First Look: Falcons vs. Chiefs

QB Matt Ryan

When the Falcons invade Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, they'll be entering the lion's den best referred to as the ‘Sea of Red.' But will the Kansas City Chiefs be up for the challenge to face Atlanta's high-powered offense? That could depend on the respective quarterbacks.

It's an absolute certainty come opening day that both the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs have issues to contend with on Sunday – but none more critical than at quarterback.

The Falcons have a terrific offense led by Quarterback Matt Ryan. And he has a plethora of offensive weapons, most notably former Chiefs Tight End Tony Gonzalez, to throw the ball to on any snap. But the Falcons defense, at best, might be a slight grade above average.

The Chiefs have to deal with a rash of injuries on defense and they have to overcome the one-game suspension of Linebacker, Tamba Hali. And if that's not enough, the entire Chiefs nation still isn't behind their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel.

So who has the advantage in what might be a pretty even-steven contest between a pair of playoff hopefuls?

At first glance, you'd have to give the Chiefs the edge for the sole fact this game is being played at Arrowhead. And if Kansas City can get out to a fast start like they did against the Arizona Cardinals in their first exhibition game, fans will leave happy and the bandwagon jumpers will have to stay on their perch for another few weeks.

But with those factors in hand, it's fair to say, this game does boil down to the respective starting quarterbacks.

Ryan is one of those enigmas in the NFL. Some say he has the goods to become an elite quarterback. And this year, if he doesn't make that leap with the aforementioned Gonzalez, wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, he might be looking for employment elsewhere in 2013.

And that exact same thing might be said about Cassel.

In his entire NFL career, he's never had an offense this talented at the wide receiver and tight end position. Add that to the fact he has a pair of running backs that are each capable in mashing up 100 yards per game plus a solid offensive line, the excuses end in 2012.

I strongly believe if we gauged the pressure of the quarterback combatants for this game only- Ryan has the edge. He's been solid in Atlanta but he's not been able to play brilliant when it counts. Sure he's had some nice games, even bringing his teams back from despair, but fans in Atlanta want more – they want a Super Bowl winner. And Ryan has to deliver that or else. Should he stink up the joint in Kansas City, especially when the Chiefs are limping defensively, there certainly will be some raised eyebrows within the organization.

Cassel has a lot to prove to the organization but expectations are that he only guide the offense not carry it. Still the Hunt Family gave him a boatload of cash three years ago and entering his fourth season in Kansas City, he has to deliver the goods.

But the good thing for Chiefs fans about that statement - is that Cassel knows what he has to do. That does make it easier. Plus in game one Kansas City is at home and the Falcons have one of the tougher road contests in the NFL in week one.

So who wins Sunday? My gut tells me Atlanta by a field goal. But my heart tells me, the Chiefs are going to squeak out a 21-20 victory on Sunday.

Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated all this week for more on the Chiefs and Falcons.

Who wins the battle on Sunday Cassel or Ryan?

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