The 2019 season will be remembered forever in Kansas City and the Chiefs Kingdom. From the 4-0 start, Mahomes’ injury (and Moore’s heroics), the midseason slump, to the strong finish and playoff comebacks, last season provided countless memories.
With 2019 in the rearview, however, the Chiefs and fans alike have been looking ahead to 2020, as the team will try to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, which hasn’t been done in the NFL for 16 years.
When looking at the 2020 schedule, there are a number of storylines to watch. We are now just 67 (July 5) days away from the opener against the Houston Texans, barring any Covid-19 related delays.
It all begins with that opener against the Texans. Despite losing DeAndre Hopkins and having a poor offseason, Deshaun Watson should not be taken lightly. The Texans will come in with something to prove after blowing a 24-0 lead in the Divisional round in January.
After the opener, the Chiefs will face their first divisional opponent when they travel Inglewood, California to face the Chargers. This will be the Chargers first game in the new SoFi stadium.
After the Chargers is a tough stretch, with three of the next four coming against 2019 playoff teams, including two road primetime games. First up is a trip to Baltimore, which is many fans and analysts early pick for matchup of the year between the two favorites in the AFC.
Cam Newton and Bill Belichick are next into Arrowhead, then the Las Vegas Raiders (that will take some getting used to). A Thursday night trip to Buffalo rounds out a tough month.
The next month or so features a slate of winnable games, including home games against the Jets and Panthers, and a pair of road divisional games in Denver and Vegas. Denver is likely the toughest game out of that group, but still winnable none the less.
The final stretch is tough to start, with trips to “Tompa Bay” and New Orleans. A trip to the site of the Super Bowl LIV victory is wedged in between, as well as a primetime Arrowhead matchup with Denver, which could go a long way in determining the AFC West if Denver has the year they are hoping to have.
The 2020 regular season rounds out with two winnable homes game against the Falcons and Chargers.
In total the combined 2019 record of opponents comes out to an even .500, at 128-128.
The Chiefs were given a week 10 bye, the fifth time in the last six seasons that their bye came in the second half of the season.
So, realistically, how many games can the Chiefs expect to win in 2020?
If they play up to full potential, the answer is 16. But this is the NFL, where upsets and bad weeks happen. Even in a Super Bowl season, games like the Indianapolis and Tennessee losses happen.
The more realistic answer is around 11-13, with the losses coming from some of the tougher opponents in the Ravens, Patriots, Bills, Buccaneers, and Saints, and another loss or two from the more “winnable” games.
With the new seven team playoff format, only the top team in each conference gets the coveted bye. Under the 12-team format, a team with the bye reached the Super Bowl about 80 percent of the time. Since 2010, the 1-seed in each conference has averaged 13 wins.
Twelve or 13 wins should be the expectation and goal for the Chiefs, as well as winning key conference matchups against Baltimore, Buffalo, and New England. Five or six division wins should also be the expectation, even with the improvements in Denver and Vegas.
Overall, an AFC West title and a high seed for the playoffs is a likely outcome in 2020, and Kansas City should be well positioned come January to defend their title.
This is all dependent on how sports return over the next month or so, as outbreaks within leagues would shut sports right back down again, which could lead to the cancellation of games or even the entire season. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.