KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First, if 9-0 happens again, run to the gas station and snatch up a lotto ticket, pronto. A first month that includes trips to Denver, Miami and San Francisco all but guarantees that the Kansas City Chiefs’ magic carpet ride of 2013 will be replaced by a road with all kinds of #$*(*&@ potholes.
And take a peek at December: at Arizona, at Pittsburgh.
In the NFL, what goes up often comes down again, and vice versa. Live by the salary cap, die by the salary cap. The hardest thing to do is be consistently excellent. The second-hardest thing is to be consistently putrid.
Over the last decade, the Chiefs have epitomized the yo-yo nature of a system designed for competitive "balance" as much as anyone: Since 2003, five seasons of nine wins or more and four seasons of four wins or fewer.
The trick with "The Flying Goodell" roller coaster is somehow staying off it.
Case in point: For their 2-14 nightmare in 2012, the Chiefs were handed the No. 1 draft pick and the seventh-easiest schedule (based on ’12 winning percentages) in the circuit. For their 11-5 Cinderella efforts in 2013, the Chiefs were handed Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
So keep that in mind, for sanity’s sake, whatever shakes out. And keep this close, too: Of the 11 NFL teams assigned the seventh-toughest schedule in the league since 2010, the maximum wins off that slate was 10, and the average victory count for those clubs was 7.3.
Ken Whisenhunt has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing. It remains to be seen whether we can say the same about Jake Locker. Guesstimate: W
Week 2: at Denver, Sept. 14
Bronco quarterbacks the Chiefs have beaten in the mountains since 1999: Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow. Just remember — Peyton Manning can’t do this forever. At least, we think. Guesstimate: L
Week 3: at Miami, Sept. 21
Party at Branden Albert’s house! Also, a classic trap game, sandwiched as it is between Manning on one end and Brady/Kaepernick on the other. Guesstimate: L
Week 4: vs. New England, Sept. 29 (Mon.)
Fun with Trivia, Part I: Brady is the only Pats quarterback to win at Arrowhead since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger: Nov. 22, 2004, a 27-19 New England victory. Side note: That one was played on a Monday night, too. Guesstimate: W
Week 5: at San Francisco, Oct. 5
The Alex Smith Bowl, and the end of an absolute gauntlet to open the campaign. Fun with Trivia, Part II: The last time the Chiefs beat the Niners by the Bay, the No. 1 single in America was "Family Affair," by Sly and the Family Stone — Dec. 6, 1971. Guesstimate: L
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at San Diego, Oct. 19
Since 2004, the Chiefs are 3-7 coming off a bye. Maybe The Andy Gang should start Chase Daniel and the rest of the "B" team again, just to finish what they started. Guesstimate: L
Week 8: vs. St. Louis, Oct. 26
Boulevard Wheat or Schlafly Hefeweizen? Since the Rams fled Los Angeles for the Gateway City, the Chiefs have won all five "Battle For Missouri" games that actually counted. And they’ve won by an average score of 38-19. Guesstimate: W
Week 9: vs. New York Jets, Nov. 2
Question No. 1: Michael Vick or Geno Smith? Question No. 2: Does it really matter? Guesstimate: W
Nothing good ever happens in upstate New York. Unless, of course, Jeff Tuel is somehow involved. Show of hands as to who thinks Bills tight end Tony Moeaki makes it through the season long enough to be active for this one? Guesstimate: L
Week 11: vs. Seattle, Nov. 16
The last time Russell Wilson played at Arrowhead, it was the 2012 preseason, and he was a rookie fighting for the Seahawks’ starting quarterback gig. He ran circles around the Chiefs the way The Flash runs circles around super-villains. In hindsight, it was a sign of things to come. For both parties. Guesstimate: L
Week 12: at Oakland, Nov. 20 (Thur.)
The Raiders had a strong draft, and it’ll be interesting to see how much Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley have left in the tank. That said, if Matt Schaub is the answer, what the hell was the question again? Guesstimate: W
Week 13: vs. Denver, Nov. 30
A longer week than usual to get ready for Manning and the Pony Express can’t hurt, although it didn’t help much last fall. Fun with Trivia Part III: Since ’04, the Chiefs are 12-24 at Arrowhead as a home underdog. Interesting. Not encouraging, but interesting. Guesstimate: L
Week 14: at Arizona, Dec. 7
Fun with Trivia Part IV: Conversely, the Chiefs over the last decade are 10-8 away from Kansas City as a road favorite — with an average victory margin of a touchdown (6.7 points). Guesstimate: W
Week 15: vs. Oakland, Dec. 14
Schaub. Tuck. Woodley. Charles Woodson. Maurice Jones-Drew. The Raiders would be fielding one of the best starting 22 in pro football … if this were 2009. Guesstimate: W
Week 16: at Pittsburgh, Dec. 21
Last time the Chiefs won in the Steel City was on a Dec. 21. Bad news: That Dec. 21 was back in 1986. The last quarterback to pull it off? Bill Kenney, with a relief appearance by Todd Blackledge. The last coach? John Mackovic. Guesstimate: L
Week 17: vs. San Diego, Dec. 28
Philip Rivers in the cold sounds like a good idea, but … since 2004, the Bolts are 4-1 at Arrowhead Stadium in games played after Nov. 23. Guesstimate: W
THE FINAL VERDICT: 8-8 overall, 3-3 vs. AFC West, 6-6 vs. AFC
With breaks and health, the Chiefs might be almost as good of a team — on paper — as the one that went 11-5 in the regular season a year ago. But replacing the NFC East with the NFC West is a brutal draw, especially when combined with the Patriots and Steelers in what the computers say is the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL in 2014. Another stat to keep in mind: Of the 11 teams since 2010 to have drawn, either separately or collectively, the NFL’s seventh-toughest slate, only two — the 2011 Broncos (8-8) and the 2011 Lions (10-6) — reached the playoffs at the end of that particular gauntlet.
That’s an 18.2 percent clip. And an awfully, awfully steep hill.