Salvaging the Kansas City Chiefs season

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts -Joel

Sunday’s loss was brutal. There’s no denying that. I was one of the lucky ones- residing in Iowa, I was able to switch to the considerably more exciting Bills/Bears game midway through the third quarter. When Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito went down with the same injury, I was already sick to my stomach. I still had some hope that the Chiefs could mount a second-half rally, but those quickly evaporated. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the thrilling overtime contest happening in Chicago, because football isn’t any fun if your team is getting blown out.

That’s not how Week 1 was supposed to go.

We needed a win, certainly, to breathe life into our playoff hopes to start the season. Without that first win, the pre-bye week schedule looks incredibly intimidating. They could go into the off week 0-5. That’s not what I expect will happen, but it’s certainly possible. Our playoff chances took a huge hit this week, even though it’s Week 1. But because it’s Week 1, there’s still plenty of hope left. The Chiefs can salvage this season. It’s not unreasonable to think they could still mount a charge into the playoffs. In fact, there’s a model of how to complete that very process sitting right across the parking lot.

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On July 21st, the Kansas City Royals lost to the Chicago White Sox by a score of 3-1. It was a thoroughly uninspiring loss. The White Sox scored twice in the bottom of the first and the Royals never really came close to tying the game. 98 games into the season, the Royals were two games below .500, and eight games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Their odds of making the playoffs dropped to a season-low 7%. Royals fans, as Royals fans are wont to do, grew restless. Here are some quotes from that day’s gamethread on Royals Review:




Eventually, the frustration culminated in this:


And all hope was lost.

Today, somehow, inexplicably, the Royals are in first place. Since that loss to the White Sox, the Royals have the best record in baseball. On Sunday, as the Chiefs sputtered to a defeat, the Royals’ odds of making the postseason climbed to 74%. They’re in good position to make their first postseason appearance since 1985. This, despite falling eight behind the Tigers less than two months ago. This, despite being entrenched in last place and four under .500 in June, over a third of the season in their rearview mirrors.

And you want to give up on the Chiefs after one game.

* * *

The Chiefs and Royals are not at all the same team, but we can see some similarities between them that can give us hope that maybe, just maybe, the Chiefs’ season is still salvageable.

The injuries. I don’t want to talk about Derrick Johnson anymore. I still can’t think about his injury without having to go look at some puppy photos shortly thereafter. It’s simply a devastating injury for the Chiefs to arguably their best defensive player.

The Royals have not lost their best player to injury. They’ve stayed relatively healthy this season. They did, however, lose Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer for a considerable amount of time. Hosmer wasn’t performing well, but his replacement, Billy Butler, was doing even worse in his role of designated hitter (the guy whose sole purpose it is to hit- and Butler wasn’t hitting).

Once Butler took the field, however, he started to turn things around. Hosmer’s injury also forced GM Dayton Moore into the acquisition of Josh Willingham, who has provided a needed boost to the batting order. Nobody wanted Hosmer to get injured, but it actually turned out OK for the Royals.

Now, before you read too far into that, I’m not suggesting that Derrick Johnson’s injury will have a positive end result for the Chiefs. Because it won’t. Nobody can replace Derrick Johnson’s value to that defense. But there’s nothing that says his replacement can’t perform above league-average and alleviate some of that loss, whether it’s one of the plethora of linebackers named Johnson on this team or an outside acquisition. The same can certainly be said for Mike DeVito. Would we be better off with the two of them in the starting lineup? Absolutely, without question. But their loss might not be as big as we expect.

The competition. One of the main reasons the Royals have such a good chance to make the playoffs is because their competition is simply mediocre. There are a few good teams in the American League (Los Angeles, Oakland, Baltimore, Detroit- and Kansas City), and a bunch of average ones hovering around .500. In some years, a 90-win season will still leave you several games out of the playoffs. This year? There could be as many as three playoff teams (out of five) that don’t reach the 90-win mark. This means the Royals have to do less than other years to make the playoffs.

The competition in the AFC is similarly mediocre. Going into the season, here is the list of AFC teams unquestionably better than the Chiefs:

That’s it. Just three teams. It’s not unreasonable to think the Chiefs could still beat any other "contending" team in the AFC- that’s the Chargers, the Dolphins, the entire AFC North, the Texans, and, yes, the Titans. Would the Chiefs necessarily win every game against these teams? Certainly not. In most cases, they’re not even likely to win those games. But they still have the potential do so, despite how terrible they looked on Sunday against Tennessee. If they were in the NFC, the Chiefs would probably be done. Not so in the AFC.

Tennessee’s Week 1 opponent last year, the Steelers, looked similarly dead in the water after that game. Had Ryan Succop made that field goal against the Chargers (or had the refs actually made the right call), the Steelers would have gone to the playoffs at 8-8. Not much has changed in the AFC this year- the Chiefs could make a similar run.

The schedule. The Royals had a tough first-half schedule, causing them to fall behind early and stay behind for a good amount of the season. But now, as they approach the home stretch of their season, the Royals have the majority of their games against sub-.500 teams, with only a few remaining against a legitimate contender, the Tigers. The easy schedule has been a metaphorical ladder for them to climb back into the race- and into playoff position.

Every part of the Chiefs’ schedule is tough. But the toughest is at the beginning. Before the bye, the Chiefs go on the road to Denver and San Francisco, and host the Patriots. In the 11 games after the bye, only two- home against Seattle and Denver- seem truly unwinnable. Like the Royals, the Chiefs will fall into an early hole, but there will be an opportunity for the Chiefs to leverage a somewhat easier late schedule into enough wins to contend for the playoffs.

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70% of you have written off the Chiefs after one week. One week! I doubt even 70% of you wrote off the Chiefs after the 40-24 loss in 2012’s Week 1. This team is nowhere close to as bad as the 2012 Chiefs. It’s absurd to suggest that they might only win two games again this year. This is not a team that’s going to tank for the #1 pick, no matter how much you might want it to happen. There’s even a plausible path for them to get into the playoffs despite starting 1-5:

Week 2 @ Denver: Loss (0-2)

Week 3 @ Miami: Win (1-2)

Week 4 vs. New England: Loss (1-3)

Week 5 @ San Francisco: Loss (1-4)

Week 7 @ San Diego: Loss (1-5)

Week 8 vs. St. Louis: Win (2-5)

Week 9 vs. NY Jets: Win (3-5)

Week 10 @ Buffalo: Win (4-5)

Week 11 vs. Seattle: Loss (4-6)

Week 12 @ Oakland: Win (5-6)

Week 13 vs. Denver: Loss (5-7)

Week 14 @ Arizona: Win (6-7)

Week 15 vs. Oakland: Win (7-7)

Week 16 @ Pittsburgh: Win (8-7)

Week 17 vs. San Diego: Win (9-7)

9-7 could be enough to make the playoffs. And I think the Chiefs could even win some of those games I marked as losses (vs. New Engalnd, and at San Diego) to make up for the inevitable bad losses they’ll suffer (probably against the Bills again).

Now the big question: Will the Chiefs make the playoffs? Probably not. The odds are not great. But can they make the playoffs? I’d like to think yes. Stranger things have happened. If the Royals- the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball’s symbol of mediocrity for 29 years- can charge from 7% playoff odds in July to odds over 80% the very next month, then, yes- the Chiefs can rebound from a tough loss in one game and have a successful season.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.