When the NFL officials published the Chiefs 2011 season schedule many months ago, it became immediately obvious that there would be a monstrous five-game stretch beginning in New England in late November. Many pundits have predicted this would be the Chiefs’ demise but, I believe the Chiefs can conquer this beast.
To begin with, let’s talk predictions. Last season I predicted that if the Chiefs could win their first three games against the Chargers, the Browns and the 49ers then… they would go 10-6. That’s exactly what happened.
Last week, I predicted the Chiefs would win three of the games in this difficult five game monster stretch.
Gulp. And no, I haven’t been drinking.
Eleven days from now it is highly likely the Chiefs will be 6-3 and riding a six-game winning streak. Playing the Dolphins and Broncos at home the next two weeks should produce two more wins.
Any NFL season has its ups and downs, even for the best teams in their best seasons. No, that doesn’t mean they always lose when they are experiencing one of these down cycles (see New England’s results in 2007) however, most teams do lose at least a few game, even in the best of years.
So, if the Chiefs roll into Foxboro on November 21st riding the momentum of a six-game winning streak, that would probably be a down cycle game for the Chiefs and are likely to lose there. K.C. will have just played three games in a row at home and going on the road for the first time in a month, in late November, will be a shock to the system and will probably result in a loss.
That being said, I only give the Patriots a 55% chance of beating the Chiefs that day… assuming the Chiefs arrive on the heels of a six-game winning binge. In the weeks prior to the Patriots entertaining the Chiefs, they will have hosted Dallas, gone to Pittsburgh, hosted the Giants, then traveled to the Jets.
If the Pats have a tough time surviving those four games, and especially the one with the Jets, they could come home limping and emotionally drained. Bill Belichick doesn’t let his teams have these lapses very often but, if you look over the Patriots’ schedule and try to predict a game in which they may be vulnerable, the Chiefs game is it. Not only that but, the Patriots defense is not what it’s been in years past, and the Chiefs should be able to do some damage there. In fact, I think the Chiefs offense will do really well against the Pats defense.
However, I’m giving this game to the Patriots.
The following week the Chiefs return home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs have traditionally played the Steelers well at Arrowhead, even in down years, like two years ago. The sad reality this year is… that the Steelers have a bye week the week before coming to Arrowhead. However, I don’t see that as being enough for the men of steel to pull out a victory.
A popular storyline this season is the so-called aging of the Steelers. The Steelers have speed on the outside on offense and in the secondary on defense but, the rest of the team is average at best. The Steelers, who year in and year out are one of the top teams in the league at stopping the run are currently ranked 12th. Running the ball is a strength of the young upstart Chiefs and the men in red will win this battle in the trenches with a man named Battle. The Chiefs will likely have to depend upon the run because the Pittsburgh pass defense is ranked second.
If there are any signs of the Steelers aging, it will come in the 4th quarter. The Chiefs stamina showed well in the Chargers game and may be an element against Pittsburgh.
I’m counting on the Chiefs winning this game and the 12th man should help that happen, especially if the crowd is so loud that the Chiefs D can get some extra pressure on Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. Phillip Rivers and his OL faced the wall of noise in Arrowhead… and lost. BenR will do the same.
I’m counting it in the win column for the Chiefs.
When the Chiefs go to Chicago on December 4, the Bears will have just played the Raiders on the coast. The weeks prior to that, they will have played Philly in Philly and then hosted Detroit and San Diego. Like the Patriots, the Bears will be vulnerable to a down cycle and the Chiefs will take advantage. Having just gotten beaten on by the Raiders, who play a physical style, the Bears will be susceptible to the Chiefs offense which features quickness, finesse and strategies that the Raider approach is lacking.
Jay Cutler is a very good QB… when he’s on his feet. However, Mike Martz’ offense has been streaky. The big issue for the Bears is Cutler continues to get knocked off his feet on a regular basis. The Chiefs should continue to provide Cutler with more cuddle time with the turf. At the very least Cutler will be highly pressured by the Chiefs front seven and that should result in multiple interceptions. The Bears were very close to going to the Super Bowl last year but, this will not be a game in which they look like contenders. It will for the Chiefs. The Bears are ranked 23rd in total defense and the Chiefs may end up running away with this one.
I see the Chiefs winning in Chicago.
The Chiefs will be on the road for the second week in a row, and it may be too much for them. Prior to hosting the Chiefs, the Jets will have visited the Broncos, hosted Buffalo and taken the subway to Washington. That last stop is like playing in their next door neighbor’s back yard and should be no skin off of their backs. So, the Jets have an easy time of it in the weeks before tussling with the Chiefs, which will make this a much tougher task to pull out a win.
Thomas Jones, having played for the Jets as recently as 2009, will probably be utilized more and may even have a nice game. Players often like to up their performance against their old teams but, Jones is not the runner he was even a year ago and so I don’t expect any miracles from him.
However, the Jets are currently 25th in run defense, and the Chiefs should have a field day. If the Chiefs are going to win this game, it will be because of their running attack. The Chiefs are currently ranked 22nd in run defense but, I don’t think the Jets offense has as many weapons as the Chiefs. Yes, the Jets have Darrelle Revis but, the Chiefs have more than one good receiver now and should be able to score enough points to win. Jonathan Baldwin went to the same high school as Revis and worked out with him last summer so, he’ll be motivated to have a good game against Revis if they’re ever matched up. I’m not saying he will be but, if they match up it will leave Bowe and Breaston wide open. IOW… whoever doesn’t draw Revis, is probably going to have a really good day.
It’ll be like old home week for Mark Sanchez and Matt Cassel. Both being USC boys. If Cassel plays well the Chiefs could tie this one down. Sanchez has played in the AFC Championship game for the past two years so, he knows how to play in big games. This late in the year, this game could be the deciding factor for both teams, as far as making the playoffs. Although Cassel usually doesn’t do well in pressure situations… when he’s in a hurry up offense… he excels. This game won’t be like a playoff game but, may put enough pressure on Cassel that he performs very, very well.
Another note on Cassel. In the Chargers game, he was reading the progression of all of his receivers, which is something I have never seen him do before. Announcer Ron Jaworski pointed that out, and it is a sign of hope for the Chiefs offense. Besides his inconsistent accuracy, this has been my major beef with Cassel, and if he is developing the ability to check down though all of his receivers, then the ceiling for the Chiefs offense skyrockets dramatically.
The game with the Jets is the swing game for the Chiefs. I believe they can win it but, if they don’t I don’t see a way for them to win three out of five in this beastly stretch.
The big reason for that is… although the Chiefs return home the next week… they host the World Champion Green Bay Packers. The Pack is definitely back and playing better this season than last year, are currently 7-0 and the only undefeated team in the NFL.
The Chiefs could learn a lot from the Packers in this game. The best teams in the league are built the way the Packers are built. They have a plethora of excellent receivers and a QB who is next to none. The team has been built with great scouting and spot-on drafting.
The passing skills of Aaron Rogers and the flood of great players the Packers can send into the defensive backfield will be far too much for the youthful Chiefs at this stage in their development.
Even though the Chiefs will most likely lose the last of these challenging five game, I believe they can beat back the beast. The Steelers, the Bears and the Jets are their best bets for victory but, I also think the Patriots can be taken.
Assuming the Chiefs win the next two… if the Chiefs win three out of five from the beasts, they would then be 9-5 with only two games to go and that should put them in the driver’s seat in the division.
Anyone think they can conquer four?