October 7, 2012
The Chiefs and Ravens were on even terms less than two seasons ago, when they met on a frigid field at Arrowhead Stadium to see who would advance in the AFC playoffs.
Baltimore won the game going away, pressing on in the postseason, just as it's made a habit of doing for more than a decade. The Chiefs went back to the drawing board, fired their coach last season and are now trying to appease a fan base increasingly frustrated by mediocrity.
Two franchises, one the model of consistency, the other in turmoil.
"There's been a tradition and an expectation and a standard that's been established around here recently," said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, who will lead his Ravens (3-1) back to Kansas City (1-3) on Sunday for a matchup of two teams heading opposite directions.
There has been a massive leadership void in Kansas City for years.
When the franchise was peaking in the 1990s, there were fearsome players on defense - Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas, the Chiefs' own versions of Lewis and Reed. Joe Montana and Marcus Allen came through town, and stalwarts such as Willie Roaf and Will Shields played the offensive line.
One by one, though, they moved along or retired, and the tenures of former general manager Carl Peterson and current GM Scott Pioli have so missed out on identifying the kind of personality that, regardless of position, seems to bring an entire locker room together.
Baltimore's been to the playoffs eight times over the past 12 years, including each of the last four, and beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl to finish off the 2000 season.
That playoff loss to the Ravens a couple years ago represents the Chiefs' only appearance since the 2006 season, and their only winning record. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times total over the past 15 years, and hasn't won a game since the 1993 season.
But digging deeper, the Chiefs have the fourth-best offense in the league - Baltimore is currently No. 2 - and a defense that has been decent against both the pass and the run.
So maybe the teams that will meet on Sunday aren't that far apart. Maybe they're more similar than dissimilar, two teams with potent offenses and respectable defenses.
It's difficult to say the two franchises have been anything alike.