The Most Critical Chiefs Game of 2012 Is…

Paddy had a short post and poll a few weeks back that got me thinking. He asked where the Chiefs would stand heading into the Week 7 bye. As many have noted, we have a killer schedule through the first six games. To win the West, I’m guessing we have to go 10-6 overall. Can we do it? Here’s the schedule:

Pre-Bye

1.  Falcons

2.  At Bills

3.  At Saints

4.  Chargers

5.  Ravens

6.  At Tampa

After the bye, it eases up a bit:

Post-Bye

7.  Raiders

8.  At Chargers

9.  At Steelers

10. Bengals

11.  Broncos

12.  Panthers

13.  At Browns

14.  At Raiders

15.  Colts

16.  At Broncos

Let’s start with the Post-Bye schedule, games 7-16. I think we have a good shot at going 6-4, with the following wins and losses:

Wins (6)

1.  Raiders

2.  Bengals

3.  Broncos

4.  Panthers

5.  At Browns

6.  Colts

Losses (4)

1.  At Chargers

2.  At Steelers

3.  At Raiders (ugh)

4.  At Broncos (ugh ugh)

I’m no math wiz, but if we go 6-4 after the bye, we’ll need to go 4-2 before the bye. I figure we will beat the Falcons in the home opener, we take the Chargers at home and we beat the Bucs at Tampa. But I would say chances are against us at the Saints and I think we lose to the Bills away as well.

Here’s where I’m going. The key game for our season may be Week 5, at home, against the Ravens. This game may be the one that determines whether we win the West or not. This game may be the difference between 9-7 and a potential Wild Card with lots of tie-breakers and things beyond our control, and 10-6 with our destiny in our own hands.

Both the Chiefs and the Ravens may well enter Week 5 with a 3-1 record, with the Ravens winning at home against the Bengals and Browns and at the Eagles, but sustaining a home loss to the Patriots.

Fortunately, there’s a lot going for us in this game. Terrell Suggs will likely miss this early season game, still in recovery from a torn Achilles tendon. Suggs is a five-time Pro Bowler and just a monster linebacker. If we’re really lucky, Ed Reed, the Ravens’ Pro Bowl safety, may retire, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Unfortunately, most NFL rankings have the Ravens as the sixth or seventh best team in the NFL. And last year, the Ravens were the tenth best team in the NFL on the road, with a record of 4-4 in away games. Their mental toughness is legendary. Alas, football is a physical game as well as mental, and the Ravens have a great running game, led by Ray Rice, and a feared defense led by Ray Lewis, Reed and Haloti Ngata. But they also have a few weaknesses, which the Chiefs will need to exploit to win this critical game.

First, the Ravens have an aging Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, and their left guard is a second year, new starter named Jah Reid. The Chiefs need to attack that left side of the Ravens early and often and collapse the line repeatedly. Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey need to shut down the running game and force Flacco to pass. On offense, I think this game will be about Jonathan Baldwin. The Raven’s defense, while aging, is still terrific against the run. Lardarius Webb, who is turning into one of the better corners in the league, will undoubtedly cover Dwayne Bowe, leaving second year corner Jimmy Smith on second year receiver Baldwin. If Baldwin can have a breakout game here, the Chiefs line and running game will be able to exploit the the Ravens for some long runs.

It is exactly these types of games– home against a tough opponent –that the Chiefs will need to win this year, if they are to have the type of season we are all excited for. We need to bring back the old Arrowhead magic, winning almost all of our home games even against the AFC’s best, to turn the Chiefs into a Super Bowl contender.

The Houston Texans have made that turn recently from a team with great potential to a real winner. Can the Chiefs make that same turn in 2012?

Here’s my question for Addicts everywhere: in these first six games, what is the pivotal game, that one game where we will say, “that was the turning point?”

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