The Chiefs and Bengals will lock up Sunday. Bengals starting quarterback Carson Palmer is expected to make his first start since tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in a playoff game last season. Palmer defined all odds coming back from an injury that usually takes no less than a year to recover from.
For the Chiefs, it’s the debut of head coach Herm Edwards. He’ll be taking over a team that has lost some talent from last year. All-Pro left tackle Willie Roaf retired over the off season and Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes is on the physically unable to perform list which requires him to miss at least six weeks.
Kansas City will look to Jordan Black and Kyle Turley to replace Roaf. Turley has been out of football the last two years because of severe back problems. He’s lost a significant amount of weight since his earlier playing days causing him to be a different type of player. Black saw time at left tackle last season with mixed results. He often needed blocking help from tight end Tony Gonzalez. Keeping Gonzalez in to block will greatly hinder the Chiefs offensive gameplan.
The loss of Holmes is lessened by the emergence of Larry Johnson. The fourth year back exploded onto the scene last year rushing for 1750 yards and 20 touchdowns. Johnson did all of that after only starting the final nine games of the season. While Johnson is more than a viable replacement, depth at running back has to be a concern. Michael Bennett is the backup, he’s been to the pro bowl, but hasn’t proven that he can be consistent. Dee Brown is listed as the No. 3 back, but only a die hard Chiefs fan would know who he is.
Defensively, the Chiefs looked spotty in the preseason. Edwards brought with him the Tampa 2 defense which looks early on like its giving his team more problems than it is the opponent. Kansas City is hoping it has enough talent on defense to overcome any philosophical struggles it might have. Cornerback Ty Law is in his first year with the team but looks to add to a secondary that is loaded with talent. Law is a perennial pro bowler and has two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. He’ll be joined by safety Sammy Knight and cornerback Patrick Surtain, both pro bowlers. The other safety position will be held by Greg Wesley but don’t be surprised if rookies Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page get extensive playing time.
The linebacking core looks to be much improved. Middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell is looking to have a break out year. Outside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Kendrell Bell are also special talents.
Up front on the defensive line, Jared Allen is the only consistent threat. Tackles James Reed and Ron Edwards are starters by default although Edwards often raves about the play of Reed. Opposite Allen will be rookie first round pick Tamba Hali. Edwards is expecting Hali to cause havoc and join with Allen as effective pass rushing ends.
It’ll be an interesting season for the Chiefs. The NFL and most certainly the AFC is wide open this year. Don’t count out the Chiefs just yet, but don’t blow your rent check in Vegas on them either.