The Kansas City Chiefs have a really, really hard schedule in 2011.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Everybody freak out! The sky is falling. The Chiefs are going to go 4-12. Herm Edwards is going to coach the Lions to 4 straight Super Bowl victories.
Got that out of your system? Good.
Look, I’m not going to BS you guys. This schedule is going to be tough. If all of the teams on the 2011 schedule play like they did in 2010 and the Kansas City Chiefs play like they did in 2010 in 2011, the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs are probably going to have a tough time in 2011.
Fortunately the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs will not be playing in 2011 and not because of the lockout. The reality is that it will be the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs playing the 2011 schedule and chances are, the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs will be an entirely different team.
I understand the fear. A lot of these teams on the 2011 schedule were really good last year. Some of the ones that weren’t that good last year, or that were only average, still whipped the Chiefs like a government mule. See the Chargers in SD, the Broncos in Denver and the Raiders in KC for evidence of this.
That being said, in the NFL, there are no guarantees. When we view this new schedule, I think most of us are viewing it as if the 2010 Chiefs were going to play it. The fact of the matter is that next week will be the NFL Draft and at some point, probably over the summer, there will probably be free agency.
The Chiefs added Ryan Lilja, Shaun Smith and Thomas Jones in free agency last year. They tried to trade for Anquan Boldin and dang near got him. What moves will they make this year? I’m not sure but you can darn sure bet that they will be active. They already tried to get FA Shaun Rodgers before the lockout so don’t go assuming that big name, or big in general, free agents are out of the question.
On top of a new crop of free agents, possible trades and undrafted free agents, the Chiefs are going to add a crop of fresh young talent in the draft. As we saw in 2010, young players can make a difference. Dexter McCluster made a pretty big difference in limited time by helping the Chiefs beat the Chargers. Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis and Javier Arenas all made significant contributions. Even Non Asamoah stepped in on the offensive line when needed.
Did those rookies all make the Pro Bowl? No. Was Arenas better than KC’s nickel CB in 2009? Hell yes. Do you even KNOW who the nickel CB was in 2009? Me either. Was Kendrick Lewis better than Jon McGraw at FS? Yep. Eric Berry better than Mike Brown? Good God yes. Moeaki better than Lenny Pope, Jake O’Connel, Sean Ryan and the pile of poop we had playing TE in 2009? You bethca! (Sarah Palin wink).
What rookies might improve our team in 2011? Might we draft a center that turns out to play a bit better than old man Weigmann? What upgrades might be made at LB and NT? How might that impact the team’s overall play?
Lastly, we must consider that there will likely be significant improvement from players already on the team. There are very few declining veterans on the roster. Thomas Jones, Weigmann if he returns, Waters and McGraw come to mind. Then again, the Chiefs have Asamoah, Charles and Lewis/Berry in front of or backing up those players.
How much better will Eric Berry be in 2011? How about Kendrick Lewis? Moeaki? Arenas? Richardson? Carr? Belcher? Studebaker? Cassel? Dorsey improved again in 2010. Will he take another step in 2011?
Most of the arrows on the Chiefs are pointing up. Even if some of those players have peaked, they are young enough that it is unlikely they are going to regress.
The Chiefs may very well take a step or two back in terms of their record in 2011 but we can’t write them off now because we don’t know who they are going to be. Furthermore, we don’t know who their opponents are going to be in 2011. They will be different too.
Last offseason I said that the 2010 season was an excellent chance for the Chiefs to return to prominence. I looked at the schedule and saw plenty of winnable games. I based that prediction on the fact that the team had improved greatly over the squad that won 4 games in 2009. That, combined with the schedule lead me to predict the Chiefs would go 10-6. I claimed that 2010 could be the first step in their transition from being a bad team to a good team.
Make no mistake, the 2010 Chiefs were a good team. They won 10 NFL games. I don’t care how easy their schedule was. Good teams win more often than they lose and they beat the teams they are capable of beating and sometimes the ones they aren’t capable of beating. The 2010 Chiefs did that. The 2009 Chiefs couldn’t beat the Browns or the Bills. That is why the 2009 Chiefs were not a good team.
The next step in the maturation process is the get battle tested against the best. Beating teams that are inferior should start to become second nature to the Chiefs in 2011 while competing with the best will be their next task. They got a taste of what it takes to hang with the league’s elite teams when they took on the Ravens in the playoffs.
People tend to overlook that the Chiefs played a pretty 2 ½ quarters of playoff football. They were right there in the game with a chance to win before the Ravens pulled away.
Of course the Ravens pulled away. The Chiefs were a young team, starting a number of rookies and a QB who had never played in a playoff game. The Ravens play the Steelers twice a year and make frequent trips to the playoffs, They have a veteran defense who has been there before and a QB who has won playoff games. They are battle tested. In the end, there experience won out but the feisty Chiefs hung with them for a while.
The 2011 Chiefs might very well finish 8-8 or even 7-9 but if they do, they will have knocked off some very good teams along the way.
The 2006 Saints finished 10-6. The 2007 Saints finished 7-9. The 2008 Saints finished 8-8. The 2009 Saints won the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs were NFL bums for three years. They may have to pay some dues on the way to the top but the important thing is that they are finally on their way. The 2011 schedule is just what they need.