Despite the Kansas City Chiefs accruing a massive amount of injuries to their players and finishing last in 2011, they did end with a 7-9 record. If the Chiefs had a few things go their way, or if players were able to stay healthy, they may have ended up winning the AFC West, (Denver won the division with an 8-8 record).
However, looking at the Chiefs schedule going into the 2012 season, it looks like they may have a difficult road ahead. For one, they will square off against six teams that made the playoffs last season, three of those teams they will face in the first five games. This season the Chiefs with have the daunting task of taking on opponents from the AFC North which includes three of those six playoff teams. As well as the NFC South, in which every team could be a potential threat this year.
There are a few things that play in Kansas City's favor. There bye week comes in week seven, which is smack dab in the middle of the season, so they should be plenty rested towards the end of the season. Also, they have back to back prime-time games in weeks nine and ten. In week nine they will be on the NFL Network, Thursday night at the San Diego Chargers. The following week, they will have plenty of preparation time (11 days) as they travel to Pittsburgh for Monday Night Football. This could be crucial for the Chiefs if they need to rest banged up guys for the home stretch.
Speaking of the home stretch, the last six games are going to be the most crucial for Kansas City. Within their last six match-ups they will play three divisional games, two against Denver and one against Oakland. Also, none of these six teams had winning records last season with Oakland and Denver finishing the best at 8-8. However, it's not going to be a cakewalk as three of their last four games are going to be on the road, with their final game at Denver, which could have major playoff or even divisional title implications.
Let's take a look at the Chiefs opponents for the 2012 season.
() indicates record last season
* Playoff team
WK 1. vs. Atlanta (10-6 2nd*)
The Chiefs open up against an Atlanta team that has been fairly consistent the last few years, but are they going to start showing signs of slowing down this season due to the aging of some of their key players like Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. For Tony Gonzales, this will be his first return to Arrowhead since his departure.
WK 2.at. Buffalo (6-10 4th)
First road game of the year for the Chiefs and will take squad that started out hot and than fizzled down the stretch last season. Like Kansas City, Buffalo attempted to strengthen their defense this off-season, we will see which team did a better job.
Wk.3 at. New Orleans (13-3 1st *)
Two road games in a row, this time against against the former NFC South Champs. Much speculation as to whether New Orleans will still be as dominant as they were last year with the loss of Sean Payton as well as other key offensive players.
Wk 4. vs. San Diego (8-8 2nd D)
First divisional game of the season at home against a Charger team they may or may not have improved in the off-season.
Wk 5. vs. Baltimore (12-4 1st*)
Second time facing a former division winner in two weeks, this time they at least get home field. However it is Baltimore who is looking to prove that they, as a unit have one more run left in them with the core defense that has been good for so many years. But their offense seems to be getting better, this will be a tough match-up
WK 6. at. Tampa Bay (4-12 4th)
Tampa Bay may have been the most disappointing team in football last year. Big things were expected from Josh Freeman and co. We'll see if they will be able to turn it around this year. This will also mark a homecoming for Freeman as he is from the Kansas City area.
WK 7. Bye
WK 8. vs. Oakland (8-8 3rd D)
Coming off the bye they get a home match-up against division rival Oakland.
WK 9. at. San Diego(NFLN) (8-8 2nd D)
First prime-time game of the year is their second match-up with the Chargers. This is also the second year in a row they will face the Chargers on a prime-time network.
WK 10. at Pittsburg(MNF) (12-4 2nd*)
The only Monday night game on the schedule and they draw Pittsburg away. Going to be tough but they will have plenty of time to devise a game plan. This could end up being a very slow-grind type of game.
WK 11. vs. Cincinnati (9-7 3rd*)
A young fiery team that looks like they may have gotten stronger in the off-season, particularly on defense. This will be another tough match-up
WK 12. vs. Denver (8-8 1st*D)
First look at Peyton Manning in Arrowhead.
WK 13. vs. Carolina (6-10)
Carolina is going to be the team that everyone wants to see if they can improve from last season due to Cam Newton's extraordinary play. But did their defense improve enough?
WK 14. at. Cleveland (4-12 4th)
By this point in the season Cleveland could be on their second or third quarterback (sorry Cleveland). It may be a road game, but this could be a “W” for KC.
WK 15. at. Oakland (8-8 3rd D)
At this point in the season this game could determine who gets knocked out of the running for a playoff spot or a chance to win the AFC West.
WK 16. vs. Indianapolis (2-14 4th)
Andre Luck comes to Arrowhead, worth the price of admission.
WK 17. at. Denver (8-8 1st* D)
Could be a meaningful game away and the most important game of the season for both teams.
A shot in the dark I am going to say looking at the schedule that Kansas City does improve from last year, but not by much. Finishing with an 8-8 record and placing second or third in the AFC West. It's a tough draw they have pulled against the AFC North, with three out of four of those teams as good as they are projected. Those teams will give Kansas City the most trouble. Within the division, no one looks like they made any real major improvements to stand out. Despite Denver signing Manning, no one knows how healthy he really is, or if he will thrive in that system. An 8-8 record won the division last year, and it may possibly be good enough again this year, but for now, if the Chiefs can stay healthy and they get a few breaks going their way, expect them to at least finish .500 this season and possibly better.