NFL Preview - Cincinnati at Kansas City
-> NFL Preview - Cincinnati (0-0) at Kansas City (0-0), click here to make your selection!
By -> NFL Editor and Ecobika ->Free NFL Betting Picks
Herm Edwards makes his formal debut on the sideline of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, as the former New York Jets head man and his current team face the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2006 regular season opener for both teams.
Edwards, who fashioned a 39-41 record and led the Jets to a trio of playoff appearances in five years on the job, will be charged with improving the fortunes of a franchise that has missed the postseason in the last two seasons and last won a postseason contest following the 1993 campaign. The Chiefs were 10-6 under Edwards' predecessor (and former mentor) Dick Vermeil last season, narrowly missing the playoffs.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, made its long-awaited return to the postseason in 2005, but suffered unforeseen misfortune once it reached that stage. Quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a serious knee injury on the first play from scrimmage in the Bengals' AFC Wild Card matchup against the Steelers, a situation helping lead Pittsburgh to a 31-17 win, and eventually a Super Bowl title. Sunday will mark Palmer's first extended action since sustaining that injury on Jan. 8th.
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Kansas City owns a 12-10 advantage in its all-time series against Cincinnati, including a 37-3 home rout in Week 17 of last season, when the playoff-bound Bengals opted to rest most of their starters. The previous meeting between the franchises was a memorable 24-19 road win for the Bengals in Cincinnati. The Chiefs came into that game 9-0, and were facing a Bengals club that was just 4-5. Cincinnati's last road win in the series came in 1989, when they took a 21-17 decision at Arrowhead Stadium.
Edwards is 2-0 in his career against Cincinnati, as his Jets scored home victories over the Bengals in both 2001 and 2004. The Bengals' Marvin Lewis is 1-1 in his career against Kansas City, including last year's defeat, and is 0-1 head-to-head versus Edwards.
BENGALS OFFENSE VS. CHIEFS DEFENSE
The injury suffered by Palmer (3836 passing yards, 32 TD, 12 INT) brought a bitter end to a star-studded season for the 2003 Heisman Trophy winner, who led the NFL in completion percentage (67.8) and touchdown passes and was named to his first career Pro Bowl. Palmer looked every bit his former self in the preseason, posting a sterling 140.2 passer rating and throwing four touchdown passes in parts of two contests. The Bengals' top two receivers - Chad Johnson (97 receptions, 9 TD) and T.J. Houshmanzadeh (78 receptions, 7 TD) - are once again in the fold to ensure that Palmer won't have to do much searching for a target. Johnson led the AFC in receiving yards (1432) for a third straight season last year, and was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. Chris Henry (31 receptions, 6 TD), who made headlines with several offseason arrests, is nonetheless expected to fill the team's third receiving role. A Cincinnati line that allowed just 21 sacks last season returns intact.
The directive for coordinator Gunther Cunningham and the Kansas City defense on Sunday will be to place pressure on Palmer and prevent the signal-caller from looking downfield to his talented receiving corps. At the heart of that effort will be ends Jared Allen (11 sacks) and Tamba Hali. Allen was the Chiefs' only consistent pass-rusher a year ago, but the presence of Hali, the team's first-round draft choice out of Penn State, is expected to help alleviate that problem. Hali had 11 sacks as a senior with the Nittany Lions a year ago. Attempting to handle Johnson and Houshmanzadeh will be veteran cornerbacks Patrick Surtain (4 INT) and Ty Law (10 INT with the Jets). Law, who was acquired by Kansas City via free agency in the offseason, made his fifth Pro Bowl after tying for the league lead in interceptions a year ago. Safeties Greg Wesley (82 tackles, 6 INT) and Sammy Knight (89 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT) will lend support to the corners.
Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson (1458 rushing yards, 12 TD, 23 receptions), who set a career single-season high for yards and receptions last season, returns to ensure that opposing defenses remain honest. Johnson posted four 100-yard games in 2005, and now has 13 over his three-year career as a starter. With backup Chris Perry on the team's Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list with an ankle injury, Kenny Watson will occupy the role of Johnson's backup and third-down back. Watson missed most of last season with a torn biceps muscle.
The Chiefs were able to completely shed their reputation as being soft against the run last season, when the team finished seventh in NFL rushing defense. Despite the improvement, Edwards and Cunningham sought to make changes up front, bringing in former Bill Ron Edwards (6 tackles with Buffalo) and ex-Jet James Reed (65 tackles, 2 sacks with New York) to occupy the starting defensive tackle slots. Edwards will be making his first meaningful appearance since missing the final 12 games of Buffalo's 2005 season with a shoulder injury. Last year's linebacking corps remains intact, with Kawika Mitchell (105 tackles) again manning the middle and Derrick Johnson (95 tackles) and Kendrell Bell (41 tackles) flanking him on the outside. Mitchell and Johnson were 1-2 on the team in tackles a year ago.
CHIEFS OFFENSE VS. BENGALS DEFENSE
Seeking to build on a electrifying 2006 campaign will be Chiefs running back Larry Johnson (1750 rushing yards, 33 receptions, 21 TD), who led the AFC in both rushing and touchdowns despite starting only nine games in 2005. Johnson reeled off 100-yard games in each of his final nine appearances, and is now five back of Barry Sanders in his quest for the record for consecutive 100- yard outings. Johnson could have life somewhat tougher in 2006, as projected starting tackles Willie Roaf and John Welbourn both retired in the offseason, while fullback Tony Richardson defected to Minnesota via free agency. Ex-Ram Kyle Turley and former backup Kevin Sampson will be the new starters at tackle, while another ex-reserve, Ronnie Cruz, takes over fullback duties. Spelling Johnson will be former Viking Michael Bennett (473 rushing yards, 27 receptions, 5 TD with Minnesota).
The Bengals ranked just 20th in the league against the run in 2005, and are at less than full strength heading into their Week 1 showdown with Johnson and the Chiefs. Middle linebacker Odell Thurman, who led Cincinnati in tackles and also recorded five interceptions as a rookie, is suspended for the team's first four games following his violation of the league's substance abuse policy. In light of that circumstance, Brian Simmons (83 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INT) will shift from the weak side to the middle on Sunday, with Landon Johnson (86 tackles) sliding into Simmons' former role and 2005 first-round draft pick David Pollack (28 tackles, 4.5 sacks) appearing on the strong side. The loss of Thurman might be easier to overcome due to the presence of massive defensive tackle Sam Adams (19 tackles, 3 sacks with the Bills), the three- time Pro Bowler who was signed by the team on April 3rd and will team with holdover John Thornton (40 tackles, 2 sacks) on the interior.
Back for a sixth season as Kansas City's starting quarterback is Trent Green (4014 passing yards, 17 TD, 10 INT), who has yet to miss a single start since being traded for the Rams prior to the 2001 campaign. Green posted his third- consecutive 4,000-yard season a year ago, and his passer rating was over 90.0 for the fourth straight year. Green's principle targets will once again be tight end Tony Gonzales (78 receptions, 2 TD) along with wideouts Eddie Kennison (68 receptions, 5 TD) and Samie Parker (36 receptions, TD). Gonzales earned his seventh straight Pro Bowl citation in '05, while Kennison reeled off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. The new starting o-line principles will be under pressure to keep the heat off of Green, who was sacked a total of 32 times in 2005.
Green will have to guard against the big turnover against the Bengals defense, one that ranked 26th in the league against the pass but made up for any deficiencies with its NFL-high 31 interceptions. Cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal (10 INT, 4 sacks) and Tory James (5 INT) were at the heart of that effort, with O'Neal ending the campaign in a tie with Law for the league lead in picks. First-round draft pick Johnathan Joseph (South Carolina) will start if O'Neal (knee), who is listed as questionable, can't go. At safety, Madieu Williams (23 tackles, 1 INT) is back after an injury-plagued 2005, and will be playing alongside a new running mate in Super Bowl XXXVII MVP Dexter Jackson (45 tackles, 1 INT with Tampa Bay). The Cincinnati pass rush ranked near the bottom of the league with just 28 sacks a year ago, a situation that starting ends Justin Smith (6 sacks) and Bryan Robinson (18 tackles) will try to improve upon. Third-round draft pick Frostee Rucker (USC), who had six sacks in 2005 with the Trojans, will likely appear as a situational pass rusher.
The biggest concern for the Bengals entering 2006 was the status of Palmer, who looked no worse for wear in the team's final two preseason games. All indications are that the Cincinnati offense will continue to run at a prolific pace, which is bad news for a Kansas City team that could take some time to find an identity under its new coaching staff. Green and Johnson will move the offense, but the Chiefs figure to make some mistakes on both sides of the ball, and a high-quality Bengals team will make them pay.
-> Predicted Outcome: Bengals 28, Chiefs 24, click here to bet NOW!
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About the Author: -> Predicted Outcome: Bengals 28, Chiefs 24, click here to bet NOW!
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