For the third straight season the Falcons open the regular season on the road. This year, unlike the last two, they hope to escape a tough road environment with a win. The Chiefs have some injury concerns and will be missing their top pass rusher, Tamba Hali. The KC offense is better than some think, however, and they have the potential to hang a number if they catch a defense sleeping. The Falcons offense isn't too bad itself and will look to use their first opportunity to provide a return on a lot of the positive talk they received during the preseason.
Akeem Dent vs. Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles
In clear run situations, second-year linebacker Akeem Dent will be on the field and manning the middle for Atlanta's linebackers. If the Falcons want to continue to play the run as tough as they did last year, Dent will have to play a big role. Kansas City features two very good runners in Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles, though quite different in styles. Look for the Chiefs to test Dent early, and how he responds on run defense could determine Kansas City's approach on offense.
Matt Cassel vs. Falcons Nickel Defense
When the Chiefs look to pass, Atlanta's nickel defense will probably be on the field. If Atlanta can shut the run down, or at least control it, Matt Cassel will need to begin to air it out. It will be the first extended look at Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel in nickel situations and they have three tough wide receivers to defend. Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin are big, physical targets and Steve Breaston has some elusive capabilities. The top three corners for Atlanta will want to show everyone what all the fuss has been about.
Julio Jones and Julio Jones vs. Brandon Flowers
It's no secret Roddy White and Julio Jones are Atlanta's top two passing options. Kansas City's top cornerback option is Brandon Flowers, but he's missed all of training camp and the preseason with an injury. He's listed as questionable against Atlanta, and if he's not on the field, Kansas City will have a tough time defending both White and Jones. If Flowers is on the field, it's yet to be determined if he'll line up opposite Jones or White, or he may rotate between both of them. If Flowers can slow down one of the receivers, that will help Kansas City's defense, but if he struggles, it could spell a long day for the Chiefs.
Falcons Offense vs. Arrowhead Stadium
The Falcons have seen plenty of tough crowds, but many say the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is unlike any other. Not only are they loud, but they're smart about the game and they're active during it. Atlanta's offense has been practicing with sound during their week of preparation, but a hostile environment is hard to recreate for practice purposes. The Falcons have not been as disciplined during the preseason concerning penalties as they'd like to be and that could haunt them in Kansas City. If they have troubles with false starts, it could create long downs or wipe out positive plays. Shooting yourself in the foot is never a good way to get a win, especially on the road.