The Kansas City Chiefs will play their first game of the 2012 season without one of their biggest defensive stars in outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who is serving a one-game suspension handed down by the league just a few weeks ago.
Therefore Hali, one of the leagues premier pass-rushers, will miss a game in which the Chiefs take on rising star quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. A game where the Chiefs defense could really use their best pass-rusher out on the field making things uncomfortable for one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Falcons also have a budding young superstar in second-year wide receiver, Julio Jones, who along with Roddy White at the wide receiver position make a pretty significant problem for opposing defenses.
When you throw in the fact the Chiefs may also be without standout corner back Brandon Flowers, who is still recovering from a heel injury that occurred more than four weeks ago at training camp. You have the makings for a pretty significant problem on the defensive side of the ball for the Chiefs, but this problem isn't unique to any NFL team, let alone the Chiefs themselves who saw three of their best young players in Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki miss the entire 2012 season with ACL injuries.
At some point the Chiefs will have to take these barriers and adverse situations and break through them in order to join the conversation of teams in which they have the talent to match-up with starter for starter. A team that is legitimately considered the 'favorite' to win a division should be able to overcome these kinds of barriers and do enough to still win a championship. Some new faces are going to have to step-up and make some plays for the Chiefs to win this game.
The Chiefs were close last season. They put themselves in position in the last couple of games to still come away with an AFC West championship, despite major injuries to three of their key players early in the season, and then losing their starting quarterback in Matt Cassel and head coach Todd Haley at different points during the season.
It's not enough to come close anymore for the Kansas City Chiefs though. They've got a core nucleus of players who rival being the best in the league at their respective positions. Derrick Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and Tamba Hali all have strong cases for being in the conversation at each of their respective spots.
The 'next man up' philosophy needs to become something that is used to define how far the Chiefs have come, not an excuse to explain why they aren't there yet. All successful teams have to overcome things during the season, whether it's injuries, suspensions, or any other combination of things that seem to make that road more difficult.
We should all see the opportunity the Chiefs have in front of them to show they're still a good team without a couple of 'key' players, and that beating this team at Arrowhead Stadium isn't an easy task. Many people already have the excuse in hand and ready should the Chiefs fall, but that seems like a losing attitude and one the Chiefs should be trying to get away from.