosen things up in the secondary. That should open things up for Atlanta’s powerful ground game.
Sunday’s contest marks the eighth overall meeting between Kansas City and Atlanta. The Chiefs own a 5-2 (.714) advantage in the series, but the Falcons have won two of the last three meetings. The teams haven’t met since 2008.
FALCONS NOTES: Have posted 4 consecutive winnings seasons for 1st time in team history. Head coach Mike Smith is 1st Falcons coach to lead team to playoffs in back-to-back seasons … For 2nd time in team history (1995), Falcons had 4,000-yard passer (QB Matt Ryan), 1,000-yard rusher (RB Michael Turner) & 1,000-yard receiver (WR Roddy White) … QB Ryan had team-record 4,177 pass yards. Has 43 wins as starter, 2nd most since 1950 by QB in 1st 4 NFL seasons. Falcons are 23-0 when Ryan has 100+ rating (7-0 in 2011) … RB Turner rushed for 1,340 yards, 3rd Falcon with 3 seasons with 1,300+ rush yards. When he has 21+ att., his teams are 27-2 (.931). Had 104 yards & 3 TDs in last meeting … WR White led NFC with 100 catches, his 2nd consecutive 100-catch season. Since start of 2007, has 471 rec., most in NFC. TE Tony Gonzalez had 80 catches, his NFL-record 13th consec season with 60+ catches. WR Julio Jones led NFL rookies with 8 rec. TDs. Led rookies & ranked 4th in NFL with 17.8 rec. avg. (min. 50 catches) … DE John Abraham has 112 sacks, most among active players. LB Sean Weatherspoon had career-high 127 tackles
CHIEFS NOTES: Club has won 15 of past 23 home openers … Chiefs have 3-0 all-time record vs. Atl. at home … For career, QB Matt Cassel has 10-4 record as starter vs. NFC, completing 258 of 430 passes (60 pct.) for 3,048 yards with 23 TDs vs. 9 INTs & 90.7 passer rating. Since ’10, Cassel has 9-4 record (.692) at Arrowhead with 17 TDs vs. 6 INTs. RB Jamaal Charles averages 6.1 yards per carry in 49 career games. RB Peyton Hillis rushed for 2 TDs vs. Atl. on 11/16/08 (w/ Broncos) …WR Dwayne Bowe (1,159) reached 1,000 receiving yards for 2nd consecutive season & 3rd of career. Bowe (4,927) needs 73 receiving yards to become 8th player in franchise history to reach 5,000 career. WR Steve Breaston has reached 700+ receiving yards in 4 consec seasons …TE Kevin Boss had career-high 2 TD catches vs. Atl. on 11/22/09 (w/NYG) … LB Derrick Johnson recorded 179 tackles last season, highest single-season total in Chiefs history … PR-CB Javier Arenas led AFC with 12.8 PR avg. in ’11.
WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Falcons are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games in Week 1. Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games on grass. Under is 12-2 in Chiefs last 14 home games.
INJURY REPORT: – FALCONS: LIMITED: CB Christopher Owens (hamstring). CHIEFS: DNP: DE Allen Bailey (ankle), S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), DT Anthony Toribio (ankle). LIMITED: CB Jalil Brown (groin), CB Brandon Flowers (foot), LB Derrick Johnson (ankle).