The regular season is upon us and the Kansas City Chiefs are in preparation for Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sunday, September 8 has been circled on the organization’s calendar since Andy Reid was hired in early-January. It’s tough to characterize a Week 1 game as a must-win situation for the Chiefs, but that’s precisely what I believe Sunday’s game in northeast Florida to be. The season opener has special significance for this franchise. It’s the first stop on the team’s ‘Return-to-Respectability’ tour for veteran players like Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Flowers.
For rookies like offensive tackle Eric Fisher, it’s the first opportunity to offer the team that drafted him reassurances and a return on their investment. Sunday’s game creates the perfect challenge for the first overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. Fellow offensive tackle and the NFL’s No. 2 pick Luke Joeckel will be on the opposite sideline. There was raucous debate in the spring about which prospect would make for the better offensive lineman in the league. Some said Fisher, and some said Joeckel. I have to think this will be somewhere in the back of Fisher’s mind when the Chiefs take the field at EverBank on Sunday.
There’s even something at stake for Andy Reid. The opener is the start to his reestablishment campaign as one of the best head coaches in the National Football League. Qualifying for the NFL postseason would be a quick way for him to do that in Kansas City. Unfortunately, not everyone is sold on Reid as the answer for the Chiefs. The end of his tenure as head coach in Philadelphia is disconcerting to some. His refusal to take time away from the game after a tragic year in 2012 is also a concern in some NFL circles, but Reid seems to be rejuvenated in Kansas City and will want to prove that this weekend.
I’m also convinced that Sunday’s game is supremely significant for quarterback Alex Smith. It’s not much of a stretch to think he’ll want to get off to a good start in what may be the defining era of his NFL career. San Francisco traded Smith away to the Kansas City Chiefs after he lead the Niners to the NFC Championship game in 2011 and completed 70% of his passes in 2012. Being traded away, by the team that drafted, you may be the leading cause of an NFL player having a chip on his shoulder. Smith has never shown himself to be a self-serving, glory-seeking type of quarterback, but you’d be naive to think he doesn’t want to make a good first impression.
Sunday’s game also marks the first for a new regime in Jacksonville. The David Caldwell-Gus Bradley administration is just as eager to hit the ground running. The Jags were a bottom dweller like the Chiefs in 2012, finishing dead last in the AFC South at 2-14. They’ll certainly want to steal a game away from the 3.5-point favorite in their home opener.
Just how important is winning Sunday’s game with the Jacksonville Jaguars? I suppose it depends on how one defines success for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. If the NFL playoffs are the measure of success, the importance of this contest can’t be overstated. Since NFL realignment in 2002, over 50% of the teams that earned a berth in the NFL postseason won their opening game. The Chiefs have a brutal schedule to start the regular season. Kansas City will play their first three games in just 11 days. A win on Sunday helps the new-look Chiefs build momentum for a tough first quarter of the season.
This matchup won’t be anyone’s ”game of the week”, but it’s not without intrigue. Teams make worst-to-first transitions seemingly every NFL season. Both of these franchises would like to become one of those stories in 2013. The Chiefs, on paper, appear to be in better position to actually make that happen. We’ll have some idea of which team is headed in that direction by the late afternoon on Sunday.
How important do you think this game is to the Chiefs’ 2013 regular season campaign? Is it just another Sunday at the office or a Week 1 must-win game? Use the comment section below to chime in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next week, Addicts!