Chiefs calendar: “Houston… we have a Houston!”

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It seemed to set the tone for the whole season announcing to the world, “Anyone can beat us.” It put the team behind the Magic 8 ball for the rest of the year and that particular loss was likely the primary reason the Chiefs didn’t make the playoffs following the 2014 season.

That’s what happens when you lose your first game of the season. That’s what happens when you lose your first game of the season to a team like the woefully lowly Tennessee Titans.

When you think back on the 2014 NFL schedule for the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s hard to think of any other game that had as big an effect on the outcome of their season as that opening home game at Arrowhead did. Especially after the previous season’s heartbreaking playoff  loss to the Indianapolis Colts, not to mention finishing 2-5, after beginning 9-0.

Last September, the Chiefs faced a looming question that hung like a banner trailing a prop plane over Arrowhead suspended across the football stratosphere, “Is this team more like the 2-5 uglies from the end of 2013, or is this team more like the perfect 9-0 bunch who once threatened the Dolphins’ unblemished record of 1972?” Now, no one actually thought the Chiefs were going to stay perfect but when you begin one season 9-0… and then lose the first game of the next season by the score of 10-26 to the Tennessee “Heavens to Murgatroid” Titans, it begs the question, “Was this loss mental?” Because, as we know, Andy Reid is good when he has extra time to prepare for an opponent.

Now, in year three of the Andy Reid and John Dorsey dispensation, you have to wonder, who’s going to show up on day one of the 2015 season when the Chiefs travel south into the heat to visit the Houston Texans?

It’s not really that rare when a game in the NFL comes down to the efforts of a single individual. Andy Reid preaches to his players on a regular basis that any given game can turn with just a few plays. What seems clear this year is that to win the first game of this coming season, the Chiefs must send a message to the Texans early on, and that message is: Houston, we have a Houston.

In other words, the Chiefs need Justin Houston to be on the field and contributing at full force that day.

If the Kansas City Chiefs either don’t have Justin Houston ready to play for game one or don’t have Justin Houston signed to a contract, the fate of the entire 2015 season may be in question.

Prior to game one, the Chiefs need to make it known, loud and clear that, “Houston, we have a Houston of our own and he’s coming after your quarterback.”

Knowing what we know thus far about second year OLB Dee Ford, should we anticipate the same pressure or outcome as we would get from Justin Houston who nearly shattered the all time NFL single-season sack record in 2014? Not nearly. Besides, it took Justin four years to develop into the player he is now. While we have an idea of Houston’s ceiling, Ford’s is nowhere in sight because we don’t know enough about him yet.

Game one of the 2015 season is not as much needed in the win-loss column — although this one game may be the determining factor for getting into the playoffs again this season — as it is to the long-term effects it would have on team morale in 2015 and beyond.

Even though the Chiefs signed 31-year-old Ben Grubbs this offseason, they are still a young team. Young enough to need to be inoculated from the nullifying notion that, “We can lose.”

A loss to the Houston Texans in the first game, puts the second game of the season (the home opener against the Denver Broncos) in an entirely different light. A loss would mean the Chiefs young guns come back to K.C. with their tails between their legs then have to face an old nemesis. Instead of focusing on the positives of a victory, they’ll be stuck looking at what must be fixed in order to avoid an 0-2 start.

When addressing the “potentials” of the Chiefs’ current group of players, and considering last year’s early loss to the Titans, you can not merely set aside the victories over the previous two Super Bowl participants during last season and say those victories were meaningless. The axiom “Any given Sunday” cuts both ways. If the Chiefs could lose on any given Sunday, the victories over the last two Super Bowl champions offers the range of possibilities that includes a Super Bowl victory for the Chiefs following the 2015 season. Ipso facto, it just does. So, when you hear Ben Grubbs talk about winning the Super Bowl this season, you should listen. It’s a possibility.

Possible? Yes. Probable? No. However, clearly the potential is there.

What would have the greatest effect on the outcome moving toward that potential? High on the list must be a victory in game one of the 2015 season in Houston. We can see what that first loss did to 2014. A victory will be compelling…and propelling.

That’s why fans should be clamoring for the Chiefs to get Justin Houston signed and locked up for the long term.

Every time Justin Houston made a sack in 2014 then proceeded to lift his jersey to reveal the #29 scrawled on his undershirt, he did more to affect team solidarity than sacking the quarterback. I understand that one is not possible without the other, but drawing teammates and fans together for a unifying concern, for a concern that transcends his own sport, for a concern that is the life of Eric Berry, this is what makes Justin Houston’s presence more critical than any of the other Chiefs players right now.