Do you have any idea the kind of monopoly the NFL has on the lives of sports fans right now? It’s the middle of goddamn May and places like ESPN are running hours-long coverage for the release of the 2021 schedule. If that doesn’t show you how desperate they are to put out literally anything related to professional football, I don’t know what does. But perhaps worse: people like me are pathetic enough to be excited about it.
After all, I’m here, and I’m writing about it. To be real, I have never been a big Let’s Look At The Schedule Four Months Before It Matters guy. The mainstream networks are going to be twisting themselves into pretzels in the coming days, using all the expensive technology they have at their disposal to go game-by-game and predicting how many wins and losses some of the more popular teams are going to have in 2021. It’s ultimately an exercise in pointless speculation, but here again we realize they wouldn’t be doing it if they knew people weren’t going to tune in.
I think it’s dumb, but only because it’s impossible to predict the circumstances of a specific matchup in, say, Week 10. Some of the teams everyone thinks are going to suck are going to end up being at the very least competitive, and some of the teams everyone thinks are going to be really good are going to end up below .500. That’s without mentioning injuries to important players, Covid complications, or pretty much anything else you can think of.
So I am not going to take the approach of guessing how many wins the Chiefs are going to get. I am also not going to guess which weeks they are going to stumble. I am strictly writing right now because I have nothing else worthwhile to talk about. And whether I like it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs consume a major part of my day-to-day sports-fan life.
Week 1: CLE @ KC Week 2: KC @ BAL (SNF) Week 3: LAC @ KC Week 4: KC @ PHI Week 5: BUF @ KC (SNF) Week 6: KC @ WSH Week 7: KC @ TEN Week 8: NYG @ KC (MNF) Week 9: GB @ KC Week 10: KC @ LV (SNF) Week 11: DAL @ KC Week 12: BYE Week 13: DEN @ KC Week 14: LV @ KC Week 15: KC @ LAC (TNF) Week 16: PIT @ KC Week 17: KC @ CIN Week 18: KC @ DEN
The two things that struck me when I first saw this schedule both seemed to benefit the Chiefs. The first is that their BYE week comes in Week 12, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, personally, but current and former NFL players all seem to say that a BYE week that comes late in the season is good for the team. Logically it makes sense: a team with an early BYE in, say, Week 5, means they have to play the next 13 weeks without a break. For a Super Bowl contender like the Chiefs, a BYE coming in Week 12 gives them a mental break before their stretch run.
The second item of importance comes in that beautiful stretch that you see in bold from Week 11 through Week 14. The Chiefs won’t have to leave their home state of Missouri for a full month. They have three homes games wrapped around their aforementioned BYE. Further, the Chiefs have just one road game from Week 8 to Week 14, and just two road games from Week 8 to Week 16. I’m not an expert on scheduling, but it seems to me that the NFL is taking good care of the Super Bowl favorite.
Kansas City has five games slated for primetime, but I find it curious that it doesn’t include their Week 9 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. You would think with all the hype surrounding a potential clash between Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes — which was the most heavily advertised game of the NFL’s “Showcase Week” for the NFL’s inaugural 17-game season — that they would put those two quarterbacks front and center either on Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football.
Then you look at when the Chiefs play the Denver Broncos — in Week 13 and Week 18. What’s important about those two weeks is that they fall late enough in the season to where NBC can utilize the so-call “flex,” and simply substitute a lesser game. I only mention that now because the Broncos are the favorite to land Aaron Rodgers if he ultimately gets traded from the Packers. It’s totally plausible that the NFL is hedging for that possibility.
When it comes to Rodgers, my take is that a lot of the noise surrounding his struggle with the Packers organization is a media creation. If I had to bet it — which I have, in case you wanted to know — my guess is that he stays in Green Bay. But it’s awfully clever of the NFL to say, hey, if he stays with the Packers then we’ll just watch Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call it on a standalone FOX broadcast in Week 9. And if Rodgers gets moved to the Broncos, then the NFL will just flex it to a primetime game either in Week 13 or Week 18, or both. Whichever way you slice it, the NFL will win.
Combing through these 17 games reminds me how good the Chiefs are. On paper there are a handful of difficult games — the Browns (Week 1), Ravens (Week 2) and Bills (Week 5) to name a few — but I struggle to find a single matchup that Kansas City won’t be favored in so long as Patrick Mahomes is playing quarterback. According to my makeshift power rankings, playing at Baltimore ought to be around a pick ’em, but given the Chiefs success against them over the last few years I have a hard time believing KC won’t be at least a 1-point favorite.
Aside from that, the only game I could picture them being an underdog in would come in Week 18 at Denver, at that’s under the condition that Aaron Rodgers is starting at QB for the Broncos. If not, then what we are really talking about are which games the Chiefs will be favored by less than a field goal in. For a team that is projected to go 12-5 this year, that is a nice problem to have.
We’ll see how it all plays out, four months from now, but at this moment I think the 12-win projection is a nice starting point. Would it surprise me if the Chiefs went 15-2 and procured the 1-seed in the AFC again? Not at all. But it also wouldn’t shock me if the any of the Browns, Bills or Ravens beat them? No. Would it shock me if the Chargers stole a game from them? Nope. Would it surprise me if Rodgers showed up in Denver and ended up winning the AFC West? No.
At the absolute bottom dollar the Chiefs are a 10-7 team. But I have a feeling like the whole franchise has a chip on its shoulder after getting blown out by the Bucs in last year’s Super Bowl. And I am absolutely going to be heading into the 2021 campaign expecting Kansas City to win every game on their schedule.