When the National Football League first unveiled the regular season schedule for 2021, the Eagles looked like the sort of game that might catch the Chiefs on an off night, an overlooked opponent situated between serious contenders for the Super Bowl. The front five was the “gauntlet” through which the Chiefs had to endure to begin the year, and the Eagles were the one moment they could relax—at least it seemed at the time—before mounting up again for another great contest.
To be fair to their opponents so far, the Chiefs have endured a gauntlet. The Cleveland Browns were a notable opponent to begin the year, and the Chiefs were fortunate to escape Arrowhead with a win. The Baltimore Ravens proved to be much tougher than anyone thought given the number of injuries they’d suffered, but back when the schedule was unveiled, the Ravens were always marked down as a tough out.
The Eagles game was supposed to be an overlooked one, but now it’s very important for the Chiefs.
Even the AFC West opener against the Los Angeles Chargers was expected to be a very competitive game given Justin Herbert’s obvious talents, a loaded roster, and the grit with which the Bolts always play against the Chiefs.
However, what no one saw coming for K.C. was consecutive losses within the first three games. No one saw a porous defense or a turnover-prone offense. No one saw teams rising up to meet K.C. with the sort of punch that could match the one provided by Andy Reid’s own team. The Chiefs are 1-2. They could easily be 0-3. (Then again, they could also be 3-0 which makes the whole thing a total mystery.)
No matter how they’re playing, the reality is that they’re already in the AFC West basement, sitting two games behind their rivals for the divisional lead. The Ravens already own an edge for any sort of playoff positioning, and a game looms against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.
That means that the Chiefs are 1-2 facing an Eagles team that was supposed to be the potential trap game, the overlooked opponent among several giants, and instead realizing that it’s a very important contest. This game against Philadelphia is more of a must-win, if there is such a thing in the season’s first quarter, than anyone could have previously pictured.
The Chiefs are saying all the right things about “lessons learned” and “backs against the wall” and “getting things right”, but the same things were said in press conferences following the Baltimore loss and then they turned it over four times at home to a rival. The only thing that’s going to matter at this point is proving that they can grow, that they can adapt, that they have the capability to come together and get better.
On Sunday, they have a chance to do that against a team that’s gone from a “sure thing” to a “need this”, a trap game to one deserving every bit of focus and preparation. The Chiefs need a win at Philadelphia and they need it pretty badly. That’s just not something anyone saw coming before the season.