Chiefs vs. Eagles Preview: Fantastic Four

With just a scant few days to prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs have a golden opportunity to lay claim to a 3-0 start on the young 2013 season. So can they defeat Andy Reid's old team on the road? If they do, these four players must step up.

1. LB Justin Houston - If the Kansas City Chiefs are going to win this game, they only possess one defensive player that can attack, Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback, Michael Vick, on every snap.

If I were Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, I'd have Houston shadow Vick's every move. In order for Vick to be successful in the Eagles offense, he has to be mobile. If he becomes a pocket passer and he's unable to step up in the pocket, he's at best an average Joe at quarterback.

His strengths are his legs and his rocket left arm. That's why Houston has to stand tall, not be faked out when Vick is on the move. That means KC's prime time defender must make Vick worry where he is on every snap he takes under center.

Houston opened the regular season with three sacks against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But with a commitment to stop him with double teams in week two, the Dallas Cowboys held Houston to zero sacks. You know he wants to change that on Thursday. Though the Eagles line is solid, Houston has the ability to make Vick's primetime experience a miserable one.

2. DT Dontari Poe - If he's not quickly becoming the NFL's premier interior defensive lineman, it won't be long before that occurs in the mindset of the national media. In two games, he's already accounted for 3.5 sacks and his dominance in the middle of KC's defensive line appears to have made all the difference for Sutton's crew this year.

Poe has been nothing short of incredible since he walked onto the Chiefs practice field back in July in St. Joseph, Missouri. His self-induced weight loss has helped. But his drive and ability to execute his role in Sutton's schemes have raised his game to one on the cusp of national stardom.

Not many people felt Poe was worthy of being selected so high in the 2012 NFL draft. But today every Chiefs fan has to concur former General Manager; Scott Pioli's decision to select the Memphis product was a darn good one.

3. WR Junior Hemingway - I have no idea why Hemingway didn't play much in last weeks game against the Cowboys. He's KC's third best receiver behind starters, Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery. So why isn't he getting more reps?

Quite possibly the coaching staff wants to bring him on slowly. Or more so, they want to give incumbent, Dexter McCluster, a chance to show he can handle the slot position.

Personally Hemingway is far more physical than Run DMC. His lone catch on Sunday on a third and eleven; left him a yard short of a first down after he carried two Cowboy defenders on his back. That's where he has a substantial edge over McCluster.

I know he's still raw in regards to NFL experience. But since Chiefs games began back in July (he's shown in both preseason and regular season games), Hemingway possesses golden hands on the field.

In my seat, he needs to be on the field whenever the Chiefs use their spread formations. So much so in looking at my Crystal Ball, I believe he could be the offensive wild card that could catapult KC's down the field-passing prowess as the season progresses.

4. CB Brandon Flowers - After his week two performance against the Dallas Cowboys, Flowers struggled to keep pace with Dallas Cowboys receiver, Dez Bryant. Now some of that wasn't his fault. On a few of those pass completions to Bryant, Flowers released his man to take away the underneath routes while KC's safeties were suppose to roll over and cover the deep portion of the route.

But whatever the issues defensively, there is a target on the Chiefs top paid cornerback in this game. Eagles Wide Receiver, DeSean Jackson, has to be licking his chops facing Flowers. Last week against the San Diego Chargers, he caught nine passes (one of them for a touchdown) and notched 193 receiving yards.

But despite a tweaked knee heading into this game all is not lost on the Chiefs top cornerback. In week one against the Washington Redskins, their cornerbacks challenged Jackson at the line of scrimmage. In doing so, he became increasingly frustrated for parts of the Eagles season opening victory. Still he did end up with 109 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The good news is the Chiefs are a strong press coverage team and if Flowers is healthy he can be physical at the line of scrimmage, he may get the best of Jackson on Thursday.

If not, then safeties, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis, will have to pinch in a hand against Jackson. He's a terrific receiver and one that can create major problems for the Chiefs defensively.

So for Flowers, who is looking for redemption, he needs to show last weeks' performance against the Cowboys was just one of those days that every great corner suffers now and then.

The Chiefs key to success will rest on KC's defense.

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