From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
As your typical, average football fanatic, who has been following the game for more than half a century, it’s an awesome feeling the NFL’s regular season begins Thursday.
That’s the good news, but COVID-19 remains a gray cloud over the league. About 93% of the players and more than 99% of coaches and team staff are vaccinated and that’s a good start along with full stadium of fans over a new 17-game schedule for each squad.
One team that has a major agenda this season will be the Chiefs, who will be seeking their third straight Super Bowl appearance after beating the 49ers in 2020 and then losing to the Bucs this past February.
The Chiefs’ schedule is loaded, with games against all but two of the six teams behind them in ESPN’s preseason power rankings.
The Chiefs host the Bills on a Sunday night in October that will justifiably be hyped as one of season’s most anticipated games. Same with the Packers in November, and a road game against the Ravens on Sunday night in Week 2.
Games against the Titans and Cowboys will also be interesting, but the Browns, who travel to Kansas City for Sunday’s season opener, could well be the Chiefs’ opponent in the next AFC title game.
The Chiefs beat the Bills twice last season and neither game was close. The Chiefs have beaten the Ravens in each of QB Patrick Mahomes’ three seasons as a starter.
In one man’s opinion, the Browns may pose more of a problem to the Chiefs than the Bills, whose roster is also loaded.
Here’s my divisional forecast (x-wild-card qualifier):
n AFC East — Bills, x-Dolphins, Patriots, Jets.
n AFC North — Browns, x-Ravens, Steelers, Bengals.
n AFC South — Titans, x-Colts, Jaguars, Texans.
n AFC West — Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders.
n NFC East — Cowboys, Giants, Washington, Eagles.
n NFC North — Packers, Vikings, Bears, Lions.
n NFC South — Bucs, x-Saints, Panthers, Falcons.
n NFC West — Rams, x-49ers, x-Seahawks, Cardinals.
n AFC Championship — Chiefs over Browns.
n NFC Championship — Bucs over Rams.
n Super Bowl LVI — Chiefs over Bucs.
n Possible disappointments — Vikings, Falcons, Eagles, Raiders.
n Possible surprises — 49ers, Giants, Jaguars, Bears.
n Regular season Offensive MVP — Mahomes, Chiefs.
n Regular season Defensive MVP — Chase Young, WFT.
n Rookie of the Year — Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars.
n Coach of the Year — Kevin Stefanski, Browns.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at email@example.com