Let's get this out of the way: This season, the Kansas City Chiefs went 1-6 against teams with winning records, including the postseason.
Their only win in those contests came in Week 3 against a Philadelphia Eagles team which had not found itself yet. Outside of that, the Chiefs lost twice to the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers each. Clearly, a schedule next year involving the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and the AFC West spells doom, right?
Well, let's take a closer look. Kansas City fell inches short in four of those six aforementioned losses, including one game when only backups played, another without Tamba Hali, three without Justin Houston, and a playoff game where God showed he is certainly not a Chiefs fan.
All that said, there are no excuses. Kansas City lost those games because it deserved to. I wrote a column a few months ago saying luck doesn't exist in the NFL, and I stand by it. Great teams don't make excuses about injuries, they carry on. The Seahawks are without Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, and they keep winning. Ditto with Von Miller, Ryan Clady and the Broncos. In this respect, the Chiefs have a long way to go when it comes to mentality and depth.
Now, the 2014 schedule. Once again, here's the home and away breakdown:
HOME: Denver, San Diego, Oakland, New England, New York Jets, Tennessee, St. Louis, Seattle
AWAY: Denver, San Diego, Oakland, Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco
Alright, looking at that slate many are probably thinking "We went 11-5 against a weaker schedule, so we're lucky to go 8-8 here." I say nonsense.
The Chiefs competition is going to ramp up barring major injuries to their opponents or unexpected regression, but here's the key everyone forgets: Kansas City figures to be better, too.
General manager John Dorsey did a wonderful job of bringing in a very capable quarterback in Alex Smith and some excellent finds in free agency (Mike DeVito, Akeem Jordan, Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper, Sean McGrath, etc.). Now with both coach Andy Reid and Dorsey in the second year of this program, things should be streamlined.
Unlike the former pairing of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, these guys seem to genuinely like each other. Out of that mutual feeling comes a bond and from that, a trust. Trust is a powerful word and goes a long way. I expect this draft class to be strong, the offseason program to be even more fruitful, and the players to have a stronger camp knowing what is expected of them.
Look at how good the offense was the second half of the season. You could literally see the lightbulb go off above Smith's helmet around that first San Diego game. Clearly, everything changed for the offense that day. Defensively, this team has the tools for the most part, but have two glaring issues: Free safety and defensive coordinator.
One will be addressed, one won't. Let's hope Bob Sutton doesn't kill this team. In my eyes, it's the only way (other than injuries) this team doesn't return to the playoffs.
For next season, the biggest goal has to be playing better in the division. Kansas City needs a minimum record of 4-2 within the AFC West. I don't care how, but the Chiefs need at least four wins out of those contests.
We then move to the AFC East. Kansas City has to take care of business against lesser teams, meaning a win against the Jets. Out of the other three opponents, beat two of them. Buffalo and Miami aren't easy road games, but nobody would favor either the Bills or Dolphins against the Chiefs.
New England is clearly the top dog of the division, but the Patriots come to Arrowhead. A tough game for sure, but eminently winnable.The goal here should be 3-1.
The NFC West is the best division in football and will be a serious challenge. Let's start with beating who you should. Kansas City should beat the Rams at home, plain and simple. Of the other three, it's not going to be easy. The Chiefs could beat Arizona and has a chance against Seattle at home, but neither will be anything but a dogfight.
Tennessee in Arrowhead must be a victory. The Chiefs are a better team. Pittsburgh on the road is tough to figure. The Steelers could be a very good team on the rebound or an old team falling apart.
Ultimately, I can see the Chiefs 10-6 or 11-5 again, rolling toward a playoff berth.
Of course, personnel for all 32 teams will change very much before September, but I just wanted to write this for those getting ready to draft in the top 10 next year.
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