On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs face an important game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It is a solid chance to right the ship after some early frustrations. It’s a good opportunity to get back some championship swagger.
What it is not, however, is a “must-win” game.
It’s understandable that such extreme terms have been used to describe the Chiefs vs. Eagles in Week 4. It’s par for the course in anything related to sports—or really any other conversations we have these days.
We tend to listen to talking heads on ESPN or other sports channels relate to us the over-importance of things every week. Each draft pick is either a bust or a boom. Each player is valuable or sucks completely. There’s very little room for nuance or reasoned perspective, and there’s zero patience at nearly every level of the game—from owners to fans. Just take a look at the demands on rookie quarterbacks in the NFL as a prime example.
The Chiefs’ game in Week 4 is important, but it’s not a “must-win” game.
Here’s the truth: the language we use is important, whether we really take time to believe it (or appreciate it) or not. It leads us to lose perspective when it really matters and to overreact to plays or players.
Let’s take a guy like safety Daniel Sorensen as a great example. Many Chiefs fans would love to see Sorensen tossed aside like some preseason roster cut who can be easily replaced. In references to him, he’s described in slanderous terms that undermine the fact that he’s made some of the team’s most clutch plays of the last decade—let alone that he’s put together a trusted eight-year career after latching on as an undrafted free agent.
Back to this game: the Chiefs are playing an important game, to be sure, and it’s one that everyone in Chiefs Kingdom would love to see them win. The last two weeks have been brutal watching a talented team turn on itself to allow opposing teams to eke out a win. These are teams the Chiefs should be beating, especially as fellow AFC contenders, and now the Chiefs have lost advantages down the stretch against both the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers.
But that’s all that has been lost. The Chiefs still have 14 games left this season, and one of them in the season’s first quarter is not going to make or break a thing. Even if the Chiefs were sitting winless at this point, there’s just no such thing as a must-win game this early in the season. For a game to be a “must-win” game by definition, the Chiefs’ season would have to be over with a loss. And at this point, the Chiefs are far from any such scenario.
We all hope the Chiefs will win on Sunday, of course, but nothing is going to “lost” either way for the Chiefs because this is not a must-win game. This is a long season ahead with plenty more experiences—good and bad—to come. Only down the stretch of the regular season will we see the sort of games defined this way, games that will make us feel even more nervous than we do now.