Tough schedule only on paper for now

The 2014 schedule projects as a daunting task for the Chiefs, leading to some anxiety among fans in recent days while the march to Super Bowl XLVIII continues.

Indeed, the indisputable fact surrounds the Chiefs squaring off against the current final four playoff teams.

Nov 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; The Denver Broncos line up against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; The Denver Broncos line up against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

But there’s always more below the surface when it comes to the NFL, a league forever bearing history lessons making everything not as it seems.

While the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers remain alive for a Super Bowl berth, there are teams from 2012 unable to repeat a postseason run.

Start with the biggest example in Baltimore, where the Ravens finished at 8-8 and failed to defend last year’s Super Bowl championship.

The Atlanta Falcons, who tied the Broncos in 2012 for the league’s best record at 13-3, experienced a 2013 collapse to finish at 4-12.

If more lessons are required, go to Houston where the Texans, a preseason darling pick to make a push for a championship, started 2-0 before a historic disintegration. Houston became the first team in NFL history to start 2-0, and then lose 14 straight games.

There’s more.

The Washington Redskins finished 3-13 after winning the NFC East in 2012 at 10-6, and then there’s the Minnesota Vikings, who went 5-10-1 after a gaining a playoff berth in 2012 with a 10-6 record.

Of course, the Patriots, Broncos, 49ers, Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers returned to the postseason in 2013.

But since the league adopted the 12-team playoff format in 1990, at least four teams not in the playoffs the prior season qualified for the postseason.

The 2013 campaign produced five: Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.

In a league where parity is a driving force, the dog-fight divisions in recent years flipped back and forth between the NFC East, NFC South, NFC North and AFC North to the current emergence of the NFC West and AFC West.

And with parity in mind, teams have an annual opportunity to improve through the NFL Draft or free agency.

[Related: Positions to address during offseason]

For situations where leadership requires an upgrade, a new general manager and coaching staff can inject life to a franchise.

The Chiefs, who finished 11-5 after going 2-14 in 2012, are a prime illustration.

Meanwhile, a common theme during daily pressers and in the locker room this past season from Chiefs coach Andy Reid and the players surrounded respecting the opponent.

That’s the philosophy to adopt in January.

No doubt the upcoming opponents are tough on paper, especially the swing through the NFC West.

However, the constant turnaround across the NFL on any given year could ultimately prove things aren’t always how they appear.

So before pressing panic buttons ahead of potential roster upgrades through free agency and the NFL Draft, take a moment to reflect on the 2013 season.

Now offer a show of hands from those who saw the Chiefs finishing 11-5 and making the playoffs.

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Chiefs 2014 opponents*

Home games: Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks.

Away games: Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

*Dates and times of games scheduled for release in the spring.

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