Probably one of the most cliché questions media members ask players during the offseason is, “Which game have you circled on your calendar?” And players respond with, “None at all, it’s a 16-game season and each game is just as important as the other.”
Whenever I hear these words come out players’ mouths, I roll my eyes and think to myself, “somebody paid attention in Dealing with the Media 101.” After all, aren’t NFL players human (save for Jamaal Charles)? Humans tend to hold grudges, use doubters as motivation (well most of them), or seek redemption. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at which games members of the Kansas City Chiefs should have circled on their calendars.
Justin Houston – Week 1 @ Houston Texans
While Week 1 always comes with a little extra gravitas, we begin with what many sports outlets have dubbed the $200,000,000 game! Okay, maybe it’s just me calling it that, but this is a game our newly-minted $101,000,000 man will have a little extra motivation for. His reason?
Proving that he is on the same level as his counterpart on the Texans, J.J. Watt. Without even one down of football having been played, critics are already tweeting, “No way is Houston worth more than J.J.!!” Well according to Pro Football Focus, Houston’s pass-rush productivity, 85 pressures in 444 pass-rush snaps, was higher than J.J.’s, 119 pressures in 632 pass-rush snaps. Not to mention that those 85 pressures were the second most by a 3-4 OLB since PFF started tracking the stat back in 2007!
Few things motivate NFL players more than people questioning whether or not he’s the alpha dog at his position. Look for Houston to knock the Texans’ top-five ranked offensive line from last year down a few notches with multiple sacks, blown up runs and a batted ball or two just to hammer the point home.
Eric Fisher & Co. – Week 7 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
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Who remembers what you were doing on December 21st last year? I’m going to take a wild guess: you, like me, were watching our offensive line give up six sacks, our offense repeatedly stalling in the red zone, and, oh yeah, ALEX SMITH’S SPLEEN GET LACERATED! We all witnessed the struggle of the Chiefs’ line last season, but that Steelers game in particular really stung.
Giving up six sacks to a team that only had 33 the entire season (good for 26th in the league), including 1.5 sacks to Old Man Harrison, is a game that Fisher and the rest of the group should be dying to get redemption for. For the sake of Smith’s remaining internal organs, I hope Fisher & Co. come out fired up for this game.
Andy Reid & Alex Smith – Week 16 vs. Cleveland Browns
I’ll admit it, I’m going to miss Dwayne Bowe and his quotable quotes. What I will not miss, however, is watching the Chiefs top receiver struggle to produce 1,000 yards or even a single TD. Oh what’s that you say Dwayne, you were never given a shot and the offense wasn’t designed to make the best use of you?
Whether or not that’s true is talk for another post. What I can tell you is that as soon as those words made their rounds in the media, Andy and Alex looked at each other, and proceeded to put a giant circle around Dwayne’s return to Arrowhead. You can bet that week’s gameplan will heavily feature Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, and Jason Avant, especially in the red zone. I’m just going to go ahead and pencil-in a WR touchdown here (never too early for some fantasy advice).
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Entire Kansas City Chiefs Organization – Week 2 vs. Denver Broncos (Thursday Night Football)
Arrowhead, primetime, reigning division champions – does it get any better? I know having a divisional game on this list is kind of cheating (give me a break, it’s my first post), but this feels like a game that will set the tone for the rest of the 2015 season.
Shrewd offseason moves, such as the addition of Maclin and restructuring Tamba’s deal have put the Chiefs back in position to retake control of the division. This is their litmus test. Week 2 is the time to prove the 2015 Chiefs are for real. From Mr. Hunt to Cairo Santos, I know every single person in the Chiefs organization put a giant red circle around this game the minute they saw the schedule.
Chiefs Fans – Week 12 vs. Buffalo Bills
Why do Chiefs fans everywhere have this game circled? Two words – Matt Cassel. While I appreciate the guts Matt showed during his time as a Chief, like playing a week after his appendix was removed and . . . yeah, that’s about it; I still hold resentment for the hope and optimism he gave me when he was acquired. The plethora of untimely interceptions, sailed passes, and hat misses (1 is too many, Matt) still haunts me.
My hopes for this game: a Sean Smith interception, Alex Smith throwing for 300+ yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and most of all – a Dontari Poe sack. Seeing that monster crush Cassel into oblivion would go a long way to helping erase some of those painful memories.