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Kansas City Chiefs’ 2024 NFL schedule is brutal from the jump. That’s a good thing

The NFL provided a sneak-peek at the Chiefs’ schedule before the arrival of the full entrée later Wednesday, and out of the gate, it’s an AFC Championship Game rematch.

And then comes a rematch of the two AFC title games before that.

The Baltimore Ravens, the team the Chiefs beat in January to advance to Super Bowl LVIII, are headed to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for what the NFL dubs its Kickoff Game. The Cincinnati Bengals, who split the previous two AFC Championship Games with the Chiefs, will arrive in Kansas City 10 days later.

A pretty brutal start for the two-time defending Super Bowl champs, you could say.

But let me add a different adjective to the conversation: Advantageous.

Potentially.

We already knew whom the Chiefs would play in the 2024 regular season, so a schedule release day that the league has turned into Christmas morning is about the order of the gifts — not the gifts themselves. You could, in that case, argue it has limited relevance.

But the Chiefs could benefit from the most difficult of opponents to open their season.

Why? Same way it unfolded a year ago.

It’s not happenstance that the NFL spanned nearly two decades between its last repeat champion (the 03-04 Patriots) and its current one, the Chiefs.

Sure, it’s hard to win in the NFL. But it’s not as though we’re asking the same team to win some draft lottery in back-to-back years. These are good teams. The best, theoretically.

So why did it take 19 years before one of the best teams reproduced it all over again the following year?

Allow me to offer a theory, a partial even if not complete explanation, that’s applicable to the Chiefs. There are 31 teams that enter an offseason and, in turn, the ensuing regular season, knowing they have to be better than they were the year before. There is one team, by contrast, that knows it was good enough. It’s only natural the latter breeds contentment.

All of three hours into last season, that one team received the lesson that it, too, would need to be better. The Lions beat the Chiefs 21-20 in the 2023 Kickoff Game, and it wasn’t merely because the Chiefs were missing All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones.

The Lions won because they shut down the Chiefs’ offense — with some help from the Chiefs themselves, which is part of the relevance here — not took advantage of an undermanned defense.

It ruined banner night. But I don’t find it coincidental that the Chiefs won the ensuing six games — same as I don’t find it coincidental that after the Raiders ruined Christmas Day, the Chiefs never lost again.

The best can sometimes need a reminder that they had better, well, get better.

Heck, head coach Andy Reid texted Raiders coach Antonio Pierce after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, letting him know, “I appreciate you kicking our tail because you taught us a lesson,” he told Peter King.

That’s a lesson the other 31 know before the journey even begins.

Which brings me to this year’s Chiefs. It’s a lesson they could heed from the jump. Perhaps the memory will serve them well.

Or, you know, given that the Ravens are projected to win 11 1/2 games in the Vegas sportsbooks — tied for most in the league — it’s a warning before their own journey begins.

You could lament a tough back-to-back stretch to launch the Chiefs’ quest for the first three-peat in NFL history. Or you could see it as an opportunity for education to precede the lesson.

It will require their darn near best to beat the Ravens and Bengals — because those teams are darn near the best the NFL has to offer. In fact, there are four AFC teams projected for 10 1/2 wins or more. The Chiefs are one of them. The other three: the Ravens, Bengals and Bills.

Two of the three top contenders visit Kansas City before we’ve even reached Week 3.

The Chiefs would have to play them regardless. They’d have to navigate the get-everyone’s-best-shot from those two teams regardless. Might as well receive some added benefit in the process.

I say that while recognizing that receiver Rashee Rice is facing a suspension, likely to open the season. I could counter that point by noting that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be working his way back from a wrist injury with lingering effects, and that he has a losing record in September — and the worst passer rating of any month, by a lot.

But this isn’t really about when the Chiefs’ would have their best team. That’s far from guaranteed in any given week.

They might have already proven capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions, which undoubtedly matters, but that doesn’t mean they’re likely to break the mold again.

It does, however, mean they’re likely to encounter the effects of it again.