Andy Reid would be crazy not to lean heavily on Jamaal Charles in 2013.
With the release of the 2013 schedules, the Kansas City Chiefs finally know what order and time they will play their opponents.
The order can actually have an impact on a team’s record because of certain advantages and disadvantages that are built into the game.
Teams still have to play the games on the field, but the schedule can impact things like rest, travel and preparation time.
The bye week may be the most obvious thing that impacts a team, but there are other factors such as when the Chiefs play a rookie quarterback or a team with a new head coach.
Here’s a look at the 2013 schedule with game-by-game predictions, information and analysis.
Maurice Jones-Drew is the best player in Jacksonville.
Kickoff: Sept. 8, 1 p.m. ET
The only other team besides the Chiefs with two wins in 2012 was the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they didn’t have as much talent on the roster as the Chiefs. Even if the Jaguars were to solve their quarterback problem, it seems unlikely that they could topple the Chiefs.
The Jaguars aren’t a good team at defending the pass and are only average against the run. Jacksonville had the worst pass rush in 2012, sacking the quarterback just 20 times. Only two teams allowed more points than the Jaguars last year.
Jacksonville wasn't a good team throwing the ball or running the ball without Maurice Jones-Drew last year. If the Jaguars don’t draft an elite pass-rusher early in the draft, they are unlikely to change their defense, but the same is true on offense if they don’t draft a quarterback.
The Jaguars, like the Raiders, are much further away from being a playoff team than the Chiefs. If the Chiefs want to be taken seriously, they need to win games against teams like the Jaguars.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Jaguars 13
Tony Romo is a better quarterback than people think.
Kickoff: Sept. 15, 1 p.m. ET
Although the Cowboys won both games against the Eagles last season, the Eagles scored an average of 28 points. Reid’s problem in Philadelphia was the defense that he spent millions of dollars on constructing and not the offense.
It’s safe to say that the Chiefs are going to find ways to score on the Cowboys, but that Tony Romo will keep the Cowboys in the game. The Cowboys may have been 8-8 last season, but five of those losses were by a touchdown or less and only one came against an opponent with a record below .500 (the 7-9 Saints by three points in Week 16).
The Cowboys have a lot of weapons on offense that will give the Chiefs problems, including Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. Romo’s ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the football will also come in handy against the pass-rush of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
Jamaal Charles should have a big game against the Cowboys and keep Alex Smith from having to do much heavy lifting. The Cowboys have a nice pair of cornerbacks that will slow down Kansas City’s passing game, which could make things difficult for the Chiefs if they fall behind early.
Prediction: Cowboys 31, Chiefs 28
Chip Kelly might now be smiling after his team plays three games in 10 days.
Kickoff: Sept. 19, 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday Night Football)
Network: NFL Network
Andy Reid’s former team travels the Kansas City to face his new team.
It’s probably safe to say that Reid knows the Eagles inside and out, but new Eagles coach Chip Kelly is going to do things a lot differently. It’s tough to say just what kind of advantage Reid has because he knows the players when the schemes will be totally different.
One thing is clear about the Eagles—they don’t have many quality defensive players. The offense has potential when healthy, but the defense in Philadelphia desperately needs a talent infusion. Even if the Eagles draft a defensive star, the Chiefs should still be able to attack the Eagles through the air.
The Eagles allowed more touchdown passes last season than any other team and ranked 30th in interceptions. Alex Smith should have a big game against this pass defense, but the Eagles may steal a win on the road thanks to how Kelly uses all his offensive pieces.
LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can all make big plays. If Kelly fosters the right environment and Michael Vick can execute his scheme, there would be a very good chance the Eagles' offense could carry the defense to victory if not for brutal scheduling.
If Kelly plans on using a fast-paced offense, there's a good chance his team will wear down playing its third game in a 10-day span. The Eagles' early-season schedule doesn't seem to favor what Kelly wants to do on offense, but that's a good thing for the Chiefs.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Eagles 27
It's not fair to have to play three games against a Manning, but that's the challenge for the Chiefs.
Kickoff: Sept. 29, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs struggled with turnovers last season and although some of those problems left with Matt Cassel, he wasn’t the only guy being careless with the football.
Alex Smith hasn’t been great in the past about protecting the football, which may not bode well for the Chiefs against New York. The Giants’ defense thrives on forcing turnovers and had more in 2012 than 29 other teams.
Even though the Giants’ defense didn’t perform particularly well against the pass or run, they made enough plays to mask some of their other issues. When the Giants forced multiple turnovers last season, they were really tough to beat.
Eli Manning and New York’s offense also scored a lot more points at home than they did on the road. The Giants struggles on the road may make it a little harder for the Giants to score frequently by tossing the ball to Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz against the Chiefs.
David Wilson may also inherit the starting job at running back next season after averaging 5.0 yards per carry in limited duty as a rookie last season.
This is one of the few games that could get away from the Chiefs quickly and may remind the fans that it may take two years to totally rebound from a disastrous 2012 season.
Prediction: Giants 31, Chiefs 17
There are more pictures of Jake Locker running for his life than throwing a football.
Kickoff: Oct. 6, 1 p.m. ET
It’s hard to trust Jake Locker to win any game for his squad in 2013. The Titans aren’t a very good team and Locker is entering what may be his final year as a starter.
It’s time for Locker to sink or swim and it’s not hard to guess what's going to happen. The Chiefs should have no trouble limiting Locker and can focus most of their attention on stopping Chris Johnson.
Only the Eagles and Chiefs gave up a higher percentage of touchdowns per passing attempt last season than the Titans, so the Chiefs should be able to throw the ball. This is particularly alarming for the Titans because they had a much better sack percentage and interception percentage than the other teams that allowed a high percentage of pass attempts for touchdowns.
This is all good news for Alex Smith, who should be able to find holes in the Tennessee pass defense and get plenty of opportunities to make big plays.
The Chiefs are very looking to be better in 2013. Beating a team like the Titans would certainly indicate the team is moving in the right direction.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Titans 19
Darren McFadden can be tough to stop when he's healthy.
Kickoff: Dec. 15, 1 p.m. ET
The Raiders present one of the easiest teams on Kansas City’s schedule on paper, but divisional games are always a dogfight.
Oakland brought in more-disciplined players this offseason, something that it didn’t have under Al Davis. Gritty and tough football players’ no longer take a backseat to workout warriors in Oakland.
Considering the Chiefs and Raiders are in a similar situation, it seems likely that this game is as close as the games were back in 2011.
The only difference between the two teams is that the Chiefs have been able to plug their holes with quality free agents and not ones from the bargain bin, which should give them an advantage at several key positions.
There’s nothing about Oakland’s defense that suggests Alex Smith shouldn’t be able to sling the ball around with good success. Oakland’s rebuilt defense remains void of any credible pass-rusher, which could make life extremely easy for Smith while he attempts to find open receivers.
Prediction: Raiders 17, Chiefs 27
Forcing Matt Schaub to do it all is one recipe to beating the Texans.
Kickoff: Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET
One thing that makes the Texans such a good regular season team is that they can win a game in a variety of ways.
Opponents have to pick their poison against the Texans because they can win with defense, the running game or the passing game. Usually forcing Matt Schaub to win the game is a wise choice, unless you can’t cover Andre Johnson or defend the run even by loading the box.
The Texans have the kind of defense that can slow down Jamaal Charles, cover Dwayne Bowe and pressure Alex Smith to make mistakes. If the Chiefs are going to compete in this game, they will need to break through Houston’s excellent defense.
Arian Foster sets up Houston’s offense, so stopping him will be a priority for the Chiefs.
That’s a lot easier than done because the Texans execute their zone blocks so well. The Chiefs will surely have some growing pains as they try to bounce back from a two-win season and a loss to the Texans shouldn’t reflect poorly on the new regime.
Prediction: Texans 28, Chiefs 17
The Chiefs don't have much to worry about if Brandon Weeden is the quarterback for the Browns in 2013.
Kickoff: Oct. 27, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs have the kind of defense that is capable of shutting down any opponent, and the Browns are a team that will be undergoing some changes on offense.
Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner like to throw the ball vertically and Brandon Weeden doesn’t exactly fit that kind of offense (and maybe not any offense).
The Browns have a couple young receivers and could draft a quarterback, but those two factors only make it more likely that the Chiefs can keep the Browns out of the end zone. Cleveland’s defense has the potential to keep them in the game, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to improve enough to limit the Chiefs’ attack.
The Browns are stuck between two offensive schemes, and the defense will slowly have to be shaped by Ray Horton, which will take time. This is a good game for the Chiefs to steal against a rebuilding team.
Prediction: Browns 13, Chiefs 23
C.J. Spiller is a dynamic player that the Chiefs will have to limit to win the game against the Bills.
Kickoff: Nov. 3, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs have gone to Buffalo and had a couple terrible performances over the last couple of years, so it makes sense that they would finally rebound.
It’s not like the Bills are one of the elite teams in the NFL and there’s a very good chance they will be starting a rookie quarterback in 2013.
Buffalo is also changing their defense, even though it was one of the few that slowed down Jamaal Charles last season. That’s good news for Charles because the Chiefs need a good running game to protect Alex Smith.
One of the main concerns for the Chiefs in this game will be stopping the run.
C.J. Spiller proved to be one of the most dynamic running backs in football last year and basically matched Adrian Peterson’s amazing production in the second half. The Chiefs' 3-4 defense needs to maintain good gap control and funnel Spiller inside where he is a lot less dangerous and can’t use his speed to gain chunks of yardage.
Spiller may bust loose a couple of times, but the Chiefs should be able to put enough points on the board to make any big gains irrelevant. Expect the Chiefs to cruise to victory on the back of Charles, an efficient passing game and a stout defense.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Bills 17
It was too easy for Peyton Manning against the Chiefs last season.
Kickoff: Nov. 14, 4:05 p.m. ET
The Broncos got even better on offense by adding Wes Welker and Louis Vasquez, which is hard to fathom.
Any kind of upgrade at running back would make the Broncos nearly impossibly to stop. The Chiefs do have a couple of good pass-rushers, but Manning is too smart and his receivers are too good for that to be a huge problem for the Broncos.
The Chiefs have added several players in the secondary to help them compete with Denver, but it’s unlikely they will be able make Manning uncomfortable at home.
Denver scored over 30 points in seven of their home contests in 2012, so the Chiefs are going to have to play amazing defense or outscore the Broncos to win.
Offensively, the Chiefs have a lot more to work with than they did last year and a proven scheme to put it all together. Alex Smith, Donnie Avery and Anthony Fasano were added and Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles return.
Despite what should be an improved offense, it’s tough to see the Chiefs putting up more than 30 points on the road against one of the better defenses in the AFC.
Prediction: Chiefs 17, Broncos 30
Corey Liuget is a rising star.
Kickoff: Nov. 24, 1 p.m. ET
If the Chiefs get two wins in the AFC West against any one opponent, it just seems like it will be the Chargers.
The Raiders always seem to win a game they have no business winning and the Chargers always seem to lose a game they have no business losing.
In this case, the Chargers are traveling to Kansas City, which gives the Chiefs the advantage. The Chargers struggled to put pressure on the quarterback and cover in 2012—a bad combination. Things will not get much easier in 2013 unless the Chargers have an amazing draft.
When protected, Alex Smith can be a very solid quarterback and the Chargers were not nearly as good at rushing the passer as their sacks stats may indicate.
Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs have a couple big plays in the passing game and win on a game-winning drive by Smith.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Chiefs 27
Wes Welker gives the Broncos another weapon.
Kickoff: Dec. 1, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs played the Broncos tough at home last season, allowing only 17 points to the great Peyton Manning.
The potential is there for the Chiefs to slow down the Broncos again, but to win, they will need a lot more production from their passing game.
Alex Smith has to be great in this game for the Chiefs. Smith has to thwart the pass rush of Von Miller by getting rid of the ball quickly and putting it in the hands of his playmakers. Jamaal Charles needs to force the outside rushers to respect the run and slow the pass rush so Smith can make the big plays necessary to win the game.
At some point during the season, things will start to click for Kansas City’s new offense. It seems like as good as time as ever for the Chiefs to have their best performance at home against their biggest rival.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Chiefs 28
Robert Griffin III is a dynamic threat on offense for the Redskins.
Kickoff: Dec. 8, 1 p.m. ET
Robert Griffin III was an amazing rookie quarterback. If Griffin returns healthy in 2013, there’s no telling what he can do because he has only scratched the surface of his capabilities on the football field.
Griffin just needs to learn how to protect his body and he’ll be able to take his game to the next level.
The Redskins are a well-coached team with an elite quarterback, good running game and a few weapons in the passing game. Washington’s defense isn’t quite on the same level, so the Chiefs should be able to score. The only question is if the Chiefs will be able to keep pace with the Redskins’ offense.
Last season, the Redskins were either exploding for 30 or more points or they were limited to 17 points or less with very few exceptions. With a year of experience, it’s safe to say that Griffin and the Redskins will become more consistent in 2013.
Few teams had an answer for Griffin, which is likely to continue as long as he’s a dual threat to run and pass.
The Chiefs could use a quality win against an opponent like the Redskins, but Griffin just creates too many problems defensively. The Chiefs will have to score early and often to keep pace and it remains to be seen if they have the personnel capable of winning a shootout.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Redskins 35
Should the Chiefs be worried about Matt Flynn?
Kickoff: Oct. 13, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs will almost certainly win more games in 2013, but that doesn’t mean their wins will come easily—especially within the division.
The Raiders are a rebuilding team, but they have done a better job adding solid starters than many realize.
The Raiders and the Chiefs are not too dissimilar. Both teams traded for their starting quarterback, added several starters on defense in free agency and will use the draft to add an impact player and provide depth. It’s really not a surprise considering both teams have general managers (Andy Reid in Kansas City, Reggie McKenzie in Oakland) who have spent their careers working for the Packers.
If Reid has learned anything from the way Jim Harbaugh handled Alex Smith, he’ll run the ball and limit the opportunities Smith has to make mistakes. The Raiders were probably the best team in the league last year versus Jamaal Charles and have taken steps this offseason to remain a strong run defense.
A close game seems likely, with the slight edge going to the Raiders playing at home.
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Raiders 21
The Chiefs play a lot of good quarterbacks like Andrew Luck in 2013.
Kickoff: Dec. 22, 1 p.m.
The model franchise for what the Chiefs are trying to accomplish in 2013 is the Indianapolis Colts.
After drafting Andrew Luck No. 1 overall, the Colts made the playoffs last season. It’s a remarkable feat that only happens when everything goes correctly for a franchise.
There is no such quarterback as Luck in the draft this year so the Chiefs decided to trade for Alex Smith instead of taking a quarterback in the first round.
The Chiefs could rebound as strongly as the Colts, but it will be due to the existing talent on the Kansas City roster and not because they added an elite prospect.
The Colts still need a lot of help on defense and spent big in free agency trying to improve. The Chiefs should be able to run and pass on the Colts, which should lead to a lot of scoring.
Unfortunately, Luck should be even better during his sophomore year and he’ll be playing in virtually the same offense he was in college.
Expect a lot of points and big plays, with Luck edging out the Chiefs in the final minutes.
Prediction: Colts 30, Chiefs 27
Philip Rivers was pressured so much, he often sensed it when it wasn't there.
Kickoff: Dec 29, 4:25 p.m. ET
The Chargers beat the Chiefs in San Diego, 31-13, last season, but both teams are trying to compete in the AFC West in 2013.
The Chargers are a vastly different team than they were last season and the Chiefs would be wise to understand the differences.
San Diego’s defense is going young at several key positions. Shaun Philips, Takeo Spikes and Quentin Jammer are all being replaced by younger players. The result of younger players taking over usually means there will be a few growing pains to go along with the lingering pain brought about by an inability to protect Philip Rivers.
Unless the Chargers miraculously land one of the top-tier left tackles in the draft, they will continue to be vulnerable to a good pass rush. The Chiefs have one of the better pass-rushing duos in the NFL and it’s still getting better. The Chiefs also have a more capable secondary than they had last year.
The Chiefs have the personnel to limit the Chargers and should be able to exploit a young defense to score enough points to win. Expect a tight game that comes down to the wire as is usually the case between division rivals.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Chargers 21