Can't win? Play anyway

Today, I was all prepared to watch tape of Chicago's Week 1 loss to the San Diego Chargers, break it down as it pertains to Kansas City this Sunday, and spit out the edge in matchups. But what's the point?

Sunday, the Chiefs are a snowball. And Chicago, despite a mild forecast this weekend, is hell.

You have to feel sorry for Herm Edwards' crew. They won't travel east with the mindset that they'll lose, but barring a miracle, it's the inevitable conclusion.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris will penetrate the middle of KC's offensive line. Chicago's Cover 2 defense will blanket the Chiefs' inexperienced, Eddie Kennison-less wide receiver corps. All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher will make life difficult on Tony Gonzalez down the middle of the field.

On defense, the Chiefs will be forced to play their safeties back to counter the deep threat of wide receiver Bernard Berrian (six touchdowns over 30 yards last season), lest what happened with Andre Johnson last week happen again. Facing a far better offensive line this Sunday, KC's defense will wear down while Bears running back Cedric Benson pounds them into mush.

As if all this wasn't enough, Sunday is Chicago's home opener. Soldier Field will be packed to capacity and the Bears will be looking to rebound from their Week 1 loss. This weekend's game is shaping up to be the ugliest matchup of the Herm Edwards era so far.

And it doesn't matter that Chicago is missing two starters (safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek) on defense due to injury. This game is already over. The Chiefs can't win. Call your bookies. Bears over Chiefs is the lock of the year.

In light of these monumental odds, someone more interested in promoting shock-value journalism might suggest the Chiefs avoid even stepping on the plane tomorrow, or forfeit this weekend's game. Hey, you couldn't blame them, right?

Wrong. The Chiefs need to play this game. Even if it means getting their skulls bashed in by the Monsters of the Midway while much of the nation watches.

There's no better early-season litmus test for an NFL team than going on the road and playing a Super Bowl team. Remember three years ago, when the Chiefs hosted the Carolina Panthers in their home opener? Kansas City got dominated, and right then we should have had an inkling that the 2004 Chiefs probably wouldn't be all that great a football team. The same was true in 2005 when the Eagles waltzed into Arrowhead Stadium and slapped 37 points on the home team.

Last week's loss didn't really tell us that much about the Chiefs. Losing to the Texans might be a sign the Chiefs are a rotten team, but Houston could be headed to the playoffs this year.

Chicago will give us a better indicator. The Chiefs don't have to win the game today. Keep it close, compete with Lovie Smith's boys, and there's reason for optimism despite the likely 0-2 start.

Get blown out, on the other hand, and it'll be a sure sign that not only will the Minnesota Vikings most likely spoil next week's home opener, but that 2007 will be a long year for the Chiefs.

Hey, there are a lot of reasons for the Chiefs not to play this game. Damon Huard could get hurt, as he continues his 2007 campaign as Kansas City's MVP (Most Valuable Piñata). After the Bears shut down Larry Johnson (they held LaDanian Tomlinson to 25 yards last week), ESPN's talking heads will latch onto his poor start as evidence that those 400 carries are taking a toll. But all of this is secondary when you're trying to build a football team and forge an identity. There's no better place to do that than in hostile territory.

So go ahead and get on that plane. You might not win, but you'll definitely find out what kind of football team you have. That can lead to wins down the road.

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