The Kansas City Chiefs are set to begin their 17-game regular-season schedule at home against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Sept. 12. The game against the Browns is one of nine home games, with eight games on the road this season.
The Chiefs’ road schedule pits them up against the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders in AFC West division games, along with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals in intraconference matchups. This year, the AFC West takes on the NFC East, so the Chiefs will be visiting the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team.
The road schedule includes interesting opponents — such as the Eagles — which will mark Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s second trip back to visit Philadelphia, where he coached from 1999-2012. Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has a rather impressive three-year run that includes an MVP award and a career regular-season record of 30-7 — yet three of those losses came to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That makes the Chiefs’ Week 2 trip to Baltimore on Sunday Night Football all the more intriguing. Nashville, Washington D.C. and the brand new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles are also destinations to consider.
But if you are choosing only one destination game to see your Chiefs in 2021, the pick has to be America’s Playground: Las Vegas, where you could watch the Chiefs play the franchise’s greatest rival — the Las Vegas Raiders — on the Week 10 edition of Sunday Night Football.
The venue: Allegiant Stadium
Raiders owner Mark Davis opened up Allegiant Stadium — already nicknamed “The Death Star” due to its resemblance to the planet-sized space station that belongs to the Empire in the Star Wars movie series — in 2020. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team decided not to allow fans for the entirety of the 2020 season.
Davis even went as far as to take an “all or nothing” approach, saying that if fans could not attend the games, he wouldn’t, either. Well, if 2020 was “nothing” when it came to the stadium, then 2021 is “all.”
The Raiders will open Allegiant Stadium to fans for the Week 1 edition of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, taking on the Baltimore Ravens. It is worth noting that the franchise has announced that all game attendees will be required to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter the stadium.
The Chiefs have been to three straight AFC title games and back-to-back Super Bowls, including the Super Bowl LIV win in Miami against the San Francisco 49ers. They had only two regular-season losses in 2020: Week 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers — in which the Chiefs were not playing their starters — and Week 5 at Arrowhead Stadium against the Raiders.
Entering the game with a career 2-10 record against the Chiefs, quarterback Derek Carr played one of the greatest games of his career, going 22 of 31 for 347 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Carr tested and exploited a young Chiefs secondary with uncharacteristic downfield throws en route to an improbable 40-32 Las Vegas win.
Head coach Jon Gruden infamously requested a “victory lap” around Arrowhead Stadium following the Raiders win. The problem is that AFC West teams play twice a year. So when the Chiefs were set to visit Las Vegas in November 2020, Reid had something to say about Gruden’s reported post-game antics.
“They won the game, so they can do anything they want to do,” Reid said at the time. “They ended up winning the game. That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back, ready to play. That’s where we’re at.”
In the Week 11 rematch, the Raiders actually led the Chiefs in Vegas with less than two minutes to play. But a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce gave the Chiefs the 35-31 lead. Carr got the ball back with less than 30 seconds left, but a Daniel Sorensen interception sealed the Chiefs’ win in front of an empty stadium.
The Raiders finished the season 8-8, with the highlight of their season being the upset against the Chiefs, while the Chiefs won their second straight AFC championship.
Gruden’s decision to do a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium likely reignited a Chiefs-Raiders rivalry rooted in the days of the American Football League — when the Chiefs were known as the Dallas Texans and the Raiders were based in Oakland.
A rivalry that likely began thanks to a natural animosity between team founders Lamar Hunt and Al Davis continued with the trade of Chiefs quarterback Cotton Davidson for an Oakland draft pick that would turn into Pro Football Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan. The rivalry would grow throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s with the Raiders winning three championships — and in the ‘90s, then-Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer put an extreme emphasis on “Raider Week.”
The Chiefs spent the ‘90s going 18-3 against the Raiders. Over the last 16 games, the Chiefs have won 13 times.
Key offseason additions
- Raiders: Likely seeing what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the Raiders signed unrestricted free agent defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. On offense, they signed running back Kenyan Drake as a change-of-pace, receiving back behind Josh Jacobs — and added wide receiver John Brown. The Raiders’ top two draft picks were notable, as they took Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round, followed by TCU safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round.
- Chiefs: The Chiefs re-built their entire offensive line and are likely to have five new starters from the last time they played the Raiders when they meet again in Week 10. The Chiefs signed star left guard Joe Thuney in free agency and traded for former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. so that he may start at left tackle. Three rookies — center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and fight tackle Lucas Niang are likely to make up the rest of the line. Defensive lineman Chris Jones is not new, but his primary position is — he is likely to up at the defensive end position on first and second downs in the game.