The Dirty Dozen – Part I

Almost every week in the NFL, each team finds itself facing an opponent with a player on its roster who must be accounted for. In the 90's, the Chiefs enjoyed this advantage with the incomparable Derrick Thomas. In recent seasons they've found themselves on the short end of the stick facing prolific athletes like Clinton Portis and Shawne Merriman.

Over the next two weeks we'll cover 12 such players the Chiefs will see this season. By the way, please credit former Warpaint writer Mike Campbell for this topic idea.

1. DT Tommie Harris, Chicago

Harris is currently the best three-technique defensive tackle in the entire NFL. The Chiefs are looking for a similar player to energize their own Cover 2 defense. How important is Harris to Chicago's defense? When he left the lineup with an injury in Week 12 last season, the Bears subsequently allowed 27, 31, 21 and 26 points to conclude the regular season.

Harris amassed five sacks in only 12 games last year and will test KC right guard John Welbourn, who struggled against dominant pass rushers when playing offensive tackle. We'll find out early (Week 2 at Chicago) how well he can play inside.

2. HB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

The Chiefs have done an excellent job of fixing their run defense over the past two years, but they'll need to be gelled for the home opener. Peterson is the most talented running back to enter the league in years and, despite their offensive woes, the Vikings ranked a respectable 16th in the rushing offense last season and Chester Taylor gained 1,200 yards.

With Taylor and Peterson splitting time, the Vikings will have two talented, fresh backs to ravage Kansas City's defense. Peterson's breakaway speed against a tired Chiefs defense is a scary proposition.

3. LB Shawne Merriman, San Diego

He's back. The NFL's most-feared pass rusher avoided a steroid-related suspension this offseason and there's no reason to think he won't be as deadly as he was during his first two seasons. Curiously, Merriman has only two sacks in four career games against the Chiefs, but he's always a presence that affects how an offense performs.

Will the Chiefs single up new left tackle Damion McIntosh against Merriman or give him help? Merriman frequently rushes from both ends of the line of scrimmage, so right tackle Chris Terry will have his hands full at times, too. "Lights Out" is intimidating as they come in this league, so it'll be interesting to see how Brodie Croyle (should he start) reacts to his on-field ferocity.

4. CB Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville

There might not be a more talented cornerback in the NFL (outside of Denver's Champ Bailey) than Mathis. He combines freaky athleticism with excellent size and his experience continues to grow. With 20 interceptions in his first four seasons (eight a year ago, including one against the Chiefs) he's on his way to an outstanding career.

With top receiver Eddie Kennison aging, the Chiefs might find themselves in a situation in Week 5 where Dwayne Bowe is their biggest threat at wide receiver. That's a tricky situation if Croyle is under center – especially considering the Jaguars' propensity to shut down the opponent's running game.

5. WR Chad Johnson, Cincinnati

With the decline of Randy Moss and the aging of Terrell Owens, there's no scarier wideout in the NFL than Johnson. The Chiefs did an outstanding job of containing 85 a year ago, holding him to 48 yards on five receptions, but he missed an easy touchdown catch and surely would have enjoyed a bigger day if the weather hadn't turned nasty.

Kansas City's corners are aging and they're set to plug in a pair of inexperienced players (Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard) at safety. With Carson Palmer a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, that's a scary thought. Better hope the pass rush gets there.

6. QB Brett Favre, Green Bay

He's aging, but don't count out this Hall-of-Fame quarterback. The Cover 2 defense has a weakness – on most passing plays there's a hole between the corner and safety, right next to the sideline. Most quarterbacks can't consistently squeeze the ball in, but Favre has the arm to exploit that hole. "Old tigers, sensing the end, are at their most fierce." Let's hope the Chiefs have the appropriate respect for Favre in Week 9.

Next Week: Part II Top Stories