The 2019 NFL regular season is just days away now. After an offseason full of championship hopes and dreams, the 16-game schedule may feel like a speed bump to Chiefs fans on the road to Super Bowl 54.
Nothing is a guarantee in professional football. There will be triumphs — the team clicking and looking unstoppable. There will also be failures — a loss or two that make fans question whether or not the team is capable of surpassing the lofty expectations. The highs are great, but how the Chiefs respond to the low points will be a huge factor in their championship goal.
Each game will present a different type of opportunity for the team to prove they’re the contender we believe they are. I picked the five I’m most anticipating the most.
Chiefs vs. Ravens
The test of the run defense
Just like last season, the Chiefs open up with two games on the road. The Week 3 home opener will be a rematch from a classic Arrowhead game in 2018. The Baltimore Ravens came in and ran down the throats of the struggling Chiefs defense but couldn’t hold off quarterback Pat Mahomes in the fourth quarter. Kansas City pulled out the win in overtime.
The 2019 matchup will be the first big test for the Chiefs run defense. Baltimore embraces their run-heavy system — they led the league in carries and plays per drive in 2018. That ability to eat up game clock and limit the amount of drives Mahomes has is a good strategy for beating the Chiefs — if it can be executed.
The defense will have a chance to show their improvement in neutralizing the run game and forcing third downs. Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson is a dangerous weapon, but forcing him to win with his arm might give the Chiefs an advantage. Their performance will be a precursor to how the rest of the year goes — good or bad.
Chiefs vs. Packers
The gunslinger shootout
This Sunday Night Football contest has the potential to be the most exciting game of the 2019 season. In Week 8, the Green Bay Packers and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will come into Arrowhead for the Chiefs’ third primetime game of the year. Kansas City will be coming off of 10 days rest after the Thursday night game in Denver the week before.
The headline for this game is obvious: Aaron Rodgers vs. Pat Mahomes. Mahomes has heard the comparison to Rodgers since the day he was drafted. They share the unique skillset of incredible arm talent combined with above average mobility and athleticism. After some hiccups the past two seasons, Rodgers and the Packers should be back among the elite of the NFL again. I think everybody’s hoping this game turns out to be a classic back-and-forth battle between two elite gunslingers. The offense will have to win a shootout — something they have failed to accomplish in their past few opportunities.
Chiefs at Chargers
Maintaining dominance over the division
After a failed attempt to play in Mexico City last season, the NFL is sending the Chiefs back to Azteca Stadium to take on the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers. The Week 11 contest will most likely be between the two front runners in the AFC West — just as it’s been for the past two seasons. It will be the first time these two have met up since the Chargers stole a game from the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium after overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit last year.
This game will be the first of four divisional matchups in a six-game stretch for the Chiefs. They will need to prove their dominance of the AFC West once again if they want to reach their ultimate goal. The Chargers finished with an identical record to the Chiefs in 2018. If they do so again and split the two head-to-head games, the tiebreaker will come down to which team has a better record in games played within the division.
The Chiefs will need to be playing their best football down the stretch of the season. Conceding the division would put them on the road for the postseason — which would significantly hurt their chances at a championship.
Chiefs at Patriots
Securing the Arrowhead advantage
For the third regular season in a row, the Chiefs will have to travel to Foxboro and play the New England Patriots. This year’s battle will be in Week 14 and should have huge implications on playoff seeding and home-field advantage. Yes, the Chiefs couldn’t get it done at home in last year’s postseason contest, but it’s obviously still an easier route than playing at Gillette Stadium.
This will be Mahomes’ third crack at beating future hall of fame quarterback Tom Brady. It will be a test for him and the offense to see if they can put together a good performance for all 60 minutes. In the two matchups in 2018, the Chiefs scored 9 combined points in the first halves and 62 combined points in the second halves. The defense will get its first opportunity to look better than the 2018 defense did against the Pats. The cornerback talent didn’t improve much, so it’ll be interesting to see if the scheme is enough to give Brady more fits and less easy throws.
The quest for a Super Bowl will require beating Brady and legendary coach Bill Belichick — whether it’s in Week 14 or a month later in the postseason.
Chiefs at Bears
Overcoming great defense and low temperatures
This Week 15 contest will be in Soldier Field on Sunday Night Football in the middle of December. The potential temperature and wind velocity could be big-time challenges for the Chiefs offense to overcome. Looking at the locations they could play in the postseason, they will probably be playing in cold weather. They’ll be tested in Chicago with the weather and the star-studded defense.
Another interesting component of this game is the Bears second-year head coach — former Chiefs assistant Matt Nagy. Nagy’s offensive scheme is obviously similar to Reid’s and could help his defense know what to look for from Reid’s play-calling. All that, combined with the factor of late-season injuries or fatigue, and this should be a good challenge to prepare Kansas City for a playoff run.
Honorable Mention: Chiefs vs. Colts
The game we used to know
The Week 5 matchup between the Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts was supposed to be one of the most important games of the season. Then franchise quarterback Andrew Luck retired. The Colts will still be a solid team around current starting signal-caller Jacoby Brissett — but the Chiefs should now be expected to handle that home game on Sunday Night Football.