Last year the only thing that we could cling to when looking forward to the season was that the Chiefs had one of the easiest(or the easiest if you read Football Outsider's Almanac) schedules in the league. It was the one thing that seemed to have bounced our way heading in to the season.
Now a year later we're looking at the same thing that gave us hope to ride to the playoffs and using it as a reason to write off our chances at a winning record.
Believe it or not the season is not laid out in front of you before it starts. The entire scope of a season can change in a day. All of the sudden a Colts team that has been on top of their division for a decade looks like a 3 win team. Tom Brady can go down for the season in the first quarter of the first game. A long snapper can go down and cripple the Steelers for half of a season. A well timed DUI can change a matchup entirely.
So while on paper the Chiefs seem to have a brutal schedule there's absolutely no way of knowing how it can end up. We play our toughest competitor for the division twice in the first half of the season, where they have been awful since Norv Turner took over. The game at Qualcomm being in month that hasn't been too kind to the Chargers known as September. Then they have to come back to Arrowhead just 5 weeks later in time for the weather to turn.
Looking at the stretch that everyone refers to in November and December I'm left with no gloom and doom thoughts. It's not the NFC West or anything, but if take a nose dive in these games it's not going to be because the deck was stacked against us. It's going to be because we fell apart.
@NE is a game you can easily write off as a loss because they're just historically a better team. But this isn't the 18-1 Patriots that we're talking about. This is a whole bunch of new faces and guys who are plugging holes. Albert Haynesworth is a scary name, but he's essentially been out of football for a year and a half now. Their secondary is weak as well as their pass-rush. Belicheck still probably gets the most out of his team of anyone in football, but this isn't an unbeatable team if we've improved in the last two years as much as we should have.
Pittsburgh at home is one that I think all of us should be looking to win. Considering the last time we played the Steelers might have been the game that turned around the mentality of the entire team. We finished that quarter of the season .500 and carried the momentum over to the next year. Andy Studebaker could have another breakout game, who knows?
@Chicago isn't even a game I'm going to consider a tough one. It's just a coin flip. 50% chance that Cutler makes it that far in to this season with his O-line. 50% chance that if he does make it he won't throw 3+ Ints. And 50% chance that the Bear's STs doesn't rip us a new one.
@NYJ A team with elite swagger. They've built like us except everything is magnified because they're in a major market. A dangerous team but I wouldn't consider them a dominant team. Their defense can take over the game, but they have a pedestrian offense. Their running game is good, but their passing game took a lot of hits this year and late in the season I don't see it getting any better.
Green Bay at home. Super Bowl hangover? They're a young team with an elite QB and a big defense. They won the Super Bowl with half their team on IR it seemed like. But a lot of things still have to go right and if we're the team that we think that we are we will be able to compete. Much like playing the Chargers the key is to use your running game to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodger's hands as long as possible and don't let him get in to a rhythm with his receivers. Is that something we're capable of? Absolutely. Could Tamba Hali and our elite secondary cause them all sorts of problems? Tamba does seem to step up against better competition.
I'm not expecting us to go 5-0 during this stretch. I'm not saying that other teams are the only ones who can have injuries and perform at a level not up to expectations. But I'm also not ready to give my team a built in excuse for not winning the division. Week 5 @Indy seemed like a surefire loss a few weeks ago. Now everyone is penciling it in as a win. The ball hasn't even been snapped yet.