The Kansas City Chiefs will face the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend with Matt Cassel at the helm. Brady Quinn wasn't cleared to play early enough so it'll be Cassel starting on Sunday.
When Cassel does step on the field, he'll be facing one of the most underrated defensive lines in football. I talked with Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle about the Bengals defense and he started off with the best part of the team.
1. A defensive front four that's inconsistent, but when they're on their game, we honestly believe that there isn't a front four better in the NFL. I admit, that might be a little homerish, but it is what it is. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is arguably the best interior pass rusher in the NFL. Last week he directly affected two Eli Manning passes that led to interceptions, which also led to two offensive touchdowns. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are physical specimens that (again), if they're on their game, are more than disruptive; they've scored touchdowns, forced fumbles and picked off multiple passes. Honestly if the Chiefs fail to utilize a quick three-step passing offensive, someone needs to be fired. Otherwise you're asking for an assault.
2. Cornerback Leon Hall has played primarily at right cornerback throughout his entire NFL career. Yet against the Giants last week, they specifically shifted him around, assigned to shadow Victor Cruz all game, limiting the receiver to only three receptions for less than 30 yards. Rookie Dre Kirkpatrick is finally getting some snaps on defense. Starting safety Reggie Nelson is hurt, so it could be Chris Crocker and Nate Clements starting at safety; a vulnerability that didn't show up last week against New York.
3. I know that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is going to make Kansas City beat the Bengals through the air; there will be an intense focus on shutting down the Chiefs running game. If that happens, your best bet against the Bengals defense is short-intermediate routes, sustaining possessions, getting the football out of the quarterback's hand by the third step and taking advantage of exposed linebacker coverage (who are average coverage defenders at best).