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Old 10-14-2004, 11:29 AM  
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RAND: Chiefs Need to Find Their Way on the Road

RAND: Chiefs Need to Find Their Way on the Road
Oct 14, 2004, 4:02:50 AM by Jonathan Rand


The Chiefs haven’t won more games on the road than at home since 1980. Yet they may have to do that this year to make the playoffs.



They’ve won as many games on the road as at home just once since 1980. They almost certainly will have to do that again to make the playoffs.

The Chiefs haven’t made their road ahead any easier by dropping the first three games, especially the two at home. When you fall in a hole by losing games you weren’t supposed to lose, the only way out is to win some games you weren’t supposed to win.

The Chiefs pulled off one upset with a victory at Baltimore going into their bye week. They face only a slightly less daunting task at Jacksonville on Sunday, even though the Chiefs are rated as slight favorites.

Though the Jaguars stand 3-2, they’ve lost two straight games. They consider themselves in the same boat as the Chiefs, especially after seeing a tough rushing defense suddenly become vulnerable in San Diego.

“They’re in the same mode,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of the Chiefs. “They’re trying to find a way to get back on track.”

The Chiefs, you can tell, will not catch the Jaguars napping. They’re catching as much flak publicly after two straight losses as the Chiefs were catching after an 0-3 start.

That’s the Chiefs’ worst start since 1980, when they began 0-4, including three losses at home. They finished 8-8, thanks mainly to five wins on the road. If you keep losing your serve, you’d better start breaking serve to avoid getting knocked out of contention.

The Chiefs’ a year ago took the conventional path to the AFC West title – they were undefeated at home and 5-3 on the road. It’s never easy running the table at home and given the Chiefs’ much tougher schedule, a 7-1 home record and 4-4 road record this year seemed a reasonable best-case scenario.

But with home losses to the Panthers and Texans, the Chiefs can finish no better than 6-2 at home. And that’s not very likely with the Falcons, Colts, Patriots, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders the six remaining home opponents.

The Chiefs will have to play awfully well to finish 5-3 at home, which would leave them needing to finish no worse than 5-3 on the road to make the playoffs. Because a 10-6 record can still leave a team home in January – the 2003 Dolphins are the latest example – the Chiefs may need a 6-2 road record to make the playoffs.

That’s not out of the question because the Chiefs’ road schedule is manageable, especially if they can remain as road-ready as they were in Baltimore. The remaining road opponents are the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Saints, Raiders, Titans and Chargers.

It should not take a Dick Vermeil speech to let his players know what they must do Sunday. When the home fans are in a cranky mood, it’s the visitor’s job to make them crankier. That’s exactly what the Panthers did to the Chiefs in their home opener and Arrowhead Stadium was almost empty before the final gun.

The last time the Chiefs won as many games away as at home was 2001, when Vermeil’s first Kansas City team went 3-5 at home and finished 6-10. His team’s 5-3 road record a year ago was as good as any for the Chiefs since 1972.

Having had one of their worst starts ever, the Chiefs won’t make the playoffs unless they have one of their best finishes ever. And if they don’t win Sunday, any discussion over what they need to do the rest of the way will be rendered pointless.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.


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A former sportswriter and columnist in Kansas City and Miami, Rand has covered the NFL for three decades and seen 23 Super Bowl games. His column appears twice weekly in-season.
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Old 10-14-2004, 11:31 AM   #2
MichaelH MichaelH is offline
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They also need to figure out how to win at home this year.
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