The lockout is over! Hooray, hooray, the lockout is over!
Now that the labor mess is finally out of the way, let us get back to the important side of football, the games.
Looking at the Kansas City Chiefs 2011 NFL schedule, one thing stands out: This schedule is tough! The NFL has laid out a pretty difficult path for the Chiefs to make it back to the playoffs. The way I see it, there are two stretches of the season that could spell doom for the Chiefs in 2011.
One of these tough stretches comes very early in the season and could be an early indicator as to how the Chiefs will compete in the AFC West. The second tough stretch of the season is much longer than the first and will most likely determine if the Chiefs make the playoffs in 2011.
The first stretch of tough matchups the Chiefs will face starts Week 3 and will last through Week 5. The Chiefs have two road games in this span and will have to face off against two of the top quarterbacks in the NFL: Phillip Rivers (San Diego) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis).
The one shimmer of light in this scenario is that Manning may not be 100 percent. The Colts are constantly competing for a playoff position, and if the Chiefs could manage to pull off a win it would be a huge early-in-the-season step towards the playoffs.
In between the two games against the Chargers and the Colts the Chiefs will face the Minnesota Vikings. While on paper this may seem like an easy win, the Vikings are a team that consistently has one of the best defenses in the NFL. Add that to the fact the Chiefs like to play down to their competition (see the Buffalo games the last two seasons), and this game is far from a guaranteed win.
The second, and most crucial, tough stretch of matchups the Chiefs face starts Week 11 and will end Week 15. In this span of five games the Chiefs face some of the toughest competition in the NFL, and I will go on record to say that this is the toughest five-game schedules that any team in the league will face next season.
During this five-game run the Chiefs will play teams that all made the playoffs last season. The Chiefs have three road games against the New England Patriots (Monday Night Football), Chicago Bears and New York Jets. The home games in this stretch do not get much easier as the Chiefs face the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
I would be willing to bet right now the Chiefs will be favored to win just one of these five games, with that win most likely coming against the Bears. However, that win is not guaranteed as the Bears and the Jets have two of the best defenses in the NFL.
The Chiefs will have one of their toughest games of the year on Monday Night Football in Foxboro, Mass. Led by Tom Brady, the Patriots have been virtually unstoppable on Monday Night Football, having won eight out of nine games dating back to 2006.
And will the Chiefs be able to re-visit their 2009 victory against the Steelers? Will the Chiefs' young secondary be able to slow down Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and the high-flying Green Bay passing attack?
If the Chiefs are planning on making it to the playoffs in 2011 the answer to those questions better be YES!
These two tough stretches during the 2011 NFL season could make or break the Chiefs. If the Chiefs struggle early, it could mean the players lose confidence for the rest of the season. If the Chiefs struggle late it could mean no playoffs in 2011.
The ride might not be smooth this season, but it sure will be an entertaining one.