No, it’s not that the Chiefs used to be the Dallas Texans. It has to do with the NFL’s schedule rotation that was implemented after re-alignment in 2002.
Every year the Cowboys, and every NFL team, play a division from each conference. That makes up eight of their games each year, and six more come from their division rivals. The final two are against the same-place-finishers-from-the-year-before from the NFC divisions that they are not playing as a whole.
When they play divisions, they alternate when they’re home and away. For example this year the Cowboys play the AFC West. They host the Chiefs and the Chargers, because in 2013 when they last played the AFC West those were the games they traveled for. Make sense? Good.
The AFC West is weird for the Cowboys, though. Here are the games they traveled for the last three times they played the division, including this year:
- 2005: San Diego and Oakland
- 2009: Kansas City and Denver
- 2013: Kansas City and San Diego
- 2017: Denver and Oakland
As you’ll note, the Cowboys traveled to Kansas City twice in a row, in 2009 and 2013. When they should have traveled to Oakland in 2013, per the NFL’s rotating schedule, they actually visited the Chiefs and hosted the Raiders (coincidentally on Thanksgiving both times).
Why did the Cowboys not travel to Kansas City in 2013 then? This was the NFL over-correcting itself a bit.
It never made sense for the Cowboys to travel to both San Diego and Oakland in 2005, as those were the two most western-based teams in the AFC West. They would have faced this plight eight years later in 2013 had the NFL not fixed it, which they did.
It makes sense to minimize travel to California when playing a western division. This is doubly true this season as the Cowboys coincidentally play the NFC West and traveled to San Francisco and Arizona (which has gotten weirder with the Rams move to Los Angeles). When Dallas last played the NFC West in 2014 they traveled to St. Louis and Seattle.
It’s an interesting bit of history when it comes to the Cowboys and Chiefs, making this the Chiefs first visit to AT&T Stadium, and first visit to the Cowboys in general since 2005. Let’s make it a good one.