Previewing the Kansas City Chiefs 2009 Schedule: Week 1

Ravens defense, meet our MVP! (via Daylife)

The Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) will open the season against the Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at high noon (CDT) in M&T Bank Stadium on September 13th. 

Presumably Matt Cassel will be lining up at quarterback and Larry Johnson at running back.  Save Mike Goff, the offensive line will be the same unit that ended the 2008 season.  Dwayne Bowe and some combination of second and third tier players will round out the wide receiver's unit. 

The defensive line and linebackers for the Chiefs will be completely different.  The secondary should remain intact, barring no takeover at Maurice Leggett's role as a nickelback. 

They'll face the Ravens first in a string of three of their first four games against top five defenses in addition to a close (11th) top ten offense.

I exchanged emails with Bruce over at Baltimore Beatdown, SBNation's Ravens site (By the way, congratulate Bruce on his recent invite to Ravens practice as a media member).  He compared the loss of Bart Scott to previous free agent losses/trades Jamie Sharper, Edgerton Hartwell and Adalius Thomas.  Playing against the "All world", as Bruce puts it, Ray Lewis makes everyone better.  So, let me get this right, you're telling me Baltimore is a linebacker factory?

(Chiefs 2008 linebackers quietly sneak out)

Click through to check out more on the Chiefs Week 1 opponents, the Baltimore Ravens.

 

Bruce gave us a quick rundown of the rest of the defense.

The next great Ravens linebacker will be Tavares Gooden, out of the "U" (Miami), Ray's alma mater.

Losing safety Jim Leonhard to the Jets will not be missed at all as he was a replacement for the injured Dawan Landry , who is now healthy and looking like a linebacker at the safety position. Plus the Ravens have two other 2nd year safeties that could probably start for most other NFL teams (Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura).

Kelly Gregg is back at DT who along w/ Haloti Ngata, are as good a tandem inside as any in the league. We also signed CB and local native Domonique Foxworth in free agency and combined with Fabian Washington give us two of the faster CB's in the league to pair with that hard hitting defense.

Bruce then talked about the offense.  He calls Matt Birk an upgrade over Jason Brown, doesn't fret the loss of S Jim Leonherd and says Michael Oher has "owned" the right tackle spot after taking over for the recent retiree Willie Anderson.

Now that everyone is healthy, Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice will all share the rock, making life difficult for the opposing defenses, who will get pounded all game long from the young and athletic offensive line. That will allow Flacco the time and opportunities to find his open receivers, as well as the tight end, as Todd Heap is now healthy and not required to stay in on passing downs as additional protection for Flacco.

The "young and athletic offensive line" he references includes a young, very good set of bookend tackles in Jared Gaither (6'9", 334 lbs.) and Oher (6'4", 310 lbs.).

So, this Ravens team loves to churn out linebackers, rarely misses on first day picks and has bookend tackles to protect their second year "franchise" quarterback.  Who are these guys, the bizzaro Chiefs?

***

Here are the key stats for the 2008 version of the Ravens.  The Chiefs numbers are in parentheses.

Defense Offense
Overall Rank  3 (29) 11 (26)
Interceptions Rank 1 (17) 9 (21)
Points per game 15 (27.5) 14 (18)

 

Flacco: 16/16 games, 60% comp., 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

Thigpen: 11/16 games, 54.8% comp., 2,408 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

***

I was pretty hard on Flacco throughout this season.  It's just frustrating to see a rookie (that's not a Chief) step in and be heralded for his play when really it was just him not screwing up.  I guess that's a nice move on his part as it got the Ravens within four minutes of the Super Bowl.  Sometimes (Pat Bowlen, take notes) it's best to just not screw it up.

Knowing Flacco's protection (Flacco took 32 sacks in 16 starts, Thigpen took 26 in 11) and the Ravens' preference for running the ball, it isn't the ideal first test for the Chiefs revamped (or more accurately re-schemed) front seven but still an excellent barometer of where the team stands in the opening stretches of the season.

I'm guessing with the emphasis Todd Haley is putting on conditioning, it won't turn into a fourth quarter collapse ala the 2008 Herm Edwards defense. 

Bruce over at Baltimore Beatdown appears fairly confident and cautions the Chiefs as they decide to be the first team the Ravens have faced since losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the AFC Championship game.

Not trying to stir things up but I am beginning to feel real bad for the Chiefs' fans having to open their 2009 season in Baltimore against my Ravens. The players here are a pretty pissed off bunch of guys who thought they were four minutes from a Super Bowl appearance and have been looking for someone to take it out on since their AFC Championship Game loss to the Steelers last January.

Bruce is right in that the Baltimore Ravens should have no problem getting fired up for the home opener in a season where they're expected to seriously compete for the AFC North title and a spot in the Super Bowl.

I'm throwing out my prediction.  The Chiefs will lose 16-10 in a good opening test

Check out Baltimore Beatdown for all your Ravens needs.  Bruce took some pictures at the Ravens OTAs the other day.  They're really worth a look and makes me jealous we don't have more outlets coming out with pictures of the Chiefs practices.

***

That makes the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) heading into a home opener showdown with the Oakland Raiders.

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