We’re less than 100 days from the start of the 2014 season, Phase III of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason program is underway, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Kingdom. Fans are currently experiencing withdrawals trudging through the summer sans America’s favorite pasttime. The staff here at AA has pored over every ounce of information on the draft class, Alex Smith’s contract situation has been debated ad nauseum, and if you’re a faithful reader of the site, you’re up to speed on organized team activities. What’s left to do but look ahead to Kansas City’s regular season schedule? Good question.
The sophomore season for the new regime at 1 Arrowhead Drive is intriguing to say the least. The Chiefs appear to have a bigger hill to climb this year. There are real questions about how much the strength of their 2013 schedule is responsible for their 11-5 record. The answer to that question is coming. Kansas City has the league’s 7th-toughest schedule in 2014. Today, I’d like to take a look at a few of the biggest games (in my humble opinion) on the docket.
Week 2: Kansas City @ Denver
The Chiefs won’t have to wait long to get to their divisional opponents. They’re slated for a trip to meet the AFC West-winning Denver Broncos in mid-September. Last year, Sports Authority Field at Mile High was the site of the Chiefs’ first regular season loss. After a 9-0 start, Kansas City fell to Denver 27-17 the week following the bye. The Broncos swept the Chiefs in 2014 and after the Emmanuel Sanders debacle in March, there could be even more bad blood between the two teams.
In the two meetings last season, the Chiefs’ passrush was completely unable to get to quarterback Peyton Manning. That proved to be the differencemaker. The Chiefs won the turnover battle and were more effective at running the football, but the lack of pressure aided Manning in posting a 109 passer rating over those two contests. If the Chiefs expect a different outcome in 2014, their front seven will have to be more effective in disrupting Manning.
Facing the Broncos so early in the season will be a good way for the Chiefs to gauge their year-over-year progress. Winning this game, on the road, will be a positive sign of Kansas City’s coming of age. The ability to compete with the NFL’s best teams will be vital to their return to the postseason. This matchup will be one of seven games with a team that qualified for the playoffs in 2013. I’m not prepared to make any hard predictions about the season yet, but I’ve penciled Game 1 (with the Titans) in as a win. How big would it be for the Chiefs to start the season 2-0? I’ll answer that for you. Since 1978, two-thirds of the teams that win their opening two games make the NFL postseason.
Week 4: New England @ Kansas City
For my money (I’ll be in attendance), the Monday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots, is the most intriguing game on the Chiefs’ 2014 schedule. It’ll be the first of three primetime games Kansas City will play this season and should be another early season test of the team’s mettle. The Pats made the NFL’s version of the “Final Four” before falling to the eventual AFC Champion Broncos. They’re consistently one of the conference’s best teams and barring injury, should be again this year.
Kansas City’s biggest critics in 2013 cited a lack of quarterback talent as the sole contributor to their defensive success through the first nine games. Even the Chiefs’ most loyal fans have to concede that the Jeff Tuel’s of the world make road wins easier to come by. Tom Brady will be 37 years old when this game rolls around, but he’s still spry and productive. For what it’s worth, he earned his fifth-straight trip to the Pro Bowl last season.
New England made the AFC Championship game, but all five of their losses were on the road last season. The road games they won, save the matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, were all close. With help from the “Sea of Red”, the Chiefs regained a bit of their homefield magic in 2013. Kansas City won 5 of 8 in the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium. This could very well be one of the best games they play in 2014. The Chiefs are typically a tough out in night games at Arrowhead.
Week 10: Kansas City @ Buffalo
You read that right. It’s not as odd as it might sound. The timing of this game is important to note. It’s sandwiched between the Rams, Jets, a matchup with the defending-Super Bowl champs, and a road trip to Oakland (in a truncated week). EJ Manuel is reportedly back to full-strength and Sammy Watkins is now a member of the Bills. I think it’s reasonable to expect a tougher game this time around.
Last year’s meeting with the Bills was hotly contested. The Chiefs were trailing the Bills and on the verge of falling behind by two scores when Sean Smith stepped in front of a Jeff Tuel pass in the end zone and took it 100 yards in the other direction for the score. The rest of the third quarter producing two more scoring opportunities for both teams. Kansas City didn’t pull ahead for good until the final frame when Tamba Hali returned a fumble 11 yards for a touchdown and Ryan Succop nailed the coffin shut with a 39-yard field goal.
This matchup could potentially have wildcard implications in the AFC playoff picture. If season predictions this time of the year are to be trusted, 9 or 10 wins are about what most of the league’s talking heads expect in Kansas City. The Bills were without Manuel for six games last year. They managed to win two of those contests. If Manuel can stay healthy for the full season, they could find themselves in the hunt for one of two wildcard spots come January. Winning this game is likely to help the Chiefs stay off of the AFC playoff bubble.
What say you? Which games are you most looking forward to in 2014? Are you excited about the aforementioned contests? How many of these games do you expect Kansas City to win? Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!
Tags: Kansas City Chiefs