Overview: On paper, this would appear to be a miss-match as you have a team that won two games a year ago traveling to face a Super Bowl contender that won 11 games a year ago and reached the AFC Championship Game.
However, history has proven that there is often no such thing as carry-over from one NFL season to another.
While the Ravens should again be a contender, the Chiefs should also see marked improvement from a year ago. The key for Kansas City will be if new head coach Todd Haley, who was the offensive coordinator for the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals a year ago, and new quarterback Matt Cassel, who started last season for New England after the injury to Tom Brady, can resuscitate the Chiefs offense.
Opening Game: Opening Day has not been kind to the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years. They have lost their last three opening games and are only 3-6 in the season opener since 2000. The Ravens have been a bit better with a 5-4 record since 2000 in season openers, including a 17-10 victory over the Bengals last season.
All-Time Series: The Chiefs and Ravens have met only four times since the Ravens moved to Baltimore in 1996. Kansas City holds a 3-1 series lead, but the Ravens won the last meeting between the two teams 20-10 during the 2006 campaign.
Key Questions Entering 2009:
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have traditionally been known for their dominating defense and with Greg Mattison replacing as Rex Ryan the defensive coordinator, there shouldn’t be much a dropoff from a year ago when the Ravens were second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed and third in points allowed. The question in 2009 is if quarterback Joe Flacco can go from care-taker to star-maker in his second year in the league.
Kansas City Chiefs: The acquisition of Matt Cassel in the off-season was a big addition for the Chiefs. While there is still some question regarding his status for the opener following a training camp injury, it appears that his injury should not hamper him throughout the season. If he is able to build on his production as the quarterback in New England a year ago, then the Chiefs should immediately improve offensively. However, they were near the bottom of the league in defense a year ago as well, so they must also make immediate improvements on that side of the ball.
Player To Watch:
Baltimore Ravens: The history books are filled with quarterbacks who made great strides between their first and second season as a starter on their way to Hall of Fame greatness. Joe Flacco has given the indication that he expects to be a more significant weapon for the Ravens in 2009. If he is able to improve the passing game to the point that they are a true compliment to the strong running game, then the Ravens will be tough to beat in 2009..
Kansas City Chiefs: Second year defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey must demonstrate the ability that resulted in the Chiefs selecting him with the fifth pick in the 2008 draft. Slowed somewhat by injuries a year ago, he registered only one sack and was not the dominant player he had been at LSU. If Dorsey is able to put together a strong season, it will give the Chiefs a much needed defensive anchor on which to build.
Predictions: It is hard to pick against the team I have going to the Super Bowl in the first week of the season at home against a team that won two games a year ago. I think Kansas City will be significantly better over the season and potentially contend in the depleted AFC West. However, they really got a bad draw to start the season having to travel to Baltimore. I think the defense of the Ravens won’t miss a beat and that Joe Flacco and the offense will eventually become a strength of the team. Final Score: Ravens 27, Chiefs 13.