A Peek Ahead: A Tough Schedule For Kansas City in 2014
By Eric Paolini
There is no denying the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs benefited greatly from an easy schedule. In fact, no team in the league faced an easier schedule than the Chiefs did this season. As a whole, the AFC West benefited from easy schedules. The Denver Broncos had the second-easiest schedule in the league behind Kansas City. Three teams from the division translated that into a playoff berth.
Next season the Chiefs won't be so lucky. Kansas City will face a much tougher schedule in 2014. This season, the Chiefs were fortunate enough to play eight games against a mostly terrible AFC South and a swooning NFC East. Only two of those eight teams were anything more than mediocre this season, and many were downright terrible. In 2014, the Chiefs have to play the AFC East (kind of a mixed bag) and the NFC West (only the toughest division in the league).
While the Chiefs did have six opponents make the playoffs this season (the Broncos and San Diego Chargers each count twice), the Philadelphia Eagles and Chargers both needed Week 17 wins, and in the case of San Diego, the Chargers needed a miraculous missed field goal and an overlooked penalty to leap over a team of second-teamers. Again, the Chiefs’ schedule was really, really easy.
Next year will be a completely different story. The Chiefs will have to play both Super Bowl teams, including twice against the Broncos, of course. Plus, they will play both teams that came up one win short. In total, five games will be played against teams that essentially finished in the top four in the league this season.
This is why I think the increased difficulty of the schedule is interesting; how will this affect the Chiefs’ offseason? The Chiefs got through 2013 with victories over only one playoff-bound team (the Eagles). They won only two division games (both against the lowly Raiders). Most of Kansas City's victories were over teams with sub.-500 records. The opponents they will face in 2014 won 117 games this season (the division teams wins counted only once). Their opponents this season won only 88 games.
That’s a tremendous difference. But that doesn’t mean Kansas City will necessarily take steps backward. The team boasts a good head coach and quarterback, two of the most important features for a team. But there are improvements to be made. The more aggressive the front office acts this offseason the better.
The Chiefs have so many good pieces and aren’t in danger of losing any of them this season. They don’t need much to improve the team, but they aren’t rock-solid. There are areas they can definitely improve.
The Chiefs have been so up and down in recent years, what the future will hold for the team is less clear than what it might be for the average team. The biggest obstacle for the Chiefs this offseason doesn't appear to be an important player changing teams, but putting together a team that can withstand a much tougher schedule.