On Sunday afternoon, Kansas City and New York Jets are set for a Titanic battle that could be a preview of the AFC championship game. For the home town team, the Chiefs, they need to shake off the cobwebs of their preseason quarterback injuries that put the top three guys on the bench. For the Jets they will open the season with a quarterback who's coming of major shoulder surgery.
It's easy to pigeon-hole the outcome of this Sunday's contest on the battle between the teams defenses. The Jets have a tremendous defense. Probably one of the best in the NFL.
The Chiefs have ten new players on defense whose contributions have yet to be determined. But something tells me none of that will matter on Sunday afternoon. Instead the real story could be centered on the quarterbacks. Both Trent Green and Chad Pennington, who each walk into the season opener with question marks for their respective teams, know how important it is to win the first game of the season. Even further it could set the tone for their respective teams chances of getting into the playoffs.
For Kansas City, Trent Green had minor surgery to restore blood flow in his foot. Despite the relatively common procedure that placed a Titanium Stint in his leg, you have to be somewhat concerned if you're a Chiefs fan. Though Green has told the everyone that he'll be fine the proof will come Sunday.
Green who returned to practice on Monday afternoon looked very sharp according to his teammates. Though the fans are concerned, Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil isn't one of them in regards to his starting quarterback being ready for the home opener.
"I have no concerns about Trent (Green). The only concerns I have about Trent is pass protection and not for any other reason than for any quarterback to be good it starts with those guys up front. The Jets have a very good defensive front and can be tough and dominating. Their package is multiple and they don't gamble. My concern for Trent is getting him time to be Trent," Vermeil said. "We all know he's not a scrambler and not what we want him doing. We've been spoiled by the execution of a fine offensive line. But you can't take it for granted."
On the other shoe is Chad Pennington who had offseason shoulder surgery. That's never good when it's your throwing shoulder and to say the Jets are not concerned is an under statement. His numbers were so-so in the preseason despite the fact the Jets won three of their four games in their tune-up games.
Still Pennington who was unable to lead the Jets into the AFC Championship game a year ago; enters the 2005 season with a huge bulls-eye on his chest. The Jets are a team that could knock off New England for the AFC East title. In fact they could be one the AFC's final four teams. But all that rests not on stud running back Curtis Martin or their heralded defense; but on the somewhat erratic arm of the Jets gunslinger.
In lining up his defense this week, Vermeil understands that stopping the run in key to beating the Jets. But in passing situations the team must put more pressure on the quarterback especially with the Jets revamped offensive schemes. The Jets plan on moving Pennington out of the pocket more this season and hope to give the offense a bit more creativity in 2005. From the Chiefs perspective, Head Coach Dick Vermeil believes Pennington is fully recovered and looks like the same old Pennington.
"I don't think he shows any negative effects of the shoulder problems of the past. I think he's in a new offensive scheme; I think he's in a new offensive scheme through the pre-season that they're disguising a little bit, just like we do with our offense. It's sometimes very difficult for a quarterback in that environment to be productive. But he's a very fine player and fine play-action passer and a good leader," Vermeil said. "You can see it and in any highlight tapes you can see him working the sideline, talking to the players. He transmits energy and you can see how he can take a team to the playoffs."
That in the end might determine Sunday's winning quarterback. Both Green and Pennington are clearly the leaders of their football teams.
For Green he made a smooth transition when he came over from the St. Louis Rams. However Pennington had a much tougher road. Not because his teammates did not accept him but rather the intense amount of pressure he was put under by the New York media. He struggled early but he's put his team in a position to get into the playoffs and even with Martin running behind him; he's been the glue that has held that offense together. When he's in the game, the Jets usually have a chance to win every game.
Statistics don't lie and clearly Trent Green has thrown for more yards and been more effective as a passer than Chad Pennington in their respective careers as starters. But that matters very little on Sunday as each quarterback has a chip on their shoulders. They both have something to prove to their teammates and the fans. Pennington wants to shoot down the nay-sayers who claim he can't lead the Jets to the Super Bowl.
For Green, he might not have a better opportunity than this season to get the Chiefs to the sports pinnacle event in February. He has never had a more talented offensive cast around him like the one that will lineup on Sunday afternoon against the Jets.
Green needs to shake off the rust of last years miserable 7-9 season that saw him struggle in the Red Zone for the first time in his four NFL seasons in Kansas City. That more than the defensive failures from a year ago was the most disappointing aspect of the 2004 campaign.
So even though everyone will be watching players such as Ty Law, John Abraham and Jonathan Vilma for the Jets. For the Chiefs the focus will be on Kendrell Bell, Patrick Surtain and Derrick Johnson.
But none of those players might even be factors when the game clock hits zero. Instead the true tale-of-the-tape of Sunday's Chiefs Jets game could fall squarely on which quarterback gets the season off on the right foot.
Quarterbacks Could Rule the Day on Sunday
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