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NFL Preview - Kansas City (0-2) at Philadelphia (1-1)
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - All eyes at Lincoln Financial Field will be on the player wearing uniform number seven this Sunday afternoon, when Michael Vick returns to the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles' home contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Vick, who spent 18 months at a federal penitentiary after pleading guilty to dogfighting allegations, was signed by the Eagles on Aug. 13th and appeared in the team's final two preseason games in a variety of different positions.
As part of Vick's conditional reinstatement to the league, he was not permitted to appear in Philadelphia's first two regular season games, a win at Carolina (38-10) and a home loss to New Orleans (48-22) last week. But the former Pro Bowler was added to the active roster prior to Week 2, when he resumed practicing with the team, and is expected to make his formal return to the field on Sunday.
Vick last played a meaningful NFL game on Dec. 31, 2006, when the then- quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons opened behind center against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Vick saga is not the only quarterbacking drama with which Philadelphia is currently involved.
With Donovan McNabb likely to be sidelined for a second straight week with a fractured rib suffered against the Panthers in Week 1, third-year quarterback Kevin Kolb is expected to make his second career start against the Chiefs.
Kolb's debut was a mixed bag, as he set an NFL record for passing yards by a quarterback making his first start (391), but also threw three interceptions in a game the Eagles lost going away.
It is unknown whether Vick or recently-signed journeyman Jeff Garcia will be designated as the primary backup to the likely starter Kolb on Sunday.
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Brian Westbrook (ankle) is considered questionable after re-injuring his surgically-repaired ankle last week, and top wideout DeSean Jackson (groin) missed practice on Wednesday as well.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be seeking improvement as well as their initial win under first-year head coach Todd Haley and quarterback Matt Cassel.
After going toe-to-toe with the Ravens in a 38-24 loss in Week 1, Kansas City was dealt a disappointing 13-10 home loss to the Oakland Raiders last week, extending the team's record to 2-25 in its last 27 games dating back to 2007.
Cassel, making his first start as a Chief after being sidelined against the Ravens due to a knee injury, completed 24-of-39 passes for 241 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the defeat.
The Eagles hold a 3-2 advantage in their all-time series with the Chiefs, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 37-31 win at Arrowhead Stadium in 2005. Philadelphia is 2-0 against Kansas City, with both wins coming on the road, since dropping a 24-21 decision to the Chiefs at Veterans Stadium in 1998. That game marks K.C.'s lone trip to Philadelphia all-time.
Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid is 2-0 in his career against the Chiefs, while Kansas City's Haley will be meeting both Reid and the Eagles for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
Although Cassel is not all the way back from a knee injury suffered in the third week of the preseason, he was deemed healthy enough to start last week's loss to the Raiders. Still, Haley hinted this week that he would play the quarterback most likely to help the Chiefs win, and if Cassel struggles out of the chute on Sunday, either Brodie Croyle (177 passing yards, 2 TD) or Tyler Thigpen could see some time running the offense. Wideout Dwayne Bowe (9 receptions, 2 TD) has been Kansas City's most consistent offensive player through two weeks, and both Mark Bradley (4 receptions) and new addition Bobby Wade have offered a spark as well. Wade had six catches for a game-high 72 yards in his first game with the team last Sunday. The K.C. running game has been slow to get untracked, with Larry Johnson (98 rushing yards, 4 receptions) averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, though second-year scatback Dantrell Savage gave the team a spark with 69 yards on nine total touches last week and should be a significant part of the gameplan again. A thin Chiefs o- line has allowed five sacks through its first two games.
The Eagles have had two very different defensive performances through their first two weeks. In Week 1, Philly forced seven Carolina turnovers and ran away with a 38-10 win. Last Sunday, the Eagles were abused by Drew Brees, who threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns while spreading the ball around to nine different targets. Chances are, the unit will look more like it did in Week 1 against the Chiefs and their work-in-progress attack. Ends Trent Cole (7 tackles, 2 sacks) and Juqua Parker (4 tackles, 1 sack), both of whom had sacks of Brees last Sunday, will be trying to tee off on Cassel or whoever plays quarterback for Kansas City. Cornerbacks Sheldon Brown (6 tackles, 2 INT) and Asante Samuel (8 tackles, 1 INT) will occupy the back end, and safeties Quintin Demps and Quintin Mikell (17 tackles) will work behind them if Demps can rebound from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 1. The Eagles' preoccupation with Brees last week led to a middling effort against the run, one the team should be able to correct against the struggling Chiefs running game. Brodrick Bunkley (5 tackles) and Mike Patterson (8 tackles) will be tough for Kansas City at the point of attack, and linebackers Akeem Jordan (14 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) and Omar Gaither (9 tackles) should make frequent plays behind them.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Despite the injuries the Eagles are contending with among key offensive players, the storyline this week will be how the team chooses to utilize Vick. During his limited action in the preseason, the former Pro Bowl quarterback appeared under center, in shotgun, in the slot, the backfield, and spread out wide, and there is a good chance he'll serve in a majority of those roles again on Sunday. But the team's base offense will still be run in all likelihood by Kolb (414 passing yards, 2 TD, 3 INT), who did some nice things last week but has to stay out of turnovers in his second start. Emerging tight end Brent Celek (14 receptions, 1 TD) and wideout DeSean Jackson (6 receptions, 1 TD) both went over 100 yards with Kolb pulling the trigger, though Jackson's availability for Sunday is in question. If he can't go, Kevin Curtis (5 receptions), Jason Avant (8 receptions, 1 TD), and rookie Jeremy Maclin (2 receptions) will be the team's primary pass-catchers. If Westbrook (116 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 1 TD) is unavailable with his ankle problem, rookie LeSean McCoy (64 rushing yards, 5 receptions) will get an opportunity to show what he can do in an extended setting. McCoy had nine total touches for 55 yards against the Saints. A makeshift offensive line has allowed four sacks thus far on the year, including two of Kolb last week.
The ability to rattle Kolb will likely have much to say about how the Chiefs fare defensively on Sunday, though Kansas City is widely viewed as one of the weaker pass-rushing teams in the league. The Chiefs did bring down Oakland's JaMarcus Russell twice last week, with end Wallace Gilberry (5 tackles, 1 sack) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) both breaking through. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr (5 tackles) and Brandon Flowers (2 tackles) will have primary responsibility against the Eagles' receivers, with safeties Mike Brown (15 tackles) and Jarrad Page (7 tackles) assisting on the back end. Brown leads the Chiefs in tackles through two games. Kansas City comes off a nice effort against the Raiders running game last week, with Oakland running backs combining for just 70 yards on 22 total carries. Nose tackle Tank Tyler (14 tackles) was at the heart of the effort with his seven tackles, and inside linebackers Demorrio Williams (11 tackles) and Corey Mays (9 tackles) will try to be more productive working behind them this week.
The Eagles' injury problems make them less attractive from a fantasy standpoint than usual, but they still have a few solid plays. The tight end Celek is becoming something of a fantasy star, and last week's performance against Drew Brees shouldn't cause you to forget that this defense is one week removed from a seven-turnover performance against the Panthers. Westbrook and Jackson are good plays if healthy, but you'll want to monitor the injury report right up until game time. Stay away from any Philly quarterback, including Vick, this week.
The Chiefs have done some decent things offensively over the first two weeks, though Bowe looks like your only bona fide starter from their lineup. Wade is a possibility as a flex option if you're desperate.
Lost in the hoopla over Vick this week is the fact that Philadelphia needs to win this game in a big way to avoid dropping to 1-2 going into the bye week, and also to avoid slipping behind in the competitive NFC East. It seems a no- brainer that the Eagles will indeed beat the Chiefs, but if Kolb turns the ball over the way he did last week, this game is bound to be close. Kansas City has moved the ball decently in both of its first two games and played good defense against the Raiders last week, so they have the goods to keep this one close heading into the fourth quarter. Ultimately, however, the Chiefs lack the talent at this stage to beat a quality team on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 27, Chiefs 19
09/24 13:04:39 ET
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