Reactions to the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2014 regular-season schedule, which was released Wednesday evening, appear to range from pure elation to forecasted doom.
Excitement? Definitely when seeing the Chiefs face five playoff teams from 2013, including the final four conference championship participants and eventual Super Bowl champion.
Potential roadblocks? The Chiefs face three of those teams within the first five weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty to analyze in the coming months when it comes to the 2014 opponents.
And doing so must take into consideration the NFL Draft and training camp battles still to be fought around the league.
But for now, here are initial reactions from ChiefsSpin.com publisher Herbie Teope, associate editor Matt Derrick and contributing writer Desmond Bailey.
• First thoughts on schedule
Bailey: When l initially glanced over this year’s schedule, I kept thinking the Chiefs received no favors compared to their 2013 campaign. Last year, they had an early five-game stretch in Weeks 4-8 where they played four of those five games at Arrowhead. Three of those came in consecutive weeks (6-8).
Not going to happen this year. Not even close. In fact, when you look at the early Weeks 2-7 stretch, you’ll note the opposite as four of those five games are on the road. Only one (Miami Dolphins) of the four road opponents failed to make the playoffs last year and even that was by a hair.
The 2014 schedule as whole lacks a string of home games that would allow the Chiefs to build any momentum towards a playoff run. If they do make it to the postseason, they will enter it a more hardened and battle-tested unit than last year.
Derrick: Completely the opposite of the 2013 schedule. Last year’s schedule was built to win early and start momentum before running through the gauntlet at the end, and that’s what the Chiefs did.
This year, the Chiefs could very well play six potential playoff teams in the first seven games. Denver and Seattle are the biggest challenges in the second half of the season, and both games are at home. Four of the first six games are on the road against teams with winning records last season.
A 2-4 start or worse wouldn’t be a surprise, but if the Chiefs can start .500 or better, they will be in great shape for a second half run. The Chiefs have games against teams in last year’s AFC and NFC title games, and it’s unlikely any of those four teams will suffer major declines this season.
Teope: The Chiefs’ 2014 opponents were known well in advance, so it’s nice to see the entire picture and three nationally televised games. Of course, the schedule is tough when using last season’s records as a determining factor. But it’s entirely too early to dissect each and every game without the benefit of organized team activities (OTAs), minicamps and training camps.
Questions: Did anybody see the Atlanta Falcons finishing 4-12 last season after going 13-3 the year before? What about the Chiefs starting 9-0, the Carolina Panthers finishing 12-4 and winning the NFC South or the insanity of the NFC East?
What is thought to be known during the offseason more often isn’t what happens once the season begins.
Meanwhile, the schedule release has become an overblown sideshow worse than the NFL Draft. It’s bad enough Hollywood gave the world “Draft Day,” a movie endorsed by the league, but an announcement of the announcement of the schedule release is ludicrous. Toss in leaks well in advance of the release and networks broadcasting the schedule, and NFL fans are treated to a three-ring circus.
• Pick the statement game
Bailey: For me, it’s the Week 2 matchup against Denver, as it will define the Chiefs for at the very least the first half of the season. It’s on the road and they’ll be facing quarterback Peyton Manning, whom they’ve yet to defeat since he’s been the Broncos’ lead man.
Also, Chiefs fans will want to know just how much better does their team stack up against the reigning AFC Champions, especially defensively against Denver’s offense.
Derrick: We should know where this team is going during the Week 2 matchup against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. If the defense can slow down the Broncos, it will go a long way toward indicating if the Chiefs fixed the defensive letdowns that were prevalent in last year’s 2-5 finish in the regular season and playoffs.
Teope: Clearly the Denver Broncos game in Week 2 is huge and warrants strong consideration, but Week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers before the bye week could prove critical.
On paper alone, the opening stretch is brutal facing the Broncos, 49ers and New England Patriots. Those three teams were a combined 37-11 in 2013 and the Chiefs may need to enter the bye on a high note.
There’s no better way to achieve that than to secure a win against an NFC power that made the playoffs three straight seasons and the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
• What game intrigues the most?
Bailey: I’m most looking forward to the Week 5 confrontation with the San Francisco 49ers. I love the subplot of the Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick duel, and then there’s the overall speed and physicality of the 49ers defensive front seven. That unit will be a great barometer for a Chiefs offensive line that lost three starters this offseason and will again be a young unit developing chemistry as they go.
Above all, it’s a road game against a team that’s been a fixture in the playoffs the previous three seasons. So it’ll be a great test for the Chiefs as a whole.
Derrick: The last time Tom Brady and the Patriots came to town was 2005. Given that history, Monday Night Football in Week 4 might be the last time Chiefs fans get to see Brady at Arrowhead. If the Chiefs are a playoff team this year, it should be a great game, great atmosphere and a rare chance to see a future Hall of Famer in person.
Teope: The Chiefs play host to the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 11 where the Arrowhead Stadium noise advantage could be neutralized. Noise shouldn’t be a disadvantage to the Seattle Seahawks since the team is accustomed to playing in a loud venue. This matchup will absolutely be a fun game.
• Overall, what’s the best and worst game?
Bailey: The best game, and the one I’m most looking forward to is when the Chiefs welcome the Seahawks in Week 11. Andy Reid vs. Pete Carroll, running back Jamaal Charles & Co. against that Seattle defense; it gets no better. If the Chiefs win that one I think it’ll trigger a strong wave of momentum and confidence that would fuel them the rest of the way.
The worst game in terms of generating little to no excitement or anticipation is the Week 9 hosting of the New York Jets. The Jets have always been one of those teams I’ve had close to zero interest in watching no matter who’s on their roster or who they were playing.
Derrick: Best game is a toss-up between the road game at San Francisco in Week 5 and hosting Seattle in Week 11. Both games are very favorable matchups for the Chiefs. Like the Chiefs, both teams are defensively focused and don’t have the high-powered, pass-happy offenses that puzzled the Chiefs secondary last year. Winning one of these games isn’t just critical to making the playoffs but proving the Chiefs can win in the postseason.
As for worst game, the weakest home game on the schedule is the lackluster home opener. The Titans will be a different team than the Chiefs faced last year with no Chris Johnson and a roster in transition under new coach Ken Whishenhunt. The only thing interesting about the Titans will be the return of Dexter McCluster.
With the Broncos coming up in Week 2, the home opener could actually be a trap game for the Chiefs. This should be a clear victory, and anything less than that will stir up worry among Chiefs fans.
Teope: Week 13’s nationally televised game against the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium will be huge, so mark that on calendars as the best contest of the season. It will also go a long way in defining the season if the Chiefs are in middle of a playoff chase and for AFC West supremacy.
As for the worst game of the Chiefs, Week 10’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, always play the Chiefs tough and it would almost be better if this game came earlier in the year.
The 2014 season marks the seventh-straight season the teams square off. Last season, the Bills, led by third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel, gave the Chiefs all they could handle until cornerback Sean Smith’s 100-yard interception for a touchdown energized the Chiefs to a 23-13 win.
Since 2008, the Bills hold a 4-2 record against the Chiefs, including three blowout wins (35-17 in 2012, 41-7 in 2011 and 54-31 in 2008).
• Final record prediction
Bailey: Optimistically? 10-6. Realistically? 8-8. So much hinges on the defense and whether coordinator Bob Sutton is able to make the necessary in-game adjustments to prevent debacles similar to last season’s playoff loss in Indianapolis.
Another major concern is the offensive line. How soon can they gel and how well will they play? Lastly, can the Chiefs beat Manning and the Broncos? Like it or not, as it currently stands, they are the bar for the AFC West and arguably the conference.
Again, that Week 2 game is huge. How good can the Chiefs be this year? That question will be answered early
Derrick: 9-7. In some ways the most critical game of the season might be Week 3 at Miami. The Dolphins are an enigma; it’s hard to tell how good they will be this year. The game is sandwiched in between the Broncos and the Patriots, and the Chiefs have always seemed to have trouble in Miami.
The Chiefs have two wins in their last 12 games at Miami. Lose to the Dolphins and the Chiefs could be 1-4 going to the bye week without enough wins left in the end of the schedule to make the playoffs.
Teope: As previously stated, it’s too early to project a final record when the NFL Draft and OTAs haven’t started. Too much can and will happen with the Chiefs and opponents between now and the start of the regular season.
A cop-out? Perhaps, but don’t put too much stock in April because games aren’t won on paper during the offseason. The best time to make a prediction with the best information is after training camp and the third preseason game.