A close, frustrating, and in my opinion, unnecessary loss to the number 2 team in our division who just so happens to also be our most hated rival. I watched in utter disbelief as we repeatedly attempted to crash Thomas Jones into one of the best, if not the best, run stuffing D-Lines in the NFL. Exactly what were our great offensive minds trying prove with that? That they no longer need to rely on scouting reports as part of their routine game day prep? I seriously do not know if I should characterize this strategy as arrogance or stupidity? Really can’t quite decide on that – perhaps both?
Special Teams giving up that TD on the kickoff return to start the second half was crushing. It wiped away what was a truly outstanding first half defensive effort on our part and emboldened the Raiders and their fans by letting them right back into the game. I warned about the ongoing decline of our special teams play in my previous column and sure enough that chicken came home to roost in a big, unwelcome way on Sunday. Bad special teams = losses.
Now that the sour taste is beginning to wear away (a bit) and the statistical dust has settled, we’ll find out what kind of a team DVOA says we are at the season’s midway point and maybe get an indication of which way we appear to be headed following last Sunday’s disappointment, just beyond the jump.
As always, if you are unfamiliar with what the DVOA approach is all about, just go here for the short skinny. Now onto to this week’s rankings:
I’ll go ahead and say it. Our special teams are starting to suck so bad that they there are now costing us games. They started out playing really well early on but now the wheels on that wagon are getting visibly loose. This is a problem that has to be promptly repaired or I predict the second half of our season will mirror how the Chargers performed in the first half of the season – good offense, good defense, horrid special teams – we all know how that little formula has worked for them.
Now that I got that off my chest, let’s talk about the rest of the team. Top of the list, Jamaal Charles continues to perform at the highest level. Everybody else pretty much underperformed or stayed about the same, which tends to confirm what my/our eyes told me/us anyways, right? Dwayne Bowe is also a minor exception because he helped himself some with his performance against the Raiders. Thomas Jones actually dropped into negative (below average) territory on his situational value – the view that Haley/Weis are either misusing or overusing him tends to find support in these stats. Jones is still valuable, but it seems that as the season wears on, he is becoming less effective at what he’s being asked to do.
Additional stats of interest:
The most striking change comes in the way of playoff odds. The simplest way to read this is that we lost a game that DVOA says we should not have lost and it cost us heavily in terms how much harder it will be for us to get into and/or succeed in the postseason. To sum it all up, this was a bad loss and the arrow has begun to point downward a bit as a result of our underwhelming play.
Lastly, I thought it might be interesting, and perhaps insightful, to take a look last year’s DVOA Week 9 rankings for the purpose of seeing how many of the teams ranked highest at the midpoint of the season in fact ended up making it into the post-season. To keep things simple, I’ll just stick with the Total DVOA rankings top 6 teams from each conference:
The teams that made it to the post season are highlighted in green. As it turns out, these were also the top 12 teams overall at the time. So, 75% of the top 12 DVOA ranked teams as of Week 9 last year made it to the post-season. As some of you may recall, the Broncos were knocked out of the playoffs by a resurgent division rival in the final game of the season. The AFC teams not listed who made it into the post season were the Bengals, Jets, and Chargers. Their DVOA AFC Rankings at the time were, respectively, 7th (13th overall), 9th (17th overall), and 10th (18th overall).
The current AFC ranking order goes Titans, Steelers, Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots, and Colts. The burning question is, do this years’ Chiefs have more in common with the 75% that made it last year, or are they more like the 25% that didn’t? For a variety of reasons, I believe we’re positioned a little more like the teams who got across the finish line. I also believe that it is imperative for us to get back to being the kind of team that pushed us up into the rankings in the first place.
Mid-season task #1 – fix Special Teams. Why? Because that is a manageable undertaking which is likely to improve our chances of winning. It would be nice to be able to do something about our shallow receiver corps but unless we start developing players quickly, that is something that will probably have to wait until the offseason to address.
That’s my Double Take. What’s your take Addicts?