There’s a groundswell of excitement surrounding the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. Players and coaches have gushed about the possibilities for this team all offseason. The national media has mostly praised the Chiefs’ front office for their offseason progress. With all of this in mind, it’s tough not to have high expectations for this football team.
Unfortunately, that’s the irony of the NFL. There can be stark contrasts between the appearance and the reality of a franchise. Ask the 2-14 Chiefs from a year ago. The opening chapter to their story read a lot like this one does.
Hope springs eternal for every NFL organization in June, so I’ll spare you the preseason platitudes. The arrival of training camp is typically an exciting time of the year for me. This year, it’s little more than a mile marker. If you recall, I cited a concern about the team being well prepared for the start of the regular season in last week’s article.
Consider the following statistic: In the past five seasons, the Chiefs have played sub-.500 football in the first quarter of the season (losing 14 of 20 games). It’s not surprising that their lone postseason berth during that span came in 2010 when Kansas City won 3 of 4 to start the year.
First Quarter Results, 2008-2012
- 2008: 1-3
- 2009: 0-4
- 2010: 3-1
- 2011: 1-3
- 2012: 1-3
All twelve teams that qualified for the NFL postseason in 2012 went 2-2 or better in the first four games of the regular season. To take that a step further, since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, just 22 teams that played sub-.500 football in the first month of the season went on to make the playoffs. That’s nearly a quarter-century trend of just one slow-starting turned postseason-eligible team per year. Those aren’t exactly favorable odds.
Kansas City faces Jacksonville, Dallas, Philadelphia, and the Giants to start the season. The initial three games all take place between September 8th and September 19th. That’s three games in just eleven days. Two of those three are road games. Playing .500 football in September should be much less daunting for this group than it has been in years past, but it still won’t be easy.
In my estimation, the biggest obstacle to a fast start will be Kansas City’s offense. Remember what happened the last time the Chiefs had a newly-hired head coach/offensive playcaller, a newly-installed offensive system and a new quarterback? Todd Haley and his Matt Cassel-led offense could manage only 64 points in their first four games. That paltry average of just 16 points per game contributed to four consecutive losses to begin the 2009 season.
I believe Andy Reid and Alex Smith are significant upgrades over their predecessors. Their presence inspires more confidence than Chiefs Kingdom had four years ago at this time. It’s still not quite completely convincing though. That’s what makes this preseason slate of games so vital to success once the regular season rolls around. I’m sure everyone in the organization is hoping to see signs of offensive rhythm when they take the field on August 9th in New Orleans.
An offense that can mature with each preseason matchup sets themselves up well for live NFL action come September. Here’s where three preseason matchups against the 49ers, Steelers, and Packers will come in handy. All three of those teams boasted defenses that surrendered no more than three touchdowns per contest in 2012. What better way to see where you stand as a team than to face 3 of the 11 best sets of defensive #1′s in the NFL from a year ago?
The Chiefs have just 40 days left before the real bullets start flying. Every rep between now and then is monumental. If this team has real hopes of cultivating a winning culture in year one, they cannot waste those opportunities. Players tell you their only goal in the preseason is to “get better everyday.” That needs to be more than another NFL cliche in Kansas City.
Can the new-look Chiefs explode out of the starting block and have an impressive start to their 2013 campaign or is that asking too much of a brand new regime? Is their first quarter schedule conducive to .500 football or will they have to make up ground in the AFC playoff picture as the season wears on?
Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, the staff here at AA appreciates your readership and support!
Until next time, Addicts!