Red Zone

AFC West champions? Predicting wins, losses on the Chiefs’ 2016 NFL schedule

Last year, it was the Broncos’ turn to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. This year, Von Miller’s team looks more beatable.
Last year, it was the Broncos’ turn to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. This year, Von Miller’s team looks more beatable. AP

(Editor’s note: This story is part of The Star’s annual football preview, which will appear in three special sections in the Sunday, Aug. 28 print edition and also on KansasCity.com and The Star’s Red Zone Extra app.)

Sept. 11 vs. San Diego

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

W (1-0)

The Chiefs should open the season the right way at home against a Chargers team they’ve had recent success against. There’s reason to be wary, however: San Diego will throw the ball, and the Chiefs’ edge rush and young secondary will be tested.

Sept. 18 at Houston

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

L (1-1)

KC fans have enjoyed their city’s “ownership” of Houston, but it’s probably asking a lot for the Chiefs to win at NRG Stadium for the third time in 12 months. Houston has fortified its weak spots this offseason — including guard, in former Chief Jeff Allen — and the Texans will be highly motivated to avenge past losses.

Sept. 25 vs. N.Y Jets

3:25 p.m., CBS (Ch. 5)

W (2-1)

The Jets are dangerous, thanks to a solid defense and an offense that features two big-play receivers. But they’ll be coming off two physical games, against Cincinnati and Buffalo, and the Chiefs’ defense should be able to hold the Jets’ offense down long enough to come away with a home win.

Oct. 2 at Pittsburgh

7:30 p.m., NBC (Ch. 41)

L (2-2)

The Steelers’ offense is dynamic. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown form one of the league’s best trios. Bell will be back from his three-game suspension, and it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs’ defense stuffing the Steelers in a prime-time road game.

Oct. 16 at Oakland

3:05 p.m., CBS (Ch. 5)

W (3-2)

Oakland has lost five of its last six to the Chiefs, including two close games a year ago, so expect these talented Raiders — including former Chiefs corner Sean Smith — to take this game seriously in hopes of making the statement that they’ve officially arrived. But the Chiefs should be refocused following their open date, and they’ll need this one to get their season back on track. Maybe they’ll even enjoy a big game from former Raider Rod Streater.

Oct. 23 vs. New Orleans

Noon, Fox (Ch. 4)

W (4-2)

The Saints should be able to score points, but their defense must prove it’s going to be better this season to win a game like this on the road. Plus, for the Saints, this game will be sandwiched between two physical tilts: Carolina and Seattle.

Oct. 30 at Indianapolis

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

L (4-3)

The Chiefs return to the site of their devastating wild-card loss in January 2014, and while this should be a close, competitive game, the Colts will be better this year. And it’s always tough beating a great quarterback like Andrew Luck on the road.

Nov. 6 vs. Jacksonville

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

L (4-4)

Here’s a dangerous game. The Jaguars are young and hungry and they feature loads of ascending talent on both sides of the ball. Arrowhead should be rocking, but they might catch the Chiefs looking ahead before a big tilt against Carolina.

Nov. 13 at Carolina

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

L (4-5)

The Panthers are built to give the Chiefs problems. They feature the reigning MVP in Cam Newton, they run the heck out of the ball, and they know how to rattle an opposing QB with pressure. Carolina takes this one as fans wonder if this Chiefs team will ever get on a hot streak.

Nov. 20 vs. Tampa Bay

Noon, Fox (Ch. 4)

W (5-5)

Tampa Bay features some nice young pieces, particularly on offense, but when it comes to depth, the Chiefs are a far better team. They should take this game with relative ease to pull back to .500.

Nov. 27 at Denver

3:25 p.m., CBS (Ch. 5)

W (6-5)

The Chiefs snapped their seven-game losing streak against the Broncos last November, so Mile High is no longer a house of horrors. The Broncos’ QB situation makes them vulnerable, and if the Chiefs’ pass rush comes around by this point, they should be able to top .500 for the first time in more than two months.

Dec. 4 at Atlanta

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

L (6-6)

The Chiefs will be facing their old friend Scott Pioli for the first time since his dismissal as GM after the 2012 season. This one is a toss-up, but the Falcons’ offense should be good, and their young front seven should be rounding into form at this point.

Dec. 8 vs. Oakland

7:25 p.m., NBC (Ch. 41)

W (7-6)

Chiefs coach Andy Reid generally has his teams well-prepared for spotlight games, especially crucial ones against division rivals they’ve already lost to during the season. The Chiefs will have home-field advantage here and they should be take this one, especially with the Raiders coming off a physical game against Buffalo.

Dec. 18 vs. Tennessee

Noon, CBS (Ch. 5)

W (8-6)

Tennessee will try to pound the rock against the Chiefs, but the Titans can’t match the Chiefs’ overall talent. It’s hard to imagine them upsetting Kansas City twice at Arrowhead Stadium in three years.

Dec. 25 vs. Denver

7:30 p.m., NBC (Ch. 41)

W (9-6)

Here’s another spotlight game, one the Chiefs — who should be right in the middle of the AFC West title mix with the Broncos and Raiders — can take on Christmas night. This should set up a chance to clinch the division title on the road the following week against San Diego.

Jan. 1 at San Diego

3:25 p.m., CBS (Ch. 5)

W (10-6)

The Chargers will make it competitive — as long as quarterback Philip Rivers is healthy, they’ll always be dangerous — but the Chiefs need this one. They’ll win their fourth game in a row to clinch their first AFC West title since 2010.

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