The Kansas City Chiefs took advantage of a last-place schedule in 2013 to get a second-place finish in the AFC West and a spot in the playoffs. Judging by the schedule of opponents the Chiefs will face next season (based on the scheduling formula the NFL has used for the last decade), the team will take a dramatic step up in competition.
Based upon the 2013 performance of their opponents, the Chiefs will play four games against playoff teams at Arrowhead and three games against playoff teams on the road.
Their home opponents will be (2013 playoff teams in bold): Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Chiefs will hit the road in 2014 to play: Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, and the San Francisco 49ers.
Obviously four of the games are the home/road match-up with the Broncos and Chargers, but other than the game against Tennessee, there doesn’t appear to be a “gimme” on next year’s slate. Miami and Arizona are ascending teams, and Pittsburgh came within a missed Ryan Succop field goal of going to the playoffs this years. And winning in Pittsburgh is always tough.
The other game closest to being a “gimme” is Buffalo, but given the Chiefs recent history of getting punked by the Bills, that is definitely NOT a gimme.
Since 2002, the NFL has used the same formula for ensuring that all teams play each other on a regular, rotating basis. Under the formula, every team plays a 16-game schedule as follows:
- Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
- The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
- The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
- Two intra-conference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation to ensure that teams playing the AFC and NFC West divisions would not be required to make two west coast trips (e.g. at San Francisco and at Seattle), while other teams in their division had none (e.g. at St. Louis and at Arizona).
Of course, playing in the AFC West, the Chiefs are used to making at least two West Coast trips every year to Oakland and San Diego, but the nice part about living and playing in the middle of the country is that they never have a coast-to-coast trip.
Actual dates and times for the 2014 schedule will be released by the league in the spring.
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