Given the amount of parity in the NFL, it’s often a foolish exercise to try to gauge a schedule’s difficulty before games have been played.
“There’s so much parity in the National Football League right now, they can present you any schedule they want,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You don’t know until you play those teams.”
But at the same time, it’s certainly not a common occurrence for a team — in this case, the Chiefs — to be scheduled to play seven of its first 10 games away from home.
“That was interesting when I saw that statistic,” defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been been a part of that.”
To a degree, the Chiefs can blame themselves for this.
While an overwhelming number of teams — 21, to be exact — play five home games and five away games to start the year, the Chiefs’ decision to sacrifice a home game this season (their Nov. 1 date against Detroit) to fulfill the NFL’s desire to continue its annual International Series in London certainly played a big role in their unbalanced early schedule.
To that end, it’s certainly worth noting that the Miami Dolphins — the only other team who will also play seven of its first 10 games away from home — did this to themselves, too, by surrendering their Oct. 4 home game against the Jets to play in London.
But with the decision made and schedule now official, the Chiefs — who face the league’s sixth-toughest schedule, based on 2014 winning percentages — are focused on overcoming it.
“There’s too much competition at this level; I get fired up for each one of them,” Reid said, referring to each game. “I think we have a great schedule; it’s going to challenge you. That’s what we do —we want to play the best teams we possibly can, and let’s see where we’re at. Let’s go.”
There seems to be a sense that the hard work the Chiefs will put in over the next few weeks in St. Joseph will bring them closer together and prepare them for any potential early pitfalls.
“When you build this thing, that camaraderie that takes place up here, that’s what carries you through road games,” Reid said. “You go in there as a business trip to get certain things done. You know everybody in that building is most likely against you, and that’s how you approach it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
In fact, a handful of Chiefs say they get extra motivation on the road.
“I kind of like road games better than home games,” DeVito said. “I feel like you get away, you get focused. That’s the point of what we’re doing here, to kind of get away and get focused. We’ll be fine. Anything they put in front of us, we’ll be fine.”
And, as inside linebacker Derrick Johnson noted, if the Chiefs want to win the Super Bowl this year — which would be extra special, given the fact this is the 50th anniversary of the game, and the team’s founder, Lamar Hunt, coined the name for the game in 1966 — they’re going to have to overcome a number of obstacles, anyway.
So why not one more?
“That always makes it harder, especially when they’re away games,” Johnson said. “We have the best home stadium in the league, so that does make it a little harder.
“But we want to win the Super Bowl, so we’ve got to win on the road, we’ve got to beat the best teams, and that’s what we’ve got to do. It’s almost like you look at (the schedule) and you’re like ‘Oh.’ But (then you’re) like, ‘OK.’”
“We could have all our games at home. (But) after that regular season, it’s going to be hard.”
The journey officially begins Saturday, when the Chiefs hold their first full-squad practice at 3:30 p.m. at Missouri Western. The good thing about that, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said, is that camp keeps players so busy that it’s impossible to obsess about a tough early-season slate that is still over a month away.
“Without a doubt, you see (the schedule),” Smith said. “I have been thinking about it since the schedule came out. You do know it, but it is easier to think about it when I am on my own and you have time.
“That is the nice thing about camp — you are (always) going. You are trying to convert short-yardage periods, we are in 7-on-7 and converting there and all of those things in the middle of practice. … That’s is the nice thing about camp — it is all right in front of you.”
So from now until the opener in Houston on Sept. 13, Smith said the focus is on getting better everyday and being ready for that game in hopes of getting off to a good start.
“Certainly for us, the opener has a ton of focus, and the division (games, too),” he said. “I would say those are the two areas of focus for us. We know who we are playing and how important it is for us to get out to a good start.
“When you do get in a hole, it is tough,” Smith said. “It is really tough to dig your way back out. That is why it is so important to get out to a good start. For us, it is the opener, try to get that first one.”
And if the Chiefs manage to do that — and get off to a good start, despite so many road games — it’s important to remember that the end of the season, in which they get four of their last six games at home, brings some relief.
“I think we take pride in being able to play in any situation,” DeVito said. “Home or away, whatever it is, we take pride in that.
“And then you think about it, we’re finishing off the season with all those games at home, and that’s when you really want to be doing well, finishing off the year. So I look at it as the glass is half full.”