Greetings, Addicts! If you are anything like me, the dead period before the start of training camp can be unbearable. Aside from waiting for news about franchise players and preparing for fantasy drafts, there isn’t much else for us fans to do except for comb over the schedule repeatedly, trying to figure out where our Chiefs will be at come the end of the regular season. I’ve analyzed each game on the schedule over and over again trying to come up with the best prediction possible for our boys in red. Each attempt at predicting the season has come up with a different result. I’ve had the Chiefs anywhere between 8-8 and 13-3. However, there seems to be one common denominator to how any team will finish their season. That denominator is how they fare against their common opponents.
Last season, each of the division winners in the NFL finished with an even or better record against their division opponents. Six of the eight division winners finished with a 4-2 record or better. Now, of course, there are anomalies to any statistic. Two years ago, the Raiders finished their season with a division record of 6-0 and still missed the playoffs. However, a winning record against your division gives any team a few distinct advantages. First, each of those division wins translates into a loss for your division foe. Secondly, each division win also counts as a conference win, a very important tiebreaker. Finally, each win against a division foe gives a team more of a margin for error against their non-division opponents.
When combing over the Chiefs schedule this season, I find at least six games in which the Chiefs have a better than even chance of winning. These games are against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Carolina, Cleveland and Indianapolis. There are four games where I think the Chiefs will come out with less than even odds of winning. These games are against Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
When it comes to our division foes, the Chiefs have been very inconsistent in recent years. The Chiefs have not had a winning record against the AFC West in any of the past five seasons. In fact, the Chiefs were 2-4 against the division during the conference championship run two years ago. A losing record against your division is hardly what “division champions” should be made of.
In my eyes, the key to this season for the Chiefs will be obtaining that elusive winning record against the West. With six fairly winnable games on their schedule outside of the conference, it will take six to seven more wins in order to get a first round bye and home field advantage for at least one game during the playoffs. The best way to get six of those games would be to sweep the division. With the uncertainty that each of the other division teams has, combined with the Chiefs having the most talented roster in the division, a full sweep is not very far-fetched. There are four keys for the Chiefs against the other teams in the division. Here they are:
Against the Raiders:
1. Make them Raiders of old: The Raiders are notorious for two things: stupid penalties and turnovers. History shows that when the Chiefs come out and punch the Raiders in the mouth early, the turnovers and stupid penalties are almost sure to follow.
2. Make special teams a non-factor: The Raiders may just have the best kicker and punter in the league. Additionally, it was two special teams plays last year against the Raiders that kept the Chiefs out of the playoffs. The Chiefs need to score touchdowns against the Raiders. When the Raiders are within three points, Janikowski will be the difference in games. When you are able to march down the field against the Raiders and put the ball into the end zone, Janikowski and Lechler become non-factors.
3. Win the ground game: The Raiders’ secondary will not be as good as they have been in the past. The Chiefs will be able to pass the ball, and the Raiders will expect that and game plan to prevent it. To ensure that the Chiefs have the upper hand they must get both Charles and Hillis on a roll while forcing the Raiders to pass the ball.
4. Make Carson Palmer feel his age: When you force the Raiders to pass the ball, you will be successful. If you can create pressure on Carson Palmer and knock him down a few times early, you will be even more successful. Both Houston and Hali need to get to know Palmer personally and visit him often.
Against the Broncos:
1. Don’t let the offense get comfortable: Aside from Brandon Stokley, the Broncos have a relatively young receiving corps. It will take some time for Manning and his receivers to get comfortable with each other. If the Chiefs secondary can press the Broncos receivers at the line and cover them like a blanket, it will prevent Manning and company from getting comfortable, leading to mistakes and turnovers.
2. Make them one dimensional: The Chiefs were great against the run last year. Additionally, the running game required in the Peyton Manning offense is going to be new to the Broncos, who are learning yet another offensive system. Forcing the Doinks to run the ball plays right into the strength of the Chiefs.
3. Keep the pressure off Cassel: The Broncos can create tons of pressure with their front seven. Even if Dumervil is suspended due his off-the-field issues, the Broncos could still get pressure on Cassel. The Chiefs need to run the ball successfully, get their receivers open and block well. If Cassel can get on a roll, the Broncos secondary doesn’t stand a chance against the multitude of threats the Chiefs have in the passing game.
4. Win the big play battle: When the Chiefs have beaten the Broncos recently, especially at Invesco, big plays have been prevalent. Who can forget Charles’ long scamper to the end zone or either of Johnson’s interception returns for touchdowns? Big plays like those energize Chiefs fans and silence Broncos fans.
Against the Chargers:
1. Give Philip Rivers another “Worst day ever:” Against the Chiefs (especially at Arrowhead), the Chargers go as Philip Rivers goes. I still remember his first game at Arrowhead. He ran around like a chicken with his head cut off before either calling timeout or getting called for delay of game. Last year, it was a seemingly routine exchange from the center that he couldn’t handle. When the Chiefs and the crowd get to Philip Rivers, the Chiefs win.
2. Hit the board first: Even though the Chargers are getting up there in age, they still have threats to score. If the game turns into an arena football style shootout, the Chiefs need to be ahead so that they don’t have to worry about interceptions being thrown on routine screen passes. If the Chiefs keep composed in high scoring games, they come out on top.
3. Make splash plays to gain momentum: We will forever remember the return for a touchdown on Monday night two years ago. Plays like that take the wind out of the Chargers’ sails and are an immediate momentum switch. If the special teams or defense can make a big play that ends up in a score, not only does the momentum switch, but the Chargers lose composure.
4. Keep Cassel comfortable: I’ve already mentioned the screen pass that should never again be mentioned. However, it’s important to remember that even though there is stellar talent around Matt, he handles the ball on every play. If Matt is cool, calm and collected, then he can out duel Rivers and the Chiefs can win in San Diego.
I firmly believe that the Chiefs can run the table in the division. They’ve shown they can win in Denver and have been close on a few occasions recently in San Diego. A 6-0 record in the division means that KC only needs four more wins to take the division title and two or three more wins above that to get a bye in the playoffs. If the Chiefs can sweep the six teams I mentioned at the start and take two of the four tougher games, they would be looking at home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl.
What do you think, Addicts? Is my bright future for the Chiefs a pipe dream or can the Chiefs sweep the division and take 12 or 13 overall?