After the 2012 NFL schedule came out yesterday evening, we broke down the Kansas City Chiefs’ slate into five distinct segments. The final segment was the three-game closing stretch, which features road trips to Oakland and Denver, sandwiched around a home game at Indianapolis that suddenly gets a lot tougher when it’s a letdown spot. Thus, I believe the Chiefs need to be 8-5 going into that stretch if they want to make the playoffs, and 9-4 if they want a shot at a division crown and maybe even a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. Therefore, today we’ll focus on where those wins need to come from.
MUST-WIN GAMES: at Buffalo, Cincinnati, Carolina, at Cleveland—The Bills’ game is in Week 2, while the Carolina home game and Cleveland road trip come in succession at the end of November and beginning of December, right before the stretch drive begins. It might be a high expectation to put the home date with Cincinnati on this list, but I think the Bengals are headed for a fall. And honestly ask yourself—while any of these games offers its own unique challenges, isn’t it reasonable to expect that a playoff-caliber team would win all of them?
NEED 2 OF 3: The divisional home games against San Diego, Oakland and Denver. If the Chiefs should trip up in one of the must-win spots, upping the goal here to 3-0 is a reasonable possibility. The AFC West is balanced enough that the home team can always expect to win.
HOME SPLIT: Atlanta & Baltimore—this is another spot where KC could easily win both, as the Falcons—the season-opening game—may be on a hangover year after a playoff flameout, and the Ravens may combine a hangover with flat-out getting old.
ROAD SPLIT: at New Orleans, at Tampa Bay—the Saints are likely to be much worse, but Tampa Bay can’t possibility be worse than they were last year, can they? Sweeping these teams on the road would be a tall order, so let’s settle for 1-1.
WRITE THEM OFF: The Chiefs go to San Diego (Thursday, November 1) and Pittsburgh (Monday, November 12) for prime-time games. Unfortunately, the two big national showcase games are ones that it’s very difficult to see the team winning. It’s certainly not impossible, but I don’t know that any Kansas City fan would be comfortable if either was a must-win spot. If you take care of business in the categories above, these games are chances to play with house money.
If you play the above scenarios according to form the Chiefs go 8-5 and set themselves up to just win at Indy and split two tough road games in the division to get to 10-6. It’s a reasonable plan of attack that’s been outlined and one where it’s feasible to see the team reaching beyond it and getting to the 11-12 wins it would take to be in the AFC’s elite.
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