With parity king in the NFL, each and every opponent is just as important as the next. The draft, free agency, sudden spikes in player production and luck all play a part in how each team will stack up to the others around the league.
While it is never wise to look past a particular team on the schedule, recent history and when games are actually played make it difficult not to circle certain opponents on the slate. It isn’t so much looking ahead; rather, it is that those games simply mean a bit more than the others for various reasons.
The Kansas City Chiefs' 2012 schedule seems to be filled with games that, when all is said and done, potentially could end up being very crucial to the team’s goal of making a return trip to the postseason as AFC West champs.
Here are the most crucial games from each quarter of the Chiefs’ 2012 season.
Nobody around the organization wants to remember, but also can’t seem to forget how the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely sputtered out of the gate last season.
Returning much of the roster and coming off an AFC West title, the Chiefs were supposed to begin the 2011 season with a rather effortless victory over the Buffalo Bills. Instead, they ran to the locker room with their tails between their legs, getting thumped by a final count of 41-7.
While no one can say they saw that coming, the Chiefs must do a better job of preparing for the season opener in 2012. The Atlanta Falcons are a much better team than the Bills, but the Chiefs have also improved from last season as well.
Returning Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry (tore his ACL during the Buffalo loss), Tony Moeaki and Matt Cassel from injuries will help solidify a fantastic offseason of acquisitions orchestrated by general manager Scott Pioli.
For the Chiefs to put last season completely in the rear-view mirror, a victory in Week 1 against the Falcons is imperative.
Though the Chiefs haven’t smelled a playoff victory since 1993, it hasn’t been due to a lack of opportunities. Their most recent defeat in the postseason came in the Wild Card round following the 2010 season, in which the Chiefs won the AFC West title.
Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City was the place and the Baltimore Ravens were the opponent.
While the Chiefs were the home team, the Ravens were the undeniable favorites in the game, ultimately winning 30-7 in a rather dominating fashion.
The defeat signaled the Chiefs' seventh straight loss in the playoffs, an NFL record spanning 18 years.
If the Chiefs plan on returning to the postseason and eventually ending this dubious streak, they must be able to at least compete with the likes of the Ravens, especially on their own home turf.
Whether the Chiefs will be more amped up to face off against their former head coach, or if Todd Haley will be more eager to pick apart former assistant Romeo Crennel’s defense remains to be seen.
The matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10 sets up to be a great road test for the Chiefs, who will be coming off a 10-day reprieve from their previous game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 9 (Thursday night).
Back-to-back prime-time billings are rare for the Chiefs, but the opportunity to go into Pittsburgh and knock off their former coach will certainly take the top line of the sports page that week.
A victory not only affords them the opportunity to revel in the proverbial “nana nana boo boo,” but it also could spark a second-half surge that propels the Chiefs into the playoffs.
The Chiefs and Broncos have engaged in epic battles before, but if the 2012 season unfolds like most think it will, the Week 17 showdown at Mile High Stadium will certainly be the icing on the cake.
In addition to years of hatred already built up, a matchup featuring the last two AFC West champions will come with loads of storylines. Will Manning still be standing upright that late in the season and prove that he never missed a beat? Can the Chiefs take back the division title on enemy grounds?
The NFL schedule-makers knew exactly what they were doing by penciling these two teams in for their final games, a potentially winner-take-all faceoff. Let’s just hope that it plays out as such.