The Carolina Panthers come into Arrowhead Sunday at noon to face a Chiefs team that has something to prove. No the Panthers offense won't be confused with the Broncos offense nor for that matter will the Carolina defense be compared to that of Denver.
The Panthers have an all-world defense that was one of the NFL's very best in 2003. But in their opening season loss at home to the Green Bay Packers they resembled a defense that looked ordinary. The Packers threw and ran all over the Panthers defense with ease.
Green Bay running back Ahman Green torched the Panthers front seven for 119 yards rushing. Holmes ran for 153 yards against the Broncos and he looks like the type of runner that can expose the Panthers defense for the second straight week.
Kansas City went away from the run early and often in Denver as they tried to establish a passing game. Outside of the 53-yard catch by Eddie Kennison the passing game sputtered and it wasn't until the third quarter that the offense went back to the basics and to Priest Holmes.
It's not likely the offense, which looked flat and unimaginative, will do that two weeks in a row. Another reason that the Chiefs might look to get the ground game going is the fact that right tackle John Welbourn struggled in pass protection. The former Eagle had a hard time as he was flagged for three penalties. It's important that the Chiefs get him feeling as comfortable as possible because he has the talent and skill to be a dominant right tackle.
Quarterback Trent Green by his own admission had a poor game last Sunday and it was a surprise to many that he struggled so much against Denver. But for whatever reason, Green could not carry the success he had in the pre-season to opening day. With a Carolina defense that attacks the quarterback and is notorious for jamming receivers at the line, Green must be patient and take what the defense gives.
That means Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton will have to do a better job of getting off the line of scrimmage. So will tight end Tony Gonzalez who had a terrible game against the Broncos. The All-Pro simply could not break free from the line of scrimmage and that hampered his ability to finish his routes; especially with Green under so much pressure.
One player that might help the Chiefs this week is undrafted rookie wide receiver Richard Smith who was a standout in training camp. By most accounts, Smith simply struggled playing in his first NFL game in Denver. That could and should change this week against the Panthers. Smith is the type of receiver who can get separation and that's something this offense needs. I would like to see the Chiefs get fellow rookie Samie Parker on the field to stretch the defense. He's been hampered by a sore hamstring and it's not known if he'll play on Sunday.
For the Panthers defense they have probably the best front four in the NFL led by defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. Inside they have former Chief Brentson Buckner and Kris Jenkins. Buckner is the elder statesmen of this line but he can eat up space and he's a perfect compliment to the other three. This game could be won if the Chiefs offensive line can neutralize the Panthers men up front.
Last week the Panthers linebackers combined for 33 tackles and that meant the defensive line didn't do their job last week. If the group leads the team in tackles again this week that means the Chiefs running attack is in high gear.
On offense the Panthers took a serious blow last Monday night as the team lost starting wide receiver Steve Smith to broken leg. That means last weeks inactive rookie wide receiver Keary Colbert will make his first NFL start. The Panthers other starter Muhsin Mohammed has skills but has never been able to be the Carolina go-to receiver and that means quarterback Jake Delhomme will alos be without running back Stephen Davis who had surgery late Friday to repair his knee. That means DeShaun Foster will have to carry the load.
Foster does propose some challenged for the Chiefs on Sunday as he's a big play back with power. He moves side to side well but does put the ball on the ground.
Still last years QB wonder-kid could not solve the Packers relentless pursuit and with Davis only gaining 26 yards on just nine carries, it could be a long day for the Panthers offense if Foster can't get some long gains. That could be the perfect tonic for a Chiefs defense that needs to redeem themselves after their poor performance against Denver.
This is a must win for the Chiefs and the odds that they'll leave Arrowhead with an 0-2 record are slim at best. The offense can gain confidence playing the Panthers and the defense for the Chiefs should be able to throttle the Carolina offense that is sub par.
Nick's Pick: Chiefs 31 – Panthers 7
2004 Prediction Record (0-1)
2004 Recap – Record (0-1)
Week #1: Broncos 34 – Chiefs 24 (0-1)