Why Chiefs could miss playoffs

Kansas City's Eric Fisher (72) is transitioning to his more natural position of left tackle in 2014. AP Photo/Scott Boehm

After fast-tracking from two wins in 2012 to 11 in 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs have just as quickly become a popular projected regression candidate for 2014.

The stated reasons have varied, but a prevalent narrative turns toward the fact that Kansas City's schedule looks appreciably more difficult than its 2013 slate, during which it defeated just one team with a winning record (a Week 3 win over the Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles).

The schedule this season does appear -- and we stress appear -- less favorable, with seven games against 2013 playoff teams and another at Arizona, which won 10 games last season. But schedule-forecasting can be misleading; who would've supposed the Houston Texans would be the league's worst team in 2013 after winning 12 games the season before? This time last year, the Texans were considered a significant challenge for their opponents when assessing the schedule. Injuries and other dynamics can quickly change the complexion of it.

There is reason, however, to be concerned about the Chiefs not returning to the playoffs in 2014, and it's a big one: a rebuilt offensive line that suffered a substantial blow on Friday when right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season due to a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.