Embrace this schedule

When the NFL released its schedule last week, Chiefs fans o'er the internet moaned and groaned about the road trips slotted to start and end KC's season.

Gee, didn't see that one coming. If there's one thing Kansas City fans everywhere can almost unanimously agree upon, it's how nasty a schedule the league diabolically forces upon the Chiefs year in and year out.

Here's the truth: the Chiefs 2007 schedule is the best they've been granted in years. Considering the transition the team is making, the schedule really couldn't be set up any better for the best season possible.

This schedule is split up into thirds. The first leg includes three road games during the first four weeks. The Chiefs then hit a stretch where they play six of eight games at home. Finally, the schedule ends with another three-out-of-four road trip.

I realize that playing three out of your first four games on the road isn't the perfect way to start a season (I'm sure Chiefs fans would like to see the team play five of their first seven at home, like the Broncos), but for Herm Edwards, it just might be.

What is the one overriding goal that Edwards has had since becoming head coach of the Chiefs? Other than improving the defense, it's winning road games.

Looking at this schedule, it's almost as if Herm personally called the league offices and asked them to challenge the Chiefs.

We'll immediately know what kind of team the 2007 Chiefs are if they come out of the gate 1-3, losing all three road games. That would be a sign they're really not any mentally tougher than last year's squad.

Should they beat the Texans on opening day (a strong possibility in my opinion), a 2-2 mark sets them up nicely for the easy part of their schedule.

That segways into the other reason why I like this schedule. Unlike previous years, the Chiefs have only two back-to-back road trips. You can usually count on a team losing the second game of those excursions, so why not give the Chiefs their toughest opponents on those dates?

Most of you have the Chiefs marked down for a loss in Chicago in Week 2. That's the end of a two-game road trip, as is the regular season finale against the Jets. Were these trips reversed, with the more difficult game coming first, life would be far more difficult for the Chiefs.

So let's assume the Chiefs can sandwich their schedule with 2-2 marks over the first and last months of the season. I don't think it's a stretch to say this team can beat the Texans, Vikings, Titans and Lions.

Suddenly, that big fat glut of home games in the middle of the season becomes a paradise. The Chiefs will find themselves running the anti-gauntlet.

If the Chiefs can go 6-2 during this stretch, with a loss at Indianapolis and another loss at home (maybe to Cincinnati or San Diego), they set themselves up perfectly for a playoff run. And then, as we previously outlined, all they need to do is take care of business against the Titans and Lions.

Because of this schedule, the 2007 Chiefs might post a record that's better than the team they actually are. What that means come playoff time is anyone's guess, but I'm getting way ahead of myself here. At the very least, they will have had to win important road games at the start and end of the season, which is exactly what Herm wants them to do.

But the Chiefs will be tested. If there's one thing to really hate about this schedule, it's the first seven weeks.

Defenses usually have the edge on offenses early in the season. Lord knows the Chiefs will have some tinkering to do with the retirement of Will Shields, new wide receivers and the possibility of Brodie Croyle starting.

Facing Chicago, Minnesota, San Diego, Jacksonville and Oakland early won't be a cakewalk for KC's offense. Those are five of the top 10 defenses from a year ago. Maybe Larry Johnson AND Michael Bennett can carry the ball 400 times apiece this season.

Here's a few other reasons to like this schedule:


1.
The Chiefs get back-to-back bye weeks in the middle of the season. First, a relaxing trip to California in Week 7 to face the Raiders. Then the "real" bye comes the following week.

2. Jay Cutler, Vince Young and Byron Leftwich: Welcome to Arrowhead Stadium. The history of quarterbacks making their first start in Kansas City is well known. It will be extremely fun to watch these young signal callers being brought down a notch in Weeks 5 (welcome back Jared Allen!), 10 and 15.

3. Revenge Tour, '07: In Week 6, the Chiefs get a great chance to pay back the Cincinnati Bengals for their cheap shot on Trent Green from last year's season opener. In Week 11, it's off to Indianapolis to give the Colts their comeuppance for years of torture (don't hold your breath, but all you can ask for is the chance, right?).

4. The Prodigal Son Returns: Will Herm Edwards need a protective suit when he enters the Meadowlands in Week 17? You know he's got this one circled on his calendar. If the Chiefs and Jets end up battling for a playoff spot, it just makes the showdown that much more epic. On second thought, it might be best to secure that sort of thing as soon as possible.

5. Primetime games are overrated: The Chiefs have only one primetime game, and I'm hopeful they won't get flexed. I don't care if it's perceived as a lack of respect. For the road team, night games are like going into the lion's den. Even if the Chiefs were granted a couple of primetime events at Arrowhead Stadium, playing at noon is more attractive. The fans get their football earlier, and the coaches and players have more time to prepare for next week's opponent. If the Chiefs really want a primetime game, make the playoffs.

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