In the last two weeks, since the Chiefs defeated the Baltimore Ravens, I've been asked over and over again if the win was a fluke or a trend. It's amazing how many band-wagon jumpers fell off the Chiefs train after the 0-3 start.
Kansas City enters the Jacksonville contest with a 1-3 record and surprisingly find themselves in a must win game. They are more talented in every phase of the game than their Sunday opponents. The Jaguars started off the season winning three games but have faltered in recent weeks losing at home to the Indianapolis Colts and last weekend in San Diego to the suddenly surging Chargers.
The Chiefs went into the season with a plethora of expectations. Today they're Super Bowl dreams could hinge on playing what they hope is the first of two games in Jacksonville. On February 6th, 2005, the city of Jacksonville will host the 39th Super Bowl. It's a place the Chiefs believed they were destined to reach but three losses have hampered those chances and now Kansas City faces another must win game.
Jacksonville posses a true threat to the Chiefs season but if they play their game, they should rout the Jaguars who have an erratic offense and a suddenly leaky defense. Kansas City has already faced the toughest stretch of the schedule.
They've played their toughest road game of the season in week one in Denver and their second toughest in week four in Baltimore. At no time in this season will the Chiefs play a tougher opponent on the road. They should be favored, as they are today, in their five remaining games away from Arrowhead. In fact, if they can put together their second road win of the season, they should be in a position to run the table.
No I'm not nuts! I firmly believe that Kansas City learned a hard lesson the first quarter of the season. Last years 9-0 start was no fluke but the Chiefs haven't played well since but they are in a position to change all that with a win in Jacksonville.
Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil made it very clear that he thought the 2004 version of the Chiefs was the best group of players that he's ever had in all of years coaching football. That's high praise for a coach that has two Super Bowl teams on his resume. He had hoped the 2004 Chiefs would be the third and despite their horrendous start, there is little doubt that Vermeil understands the enormous odds that his team is facing.
In the NFL numbers can be created for almost every situation. Teams that start the season 1-3 or 1-4 have made the playoffs. We already know about the success of the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans who defied the odds and made runs deep into the playoffs from the AFC.
Can the Chiefs do the same? Of course they can. This is still one of the most talented teams in the NFL. How else do you justify them being 2.5 point favorites today.
I wrote in a column a couple of weeks ago that everyone loves a good comeback and that's what the Chiefs face this year. Let's face it if Kansas City can string a dozen more victories together to change their seasons fortunes, they'll be riding very high into the post season.
In virtually every Chiefs season that has garnered double digit victories, the team has been blessed with a hot start and then falter down the stretch. This year that trend might change and if it does, the Chiefs season could end magically. Now that's assuming quiet a bit but Kansas City still controls its 2004 destiny. Remember they only played four games this season and they have more than enough time to become the dominant team that everyone believed they would become in the off-season.
Many people hinged the season on the improvement of the defense and though it struggled early, they've played better and better as a unit despite injury problems and their inability at times to understand the new philosophies. In fact the Chiefs rank 8th in defense this year in the AFC, that's a huge improvement from being near dead last the last two seasons.
This team has struggled on offense up until the Ravens game. But today this high-octane offense will get a boost with the return of wide receiver Eddie Kennison which means the Chiefs will have a down field threat that will allow them to expand their vanilla offense.
Let's face it, this offense has been limited and struggled for the most part outside of the Ravens game where they were dominant. But Kennison's availability is huge for this offense. Priest Holmes who has been non-existent in the passing game should start to catch more balls out of the backfield. That means more options for Tony Gonzalez and possession receiver Johnnie Morton and second year man Chris Horn.
But untimely, that means return man Dante' Hall can concentrate on returning punts and kick-offs. By his own admission, Hall has struggled to play offense and do his primary job. He needs to be taken out of the offensive game plan and solely concentrate on what he does best. The sudden development of Horn should allow the Chiefs to do just that starting today in Jacksonville.
The Ravens victory was a breakthrough for this team and today's game is a watershed moment that could define the Chiefs season. If they can win today against the Jaguars on their home turf, Kansas City can indeed start thinking about the playoffs again. If that happens then the Chiefs could make a return date in Jacksonville in February to play on the ultimate NFL stage in Super Bowl XXXIX.