As the Chiefs enter their first road test of the Season with a game in Houston against the Texans, Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil understands all the numbers. He knows 2-6 won't cut it. He thinks this team is different than the one that was embarrassed often on the road. But he's also realistic.
"Last year, the poorest thing we did in our organization and as a football team is play on the road. We were 2-6. So, one of our high priorities for this year is to be a good road team. Well, Sunday is the first opportunity we have to be a good road team."
The Texans are not in the class of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the San Diego Chargers. However, they beat the Dolphins on the road and they looked far removed from a second year team. But last week the New Orleans Saints made the Texans look inexperienced and kept them off balance by attacking their 3-4 defense.
Regardless, Vermeil expects the 2003 season to be different on the road no matter who they play. But he has talked all off-season about changing his teams fortunes on the road.
"I'd like to think we're taking the right kind of team on the road. If you take a lousy team on the road you don't have a real good chance of winning. Take a good team on the road you have a better chance of winning regardless of who you play."
The next two weeks the Chiefs play in Houston and in Baltimore against the Ravens. Both are winnable games and the Chiefs have more than enough talent to bring their ‘B' games to be successful the next two Sundays.
But that's what plagued the team last year. Too often they played to the talent of their opponent on the road and it cost them victories.
The responsibility of the losses in 2002 can be attributed to the Chiefs lack of energy on the road. They lost five games on the road last year that could have been victories. They lost winnable games in New England, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and San Diego. They outplayed everyone but Denver but still lost close games. Some of it was bad defense and poor execution on offense that cost them victories and shot at the post season.
But numerous times Vermeil was too conservative on offense late in games when the team needed to control the clock. He can't make the same mistakes this year. With non-division opponents like Green Bay, Cincinnati and Minnesota still on the schedule, it would be prudent for the Chiefs to garner some confidence by winning their first two games on the road.
The Chiefs only have one home game in their next five games. They sandwich a home game with Denver in three weeks and then back on the road to face the Packers and a Monday Night showdown with the Oakland Raiders.
That's the price you pay for opening the season with two games in Arrowhead. But if the Chiefs want to get back to Houston in February for the Super Bowl, they must win at least five road games this season.
But if they stumble the next two weeks, the 2003 season could turn quickly. The Chiefs are more talented than every team they'll face on the road this season. Yes the season is only two weeks old but based on what we've seen to date, the Chiefs will be favored in most of their road games.
However, point spreads by Vegas odds makers won't get the Chiefs victories. Vermeil has to get his team to be as aggressive on the road as it is in the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium.
If the Chiefs played the Steelers on the road last week instead of home, the outcome might have been much different. But the success of the 2003 season hinges on their success on the road.
The Chiefs can't repeat their road woes this year. If they win the next two, then they'll position themselves as the team to beat in the AFC. Winning road games in September and October will position the Chiefs to gain home field advantage in the playoffs.
Considering they've already beat the Steelers at home and have the Buffalo Bills at home in October, some key road wins the next five weeks will keep their AFC West, AFC Conference Championship and Super Bowl dreams alive and kicking.
Two straight road victories out of the box will send a message to the rest of the league; that this team is for real.