For most fans Kansas City Chiefs fans, we’ve dissected the upcoming schedule, and not counting the Denver Broncos twice, the record of the team’s next five opponents is just one win and nine losses. To say the Chiefs will be favored to win all these games is beyond doubt, but how easy or hard they win these games during this stretch, especially Sunday at home against the Chicago Bears, will speak volumes about this football team.
Pete Rozelle branded the NFL with one signature catchphrase, ‘on any given Sunday’. He built a league and quest for competitive balance so that the worst NFL teams could defeat the best. For the Kansas City Chiefs, they clarify as one of the best teams in the league, but against lesser opponents, they tend to struggle.
This season, after taking care of business in Jacksonville on Sunday, the Chiefs face the struggling Chicago Bears, who have now become the new Cleveland Browns with legal issues outside and their young franchise quarterback sounding off about the coaches inside. It’s not a good look for the Bears, but it doesn’t mean if the ball bounces a certain way at Arrowhead this Sunday, this game can’t be close heading into the fourth quarter.
Adding further concern this week is the plethora of injuries for Kansas City including two key guys on offense, Kadarius Toney, and Isiah Pacheco. Both players rebounded against Jacksonville after some hiccups in the opener against the Detroit Lions.
Still, last season we saw the Chiefs struggle in the regular season to close out the Broncos twice, Chargers twice, Jacksonville, Titans, and Raiders to name a few. Granted their postseason games were very close, that’s to be expected. But when you struggle or fall behind by double digits against teams that don’t match your skill set, it makes you wonder if the Chiefs are more lucky than good sometimes.
To paint this picture crystal clear, the Chiefs are one of the top four teams in the NFL. They are the prohibitive AFC Title and Super Bowl Champion favorite, until someone knocks them off their throne. However, the Chiefs’ run to SB LVIII should be easier than the team has made it in recent years facing the bottom half of the NFL.
I’m not saying the Chiefs need to win these upcoming games by twenty points or more. Yet, look last week what the Buffalo Bills did at home against the Las Vegas Raiders. After a disappointing week one loss to the Jets, Josh Allen and company put a beat down on the Chiefs division rival. It was a no-doubt win after the first quarter.
The Bears come into Kansas City with controversy on and off the field. They are a rudderless ship that lacks leadership from the Owners box down to the players. Yet, despite the turmoil embattled quarterback, Justin Fields could erase all the bad press with some good press, should he be able to pull off the upset on Sunday.
The irony in a Bears win would be significant. A loss for the Chiefs would be noteworthy as to how 2023 might play out for Kansas City. Listen this isn’t gloom and doom hit piece, but the Chiefs have spoiled themselves with their unprecedented success over the last five years. The players understand the regular season is a necessary stepping stone to winning the AFC West and ultimately to gain the overall top seed in the AFC post-season tournament. Thus everything in between is a workday at the office.
With that said, sometimes the work ethic is great, but far too often last year, this team couldn’t knock out an opponent and had to hang on or struggle to find a way to win many ugly games. The Chiefs are not alone, every NFL powerhouse must deal with the same thing, but the Chiefs drive must be putting the foot on the gas and never letting up.
Patrick Mahomes made my sentiments spot-on chatting after the Jaguars game with CBS Reporter, Evan Washburn, that he needs to make better decisions, and he needs to lead this team better. The man has a pair of Lombardi Trophies and two league MVP belts on his resume, and he’s hardly satisfied.
Even with an adjusted contract in hand, commercial endorsements matching his football earnings, and the success he’s enjoyed in his five seasons as an NFL starter, consistency against the elite teams and the bad NFL teams, he understands some alterations need to be made.
If the Chiefs want to repeat as Super Bowl champions, they must leave no doubt in games against the have-nots, that when they walk onto the field, they face an overwhelming uphill battle to defeat Kansas City on the road or at home. A series of consecutive blowouts can make that happen.
The New England Patriots and Tom Brady, despite playing in a relatively easy division, walked on the field, and in every game, they played during that era, I bet nearly half of their opponents felt they had no chance to defeat the mighty AFC powerhouse that Sunday.
Over the five years, Mahomes has been a starter, and trust me this does not all fall upon his shoulders because it does not. In that span, the defense dropped passes, penalties, questionable game management, and poor play calling have put the Chiefs on the brink of losing some of these close calls.
Still, the beauty about Mahomes and his drive to be the very best to ever play the game, he understands the struggle of flat play. He sees what we see every Sunday when the Arrowhead faithful are biting their nails in the stands or urging their team to make a big play in the fourth quarter, to avoid these close games.
Beginning on Sunday, the Chiefs face the easiest part of their schedule. How they attack the next seven weeks prior to their showdown in Germany against the Miami Dolphins, will be vital to their seeding in the AFC.
If they can do it with a sledgehammer against the lesser teams in the league, that might be the overriding factor in winning back-to-back Super Bowls.