This is the week when the NFL trots out all the statistics on the significance of winning the season opener.
They will tell you that in 2012, of the 12 playoff teams, eight of them —Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Minnesota, New England, San Francisco and Washington — won their openers.
They will tell you that since 1978, when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, that of 506 teams that won openers, 266 —or 53 percent —went to the playoffs, and of the teams that lost openers, only 120 went to the playoffs.
The truth is, you probably can apply those percentages to every weekend of the season. The best teams win most of the time.
But, having said that, the Chiefs absolutely, positively must win the season opener at Jacksonville. It could be the difference between a 3-0 or better start or an 0-3 or worse start.
The Chiefs should beat the Jaguars. Though both teams were 2-14 last season, you’ve got to like the coaching matchup of Andy Reid vs. rookie head coach Gus Bradley and the quarterback matchup of Alex Smith vs. fill in the blank. And whoever starts at quarterback for Jacksonville won’t have his best receiver, Justin Blackmon, who is suspended for four games.
So if the Chiefs beat Jacksonville, it should give them the momentum to come home, in front of a supercharged crowd, and knock off a beatable Dallas team that will be coming off an emotional, prime-time season opener against division rival New York. That’s 2-0.
Then, they ride the emotion of Andy Reid’s return to Philadelphia and steal that game on a short week before coming home for a game against the New York Giants. Win that one, and they’re 4-0 going into games at a bad Tennessee team and a home game against an even worse Raiders team. Do I hear 6-0 or even 5-1 anyone?
But on the flip side, if the Chiefs wilt in the Jacksonville heat, the pressure will be enormous to beat the Cowboys. They could play tight, and if the ball bounces the wrong way, now they’re 0-2 going into a hornet’s nest in Philadelphia. And you don’t want to be 0-3 heading into a game against Eli Manning and the Giants.
No, the season opener is not a must-win. But winning it can pave the way to something big.