I’m sticking with my 9-7 prediction that I made for the Kansas City Chiefs in April when the schedule was released. But how I’ve arrived at that number has changed.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, at Houston, 1 p.m. ET
Between injuries and lineup changes, the Chiefs settled on a starting offensive line only late in the preseason. Going against the Texans, who have Vince Wilfork and J.J. Watt on their defensive front, with an unsettled offensive line is a tough way to make a living. But the Chiefs will play some good defense, too, and win a close game. Chiefs 17, Texans 13. Record: 1-0.
Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 17, Denver, 8:25 p.m. ET
The Chiefs are 0-6 against the Broncos when Peyton Manning is the Denver quarterback. If not this time, then the Chiefs might never get the job done. Arrowhead Stadium will be rocking for the Chiefs’ first prime-time home opener since 2010. The Chiefs have never had more going for them in a matchup against Manning. Chiefs 24, Broncos 20. Record: 2-0.
Week 3: Monday, Sept. 28, at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Chiefs will have the advantage of a few extra days of rest in this one. But winning at Lambeau Field will take more than that. The Chiefs will be playing without their most established cornerback, Sean Smith, because of his NFL suspension, and that makes the situation against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers more difficult than it otherwise would be. Packers 27, Chiefs 17. Record: 2-1.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. ET
A difficult schedule in the first quarter of the season draws to a close against the Bengals. Concluding this stretch of schedule, playing with a short week and then having to go on the road makes this a difficult challenge. Plus, the Bengals can ball a little bit. Bengals 20, Chiefs 12. Record: 2-2.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, Chicago, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs’ schedule doesn’t contain many gimmes. This might be as close as it gets. It’s difficult to picture the Chiefs making the playoffs if they don’t beat the Bears. For the first time all season, the Chiefs have exactly seven days to prepare for a game and they’ll get the job done. Chiefs 31, Bears 13. Record: 3-2.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Minnesota, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs, who relinquished their Nov. 1 home game against the Lions to the NFL’s London project, will need to steal a couple of victories on the road if they’re going to make the playoffs. This game represents a chance. But the Vikings, coming off their bye, will be the fresher team and emerge with the victory. Vikings 26, Chiefs 20. Record: 3-3.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
Former Chiefs coach Todd Haley makes his return to Arrowhead Stadium as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. He’d like nothing more than to leave triumphantly, but the Chiefs won’t allow that to happen. Haley will get outcoached by Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and the Chiefs will send him back to Pittsburgh with nothing to show for the trip. Chiefs 34, Steelers 21. Record 4-3.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, vs. Detroit in London, 9:30 a.m. ET
There’s never a good year for the Chiefs to give up a home game. They have a tremendous home-field advantage at Arrowhead Stadium. But given the difficulty of this year's schedule, it's a particularly rough season to have just seven games in Kansas City. The Lions find things easier to accomplish in the quiet of Wembley Stadium than they would have in the din of Arrowhead. Lions 28, Chiefs 24. Record: 4-4.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, at Denver, 4:25 p.m. ET
Even before Manning joined the Broncos, the Chiefs found Denver an almost impossible place to win. The Chiefs have just two wins in their last 14 trips to the Mile High City. They’ll come close this time but come up short. Broncos 23, Chiefs 21. Record: 4-5.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at San Diego, 8:30 p.m. ET
Three of the four games between the Chiefs and Chargers since Andy Reid’s arrival in Kansas City have come down to the end. There’s no reason to think this one will be any different. These teams usually seems evenly matched. But after losing six straight in San Diego before last year, the Chiefs are still due to have some success at Qualcomm Stadium. Chiefs 20, Chargers 17. Record: 5-5.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, Buffalo, 1 p.m. ET
These teams aren’t division rivals but have played one another in each season going back to 2008. While the last three games have been played in Buffalo, the scene now moves to Kansas City, where the Chiefs need a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m picking a slim Chiefs victory, but the margin would grow if the Bills are quarterbacked by Matt Cassel. Chiefs 19, Bills 14. Record: 6-5.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at Oakland, 4:05 p.m. ET
A year ago, the Chiefs took a five-game winning streak to Oakland to play the winless Raiders on a Thursday night. The Chiefs came out flat, fell behind, rallied but then lost on a late Raiders touchdown. The Chiefs will have a full week to prepare this time and it will make the difference. Chiefs 27, Raiders 17. Record: 7-5.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, San Diego, 1 p.m. ET
The Chargers are up again quickly, with only two games separating the meeting between the teams in San Diego. It’s usually difficult to predict a season sweep here, given the narrow margin of victory in three of the last four meetings. So this time, a late Philip Rivers touchdown pass gives San Diego the victory and damages the Chiefs’ playoff hopes. Chargers 24, Chiefs 21. Record: 7-6.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Baltimore, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs played an AFC North opponent late last season on the road in late December, needing a victory to keep their playoff dreams alive. That loss in Pittsburgh was the one that eventually kept the Chiefs out of the postseason. A similar scenario exists here and again the Chiefs will fall short. Ravens 20, Chiefs 16. Record: 7-7.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET
Dwayne Bowe will make his return to Arrowhead Stadium and for him it will be a happy reunion. He will do something he couldn’t do all last season: catch a touchdown pass. But the Chiefs will win the bigger battle. Chiefs 24, Browns 10. Record: 8-7.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, Oakland, 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs have finished the regular season twice against the Raiders since Arrowhead Stadium opened and they’ve lost both times. But there’s a first time for everything and the Chiefs will get that season sweep against the Raiders. Chiefs 34, Raiders 24. Record: 9-7.