Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breaking Down the Chiefs' Schedule

Kansas City surprised the NFL last season with a remarkable turnaround, transforming from one of the league's worst teams into the AFC West champions. Kansas City has made a lot of good moves this offseason, and its younger players will be more experienced when the 2011 season starts. Despite all the signs that this could be a special year for Kansas City, many NFL pundits think the Chiefs won't even be back in the postseason, and for good reason: the Chiefs face a brutal schedule.

Many NFL coaches like to break down their teams' schedule into four segments, so that is what we will do here. In the first segment, Kansas City has two winnable home games against the Bills and the Vikings, and two tough road games against the Chargers and Lions. If the Chiefs want another shot at a playoff run, the team likely needs to win three of these games (since the later portion of the schedule is chalked full of playoff teams). Kansas City should take care of Minnesota and Buffalo at Arrowhead, and a split of San Diego and Detroit doesn't seem that far-fetched.

In Kansas City's second schedule segment, the team faces three AFC opponents it hasn't had very much luck against recently. Apart from a bye week, the Chiefs play the Colts and Raiders on the road, and San Diego at home. Kansas City will likely need to win two of these games to sniff the postseason, which could be asking a lot. The team finishes this portion with a home game against Miami, who will have one of the best defenses in the league. A winnable game, but the Dolphins will be a tough out next season.

Kansas City opens its third schedule segment hosting Denver, a game the Chiefs should win. However, things get a lot tougher, as the team then travels to New England to face the Patriots and hosts last season's AFC champion, Pittsburgh. Next, Kansas City travels to Chicago to take on the NFC runner-up Bears. The Bears have had a poor offseason and were a lucky team last year, and the game in Chicago should be one Kansas City can steal. If it can split between New England and Pittsburgh, the Chiefs could be in great shape. That is a gigantic"if" though.

The final portion of the Chiefs schedule could be even tougher than the third segment, as Kansas City opens with a trip to New York to face the Jets. You may not like all the talking New York does, but the team will have one of the best defenses in the league, and there is a reason why they have made the last two AFC championship games despite starting one of the worst QBs in the league. After the Jets, Kansas City hosts last year's Super Bowl champion. Being in Kansas City gives the Chiefs a better shot at knocking off Green Bay, but the Packers could very well be even better next season. The Chiefs final two games are both winnable, which is good because Kansas City could very likely need to win both to qualify for the playoffs. The team hosts Oakland before wrapping up the regular season on the road in Denver.

The Chiefs will likely be a better team next season, however the team's win-loss record may not reflect that. On paper, Kansas City's schedule looks like one of the toughest in the league, and the team will likely need to pull a few upsets for another shot at a postseason run.

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