Kansas City Chiefs AFC West Champs? Hosting a playoff game? I’m still in shock.
Based on this observer’s naked eye filter, the first half of last Sunday’s victory over the Titans was the most compelling and complete two quarters of football, in just about every facet, that the Chiefs have played all season. Although I would’ve loved for us to step on the gas even more in the second half, I can understand why we (apparently) chose not to do so. That second half was not very exciting, or impressive, but the way I see it we played well enough in the first half to all but guarantee the win and dulling it down with conservative, ball-control, clock-eating plays is what good strategy demands in that situation.
Yes, we are going to the playoffs. There is no disputing it. Such being the case, like every week, we still have some statistical post-mortem to attend to. The analytical questions for this week are:
1.Did the Chiefs show significant improvement in the way we handled the Titans?
2.What are our biggest weaknesses?
3.Are we ready for the rushing attack of the Raiders?
4.Finally, how do we stack up against the 5 other AFC teams destined (or in the Colts case, likely destined) for the playoffs?
We’ll find out if and/or how DVOA methodology breaks all that down right after the jump.
For anyone new to the subject of DVOA rankings and analysis, you can learn more about it at Football Outsiders. If you have not already done so, then I highly recommend you take time to visit them. They are among the best at what they do. Now for the updated stats –
The other stats -
For starters, I decided to introduce a new statistic this week, namely weighted DVOA. Weighted DVOA, simply put, assigns more statistical importance to the games a team has played more recently and lowers the importance of games that the team played early in the season. I believe this can provide a little more insight into how well (or how bad) the Chiefs are playing as they get ready to head into the post season. As you can see, the weighted results are not very reassuring. All indications continue to suggest that the Chiefs are in most aspects an average to below average team that has benefitted from one of the softest schedules in the NFL combined with trip ups of an otherwise better team within the division.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve repeatedly bemoaned how bad our special teams have become and how our defense is still not getting it done in some key areas so I won’t even bother going down that path this time. You can look at the stats yourself and form your own opinions. What I will instead draw attention to is that there are some really bright and promising things going on with our offense that deserve praise and comment. First off, our offensive line has made incredible improvement over the last year, particularly with its success in establishing the run. Secondly, because of the job our line is doing, we have seen increasing success and proficiency in the passing game. Cassel, Bowe, and to a lesser extent, Moeaki have started to make our passing attack something that other teams ignore at their peril. This was not the case earlier in the season and it makes our offense all that more dangerous – especially when we have somebody like Jamaal Charles to make you pay for only putting 7 in the box.
For all the good that our offense is doing, I also have a major bone to pick with one aspect of our offense, more specificially one person, that is underperforming and undermining our ability to move the ball and score points. The individual I am referring to is Thomas Jones. For all his “intangibles,” Jones actual production on the field has gone from bad to utterly atrocious. Jones is our offensive equivalent of an albatross, the Hindenberg, the iceberg standing before the Titanic. Make no mistake, he is the “anchor” of our offense – unfortunately, he continues to serve in that capacity when the ship is trying to leave the dock. Jones, more than any other player, is holding our offense back. He is the reason why our rushing offense is ranked 9th despite the fact that we posses the NFL’s #1 RB and NFL’s #2 run blocking line. If Charlie Weis and Todd Haley insist on using Jones the way and to the extent they have, I am convinced it will spell playoff disaster for us.
Now onto our next opponent, the hated Raiders.
Anybody that thinks we should mail this one in, protect our starters, or otherwise not worry about this game needs to think again. The Chiefs are still building something and this game represents a great opportunity to move forward with that construction project. Oakland’s rushing attack is better than ours and our defense needs to be able to stop a team like the Raiders if they expect to have any success in the playoffs. We know the Raiders will play physical and we need to not merely match their intensity, but exceed it. Losing to the Raiders is no way to keep improving, losing to Raiders will undermine our homefield confidence, and losing to the Raiders at home will provide ammunition for the argument that we are more lucky than good. Besides, who wants to spend the whole offseason hearing Raiders fan talk about how they proved they were best team in the division by going undefeated? Not me.
Lastly, we’ll take our first peak at how the Chiefs compare statistically to the 5 other AFC teams that have either earned a playoff or, in the case of the Colts, seem likely to do so this coming Sunday.
Once again, one can make a strong argument that the Chiefs are the underweights of the playoffs. We have some strengths but let’s face it, we are nowhere near as complete of a team as the Patriots (this year’s gold standard of NFL) or for that matter, the Steelers. I believe we can probably compete against teams like the Jets or the Colts if we catch a break or two but honestly, homefield advantage or not, the Chiefs are going to have improve over who they are now and moreover, will have to play like we’ve never seen them play this season if we’re to have any success in the playoffs. At this point, we should consider ourselves extremely lucky if we come away with even one playoff win. We’re just not there yet.
That’s this week’s Double Take. What are your takes Addicts?