Looking Ahead at the Chiefs' Fortune
We can only play one game at a time. Don’t get caught looking too far ahead. Take the games as they come.
These are old saws for professional players and coaches. The reminders are not just a way of trying to sound humble, they are actually important mindsets to maximize a team’s chances of winning.
Luckily, fans don’t have to do that. Sure, nothing is set in stone and things can change in the blink of an eye. For example, Oakland was thinking about an AFC West title and maybe a run through the playoffs right up until Jason Campbell’s collarbone shattered. Denver may end up turning into a good team with Tebow at QB, which would have an impact on projections. But we have finished seven weeks of NFL football, so there is a good amount of context by which to judge a team’s strength as an opponent.
Looking ahead at the rest of the schedule for the Chiefs, in order:
SD @ KC
MIA @ KC
DEN @ KC
KC @ NE
PIT @ KC
KC @ CHI
KC @ NYJ
GB @ KC
OAK @ KC
KC @ DEN
From that, let’s start with the clearly winnable games:
San Diego at KC is extremely winnable. We have some momentum and confidence, and San Diego is showing some chinks in their armor. We came back against them in the second half in San Diego, and only one bad pass kept us from winning. Now they come to KC on a Monday night. Arrowhead is tough to play under any circumstances, but a hyped-up crowd on Monday should inspire the defense to greater heights. Win chance: 90%
Miami at KC is extremely winnable. Miami is having big problems. ‘Nuff said. Win chance: 99%
Denver at KC is extremely winnable. Tebow has some comebacks, and has shown a knack for making one big play to make up for a bunch of sub-par plays. Much of that could be that there isn’t much tape on him yet, but by the time he comes into Arrowhead, there should be plenty. Crennel has recovered from the loss of Berry and is game-planning like the legend he built in New England, so he should be able to develop a strategy to contain and defeat Tebow. Denver’s defense isn’t doing anything to indicate they can shut down the Chiefs offense. Win chance: 85%
Oakland at KC is extremely winnable. If Carson Palmer gets back in football shape before he gets a season-ending injury, he does have a good set of WRs to work with. But he isn’t an all-world QB, and the 3 INTs he threw against KC is going to undermine any confidence he has by the time he rolls into Arrowhead. Besides, if we can shut them out 28-0 in Oakland, there is no way we lose at Arrowhead. Win chance: 99%
KC at Denver is extremely winnable. It isn’t easy to win in Denver, but Haley has done it before. By this point in the season, Tebow should be benched, or just playing out the games in a badly losing season. Either way, the Chiefs have an excellent chance to win this game. However, it is far enough out that trying to figure a percentage depends too much on things that haven’t happened yet. That’s not going to stop me from assigning a number, though. Assume Tebow plays pretty much the same way he has so far in the NFL (below 50% passing, big plays). That makes Denver a pretty bad team. Win chance: 80%+
That makes five games that are very favorable for the Chiefs. The only reason those games aren’t 100% is that anything can happen on any given Sunday. But assume we win them all… that gives us no less than 8 wins. What’s left?
Green Bay is undefeated. I’m not going to completely write the game off, since it is at Arrowhead, and lots of stuff could happen. But let’s be real here: Green Bay hasn’t slowed down from the excellence they reached during the playoffs last year. They should be the favorite to win the Super Bowl this year, easily. Win chance: 5%
KC at New England is probably a loss. It is tough to win in New England, and they’ve lost only one game all year. Their offense is amazing, and even though their defense seems a little weak, I have significant doubts we can shut down their offense, or keep pace in a shoot-out. Win chance: 10%
Pitt at Arrowhead is the toughest of the three remaining games. Ben Rothels…Reothle…Wrawlth…Ben R. is playing very well, they seem to have compensated well for injuries, and they are always competitive. Only a good team at home can beat a very good team. Are the Chiefs a good team? I’ll hit that point in a moment, but for now I’m going to say yes. Win chance: 40%
KC at Chicago is a winnable game. Jay Cutler can win any game he plays... then again, Jay Cutler can lose any game he plays. The O-line has been struggling, and KC’s defense has created pressure and can shut down a running game. That puts Cutler into a “Favre on a bad day” Gunslinger mode, which our CBs should turn into a field day. Chicago is 4-3, so pretty close to mediocre over all. Even though this will be on the road, we shouldn’t be scared of the Bears. Win chance: 60%
KC at the New York Jets is also a winnable game. Like the Bears, the Jets are 4-3, just a notch above mediocre. There is a decent chance they will have a losing record by the time we go into their stadium. But they still have some strong elements, and aren’t centered around a single feast-or-famine player like Cutler in Chicago. Win chance: 50%
So we win the extremely winnable games, lose all the unwinnable games, and this puts us at 8-5. How do we interpret the three toss-up games? Are the Chiefs a good team?
I say yes. The Chiefs came back against San Diego on the road, and just missed completing the comeback. Then they came back from being 17 points down with just over a half to play, on the road… I don’t care that the Colts are a bad team, this is still the NFL; only good teams come back from 17 down on the road. Then they went on the road to Oakland, and despite all the personal animosity and legendary rivalry in the series, the Chiefs embarrassed the Raiders 28-0. Usually it doesn’t matter what the records are, it is a close, hard-fought game. The Chiefs made the Raiders look silly. Sure, their starting QB was out… but it isn’t like Campbell was an All-Pro QB, or even playing like one. Chiefs fans will tell you that no team makes backup QBs look like Hall-of-Famers like the Chiefs do. But the Chiefs made two #1 picks look like scrubs. Only a good team can go onto the turf of its most hated rival and shut them out.
The most important point is that the Chiefs are doing this while being significantly under-strength, too. It started when our #1 pick broke his hand. A #1 pick isn’t someone you should depend on to be a cornerstone of the team, but you draft him in the first round with the expectation he will contribute. Baldwin finally saw the field for the first time in our 6th game, and caught just one pass. But the Chiefs have also been missing Moeaki, a TE that played better in his rookie year than Tony Gonzalez did as a rookie. Moeaki was not just a great passing outlet, he was a very strong blocker and his absence has been impactful. As if that weren’t enough, the Chiefs have been without two Pro-Bowl players since Berry went out in the first game and Charles went out in the second.
That means the last 4 games, all demonstrating top-notch team play from the Chiefs, were without 3 of our top 5 players. And those last 4 games included two second-half comebacks (albeit one a loss), a 3-game winning streak, shutting down Adrian Peterson (the best RB in the NFL), and six quarters without allowing a score of any kind.
So, yes, the Chiefs are a good team. That means they win 2 of the 3 possibly winnable games to end up 10-6.
Considering what the schedule looked like before the season started, considering the 0-3 start, and considering the devastating impact of the early-season injuries, this should put Haley in the running for Coach of the Year.
Now we just have to do it.