You can tell we're getting to regular season territory. Any injuries at this point become major concerns. Coaching moves become legitimately questioned at this stage. Fantasy gems are mined for and updates are highly sought after. And the Chiefs are aiming for a meaningless win because it's, well, actually meaningful.
Tonight's contest pitting the Chiefs against the St. Louis Rams represents a chance to move slightly forward as a team for both clubs and head into the regular season head held high(er). Both franchises could use a boost of confidence heading into week one. Both teams could use some players stepping forward to claim the open roster spots with excellent play and can-do attitude. Both teams could use an energized fan base to claim a "win" over something - even the Governor's Cup.
For the Chiefs specifically, there are a few things that should be labeled "must" happen:
1. The Chiefs Must Win - Pure and simple, the Chiefs must win. Yes, it's meaningless. Yes, the Lions went 4-0 last year in preseason play and look where it got them. Yes, it's all wiped back to 0-0 the following week. And yes, every team could say they "must" win for various reasons. But being a Chiefs fan writing for a Chiefs site, I have an eerie feeling that we really need this one.
This is a franchise that must taste victory at least a couple times early in the season to keep morale up. This is a franchise whose fan base could use a reason to pay attention to the next 16 games. This is a group of young players who need to believe in the new system being put in place - even if there are growing pains.
The thing is, a coach and his staff can only do so much. There's a level of courage, a boost of chemistry and a shot of adrenaline that can only be provided by the wins and losses column. And the St. Louis game - as meaningless as it can be - can provide just that.
2. Coach Haley Must Prove His Acumen - A first time, first year head coach decides to bite off seemingly more than he can chew. Few teams operate this way even with very proven head coaches with stronger offensive resumes that Haley. So for fans and, more importantly, the team to fully buy into this All-Things-Haley level of coaching, Haley must deliver some tangible results on the offensive side of the ball while also paying attention to the rest of the team. If there's a perceived lack of detail, adjustments and game-planning on defense and special teams, you'd better believe it's back to the drawing board to some degree.
3. Signs of Life Must Emerge - This is as vague as it gets, and I realize that. But it still stands as true that on Friday morning, we should all be talking with a sense of hopefulness concerning at least some of the holes still showing on our current roster - we simply cannot enter the regular season with as many question marks as we currently have. So at least one of these has to get better - our offensive line has to gel, our receivers must step up, our back-up quarterback situation must be resolved, our front seven has to get pressure, our special teams has to create plays, our kicking game has to be consistent.
It's realistic to believe that some of these holes will still be there even after 16 games played and that we'll need next year's offseason to fill them. But for now, it's simply inexcusable for a professional football team to look so disconcerting at seemingly every position on the field.