To start with, I want to congratulate the Kansas City Chiefs organization on winning the AFC West. I freely admit that before the season started I didn’t think the Chiefs would win the division. I saw the Chiefs winning six to eight games and not being a playoff contender. Generally I don’t like being wrong, but I’m in a rare position of rejoicing in my wrongness. That is not to say that I see the Chiefs going all the way to Dallas, but they are certainly better than I thought.
With a berth in the playoffs now assured, we turn our attention to the final game of the regular season. In a previous article I wrote how momentous the Chiefs game against the Oakland Raiders this Sunday could be. The San Diego Chargers’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals lessens the importance of the game, but in a good way. However, this forces the Chiefs to make an important decision concerning the Raiders game. The question is whether to sit key players on our team or to play them.
The Chiefs don’t have great depth and so injuries hurt us worse than some other teams. Which means it is very important to stay healthy for the playoffs. Therefore, it is no surprise that the cautious part of me says to sit our key players. We’ve seen the Chiefs without quarterback Matt Cassel, it wasn’t pretty. I certainly don’t want to risk him not being able to play in the playoffs. You have to pose the same question about running back Jamaal Charles, too. You have to say definitively that the Chiefs would miss his 6.4 yards per carry.
Having an obvious good reason not to play key Chiefs players, I started looking for reasons why the Chiefs should sit key players. What I found were three reasons for the Chiefs to play everyone and to play with full effort. And they were enough for me to decide that the Chiefs need to go all out against the Raiders on Sunday.
The first reason is one that has been mentioned by others. The Chiefs are undefeated in Arrowhead Stadium this season. Renovations took place in Arrowhead so that they have been referring to it as New Arrowhead. One could say that the Chiefs have never lost, ever, in New Arrowhead. I think for us to remain undefeated at home is an excellent symbol of the change that has taken place for the Chiefs.
Remaining undefeated in Arrowhead throughout the entire regular season can only help us in the playoffs. Even if all it gets us is one win in the playoffs it still garners us respect in the NFL. Not to mention it sure would be nice to go into next season still undefeated at the New Arrowhead. At the very least it will add incentive for the Chiefs to win at home to see how long they can keep the streak alive.
The second reason is that we are playing the Oakland Raiders. We don’t like the Raiders and the Raiders don’t like us. The enmity between the two teams should be enough to warrant all hands on deck for this game. However, there are other reasons related to the Raiders as to why we need to start our starters and beat the Raiders.
To start with, Oakland has beaten us this season. Of all the teams in the AFC West the only team we haven’t beaten is the Raiders. Yes, we’ve lost to all of the AFC West teams but we’ve only beaten two out of three. We owe the Raiders a loss.
Also, you have to assume that the Raiders are coming into Arrowhead looking to spoil our home game winning streak. I say we not only deny them that pleasure, but instead spoil the Raiders streak. Oakland has yet to lose a game to a division opponent this season. How good would it feels to ruin that streak of theirs? Not to mention it will also earn us division pride in beating the unbeaten team.
The third reason for playing the starters is experience. It is a fact that the Kansas City Chiefs are a young team. We have many players that still have room to grow and become better players. Every game that we can have these young players gain experience in brings them closer to reaching their maximum potential. Even this one extra game gets them valuable experience. And not just experience playing football, but experience playing with their fellow teammates.
A perfect example of this is the way Cassel and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe have been connecting in the second half of this season. Not only have they become better players individually, but they have gotten used to each other and there is now chemistry between the two of them. The reason for this is the game experience that they have had with one another.
Looking at those three reasons I think it is in the best interest for the Chiefs for the starters not to ride the bench. Instead the starters should start and put a beat down on the Raiders. Once the Chiefs have a three touchdown lead then they can consider pulling the starters.
What do you think Addicts? Do you think some players should be benched to prevent injury before the playoffs? Or should the starters play and teach Oakland a lesson?