The Kansas City Chiefs will look to push their record to 6-0 today when they host the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
It seems odd to say that this game is a crucial, must-win contest for the Chiefs but in many ways nobody is talking about, it is.
Kansas City is off to an impressive 5-0 start but the fans and players alike should be careful not to convince themselves that the Chiefs are a dominant NFL team. They’re not.
The Chiefs aren’t 5-0 by accident. This year’s team, led by new head coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith, is doing all the things it failed to do in 2012. The Chiefs are causing turnovers, making plays in the clutch and perhaps more importantly, avoiding mistakes.
Still, the 2013 Chiefs have had to fight and claw for each win this season. At the end of the day, a win is a win but four of Kansas City’s five opponents have been able to hang around long enough to make fans sweat into the fourth quarter.
And it isn’t like the Chiefs have had a murderer’s row of opponents. They’ve had the pleasure of playing two of the worst teams in the NFL in the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants. Another win came against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that got its two wins by beating the Giants and an awful Redskins squad. Last week, the Chiefs nearly suffered their first loss to a Titans team led by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. While I’ve seen many Chiefs fans talking themselves into the Titans game being a quality win because of Tennessee’s talented defense, the fact of the matter is that the Chiefs offense failed to put the Titans away early in the game when the KC defense barely allowed a yard in the first half.
Kansas City’s best win was a one-point victory, at home, to a now 2-3 Cowboys team. Dallas nearly knocked off the Denver Broncos last week, proving that despite their record, the Cowboys are no pushover. But Tony Romo and company are inconsistent at best, which an inexplicable loss to the San Diego Chargers a couple of weeks ago perfectly exhibited.
Now before you get out your torches and pitchforks, I think this Chiefs team is very, very good. I understand that the Chiefs can only play the teams on their schedule. I also understand that previous versions of this team would have found ways to lose most of the games the 2013 squad has managed to win.
But as confident as I am that the 2013 Chiefs can play with and beat any team in the NFL, nothing I have seen from them this season has convinced me they couldn’t lose to just about any team, either.
Perhaps all the losing over the last 10 years has me feeling a little bit skeptical. Are the Chiefs really back?
In many ways, the 2013 Chiefs remind me of the 2003 Chiefs, the last Kansas City team to start 5-0. The 2003 Chiefs were immensely talented on offense and tragically flawed on defense. Only KC’s flaws weren’t really exposed until last that season. A combination of timely turnovers and special teams touchdowns helped the Chiefs mask their defensive deficiencies and start 9-0.
Eventually, however, the turnovers and special teams plays came less frequently. The 2003 Chiefs finished the season with a 4-3 record and then lost to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the infamous playoff game where neither team punted.
At some point, the 2013 Chiefs are going to play a game in which they don’t force a single turnover or where their defense has a bad game. When that game comes, will Andy Reid’s team be able to rise to the challenge or will their offensive flaws be exposed to the point where opposing teams have a blueprint on how to beat the Chiefs?
The Chiefs would be wise not to overlook the Oakland Raiders today. QB Terrelle Pryor has done an excellent job taking care of the football this season. He is completing a high percentage of his passes and sports sub-4.4 speed. With the Chiefs’ offense struggling to score consistently even against some of the NFL’s worst defenses (Dallas, New York), a broken play and some luck could keep the Raiders in today’s game until the final minutes. Oakland’s kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, has made a living off beating the Chiefs and his strong leg means that the Raiders should be able to put some points on the board, even if the KC defense is mostly successful keeping Oakland out of the end zone.
Losing to the Raiders today could be a confidence-shaking loss for the Chiefs. The stage has been inadvertently set for an embarrassing day. The Raiders have beaten the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium for six straight years. Don’t think that Oakland head coach Dennis Allen hasn’t mentioned that a time or two to his team this week.
The crowd at Arrowhead will also attempt to break the Guinness world record for loudest stadium crowd roar today. Officials will be on hand throughout the game to measure the decibel levels. The Chiefs fans are trying to reclaim their title as “loudest fans in the NFL,” a moniker given in the 1990s but that has faded over the last decade, thanks to the team’s losing ways. Just a few weeks ago, the fans in Seattle officially stole the title, setting the Guinness record at Century Link field.
There is a good chance that the Chiefs fans at Arrowhead today won’t break the world record. The fans in Seattle got very loud in their attempt and Century Link field was built to reflect sound back on to the field to make the fans sound louder.
Should the Chiefs win today, most fans will chalk up a world record attempt failure as but a speed bump on the way to a magical season.
If the Chiefs lose, however, missing out on the world record will be salt in the wound.
On the other hand, if the Chiefs can win today and the fans can break the record, it will be perhaps the surest sign yet that the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans, have indeed returned to the glory days of the 1990s.
And perhaps in a few months, they’ll return to the glory days of the 1960s as well.