I just want to say, for the record, I had every intention of writing a very different article this week. I generally don’t know what I’m going to write about week to week, but this week I had it all planned out. But, as often happens in life, something sparked my attention and diverted my interests. Our good friend here at Arrowhead Addict, Lyle Graverson, wrote an excellent piece earlier this week titled: “Could Alex Smith be the Chiefs’ Version of Drew Brees.” If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do. It’s cool. Just click the link and go read it. Then come back here. I’ll wait. Okay, you’re back? Good.
The piece itself echoed comments I’ve made about the Kansas City Chiefs’ new quarterback, Alex Smith. It also mirrored my feelings on the circumstances that brought him to the BBQ City. However, that’s not what this is about. This article has risen from the ashes of the the conversation in the 140-plus comments that followed that article. The tone of those comments were generally positive, however, there are still those nay-sayers out there. So for you all, I offer: “Football for Dummies – The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs Edition.”
There is a dissenting, minority opinion in Chiefs’ Kingdom that despite the strides made by head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey to increase the talent level of this team, the 2013 Chiefs will still under-perform because Alex Smith is not an “elite” quarterback. There are a few (not many, mind you, but a few) “fans” out there that believe the only statistic that defines “eliteness” in a quarterback is the ability to throw for 4000 – 5000 yards per season. They look past the other stats that matter like completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio and yards per attempt, and only concentrate on this stat in particular. I’d first like to address this mentality with a quote from the Chiefs’ new on-field leader, himself, Alex Smith.
“I could absolutely care less on yards per game. I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what, you’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great. You’re not winning, though.”
When Smith originally made this comment to reporters last season, it raised the ire of quite a few sports writers, players and fans. It’s a true story, though. If you pass for 500 yards but lose the game, what difference does it make? However, the question remains, how many yards does a quarterback need to have in order to be productive in an offense, by helping his team win? I would say that the answer lies in the offense itself. Here’s what I mean.
Last season, like many seasons before, the New England Patriots were the owners of the #1 offense in the NFL. Their yards per game (YPG) was quite solid at 427.9. Their passing game netted them 291.4 YPG, and the rushing game made up the other 136.5 YPG. Tom Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and 8 INTs. There is no questioning that Brady is an elite quarterback in one of the most prolific offensive systems in the NFL. But, Kansas City is not New England West anymore, so how does this all translate to the Chiefs? Let’s quickly rewind to last season.
The average team scored 22.4 points per game in the 2012 season. That number in and of itself is misleading as there were several blowouts like the Seattle Seahawks running up 58 points on the hapless St. Louis Rams who scored zilch. However, using that number as a baseline, we can attempt to determine what the Chiefs offense will have to do in 2013 to be competitive. Being that 22.4 made you an average professional football team, 28 points would put you above that average. Going back to our “best offense in the NFL” example in the Patriots, they averaged 34.8 points per game, so obviously quite a bit above that baseline. For the sake of argument, we’ll call that five touchdowns per game. Using the fact that they averaged 428 yards of offense per game, that works out to 86 yards of offense produced for every touchdown scored.
So, what does the Chiefs’ offense need to produce in order to be successful in the 2013 season, based on this formula? The team the franchise fielded last year, while pretty bad, still had some shining spots. One of those, as in years past, was the running game. Specifically, of course, I’m referring to Jamaal Charles. Behind #25, the Chiefs were the best rushing team in the AFC and ranked fifth overall in the NFL with 2,395 total yards, averaging 149.7 YPG. Charles was responsible for 1,509 yards of that himself, with the supporting cast of Shaun Draughn, Cyrus Gray and Peyton Hillis carrying for the remaining 800 and change. The Chiefs were able to amass these yards despite the absolute lack of a passing game, any real coaching, or truly, any game plan to speak of. In the interest of not inflating anything for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll stick with 2,400 team rushing yards for the 2013 season for right now. But wait, we’re not dun yet.
With the running side of the offensive prediction on the table, let’s turn to the passing game. Andy Reid’s offense is a passing scheme, so it would make sense that Chiefs fans are in for a bit more of the aerial attack. There’s no surprise in this, but how does that scheme translate to Reid’s quarterbacks? That’s the real question. What will Alex Smith’s numbers look like? While we can only guess at this point, to give us some clues, we turn to some Reid history.
In 2010, Andy Reid named Michael Vick the starter in his system with the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick played in 12 games that season and threw for 3,018 total yards, which averaged to 251.5 YPG. If you work that average out to a full season (he was hurt for four games) that puts his total at 4,024 total yards on the season. In 2011, it was much the same with slightly higher results (3,303 total yards, 254.1 YPG with 13 games played) and then last year was a slight decline with an average YPG of only 236.2. These numbers are respectable, and if Vick could have stayed upright, would have all been in the 4,000 yard club. Vick is far from what I would consider an “elite” quarterback.
Going back to Vick’s predecessor, Donovan McNabb was not what many would consider an elite player either. However, in every season McNabb played a full 16-game season (2000, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2009) he amassed at least 3,200 yards in every season, with his best season coming in 2008 with 3,916 yards. In the seasons he didn’t play every game, he was on track to put up those same numbers.
The point here is, if you think McNabb or Vick are better quarterbacks than Alex Smith, you should probably relocate yourself to another FanSided location. I think Just Blog Baby is looking for readers.
I’ve said before that I believe Alex Smith will put up numbers in the neighborhood of 3,500 on the season. Based on the previous two starting quarterbacks that have worked under Reid and watching Smith’s tape and checking his previous numbers, I think that’s reasonable.
After looking at the rushing and passing attack, I believe the Chiefs’ total rushing attempts may go down by 15 percent, only because Reid’s offense is more pass happy than previous offenses. That drops the total rushing on the season to 2040 yards. If we add 3,500 to the 2,040 total team rushing yards that the Chiefs should get this year that gives the team a total offensive production of 5,540 yards. This is the final number I think the Chiefs could be looking at this year.
But, how does that translate to scoring? Going back to our original example, every 86 yards of offense produced resulted in a touchdown. If we apply that same math to the Chiefs’ projected numbers (5,540) that puts them at roughly 28 points a game. If you factor in a field goal instead of a touchdown now and then, I think 26 points per game is a good prediction for the Chiefs’ offensive performance this year. But, earlier we said 24 was average; is 26 points per game really enough to get it done?
Again, going back to last season and looking at the Chiefs’ 2013 opponents, they clearly fall into three tiers in regards to their scoring ability: 26 points and over, 21-26 and under 21.
Teams on the Chiefs’ 2013 schedule who are in the under 21 club are the Jacksonville Jaguars (16), the Philadelphia Eagles (18), the Oakland Raiders (18), and the Cleveland Browns (19). Scoring 26 points a game will easily defeat these opponents. Considering they play the Raiders twice, that equates to five wins.
The next tier, 21-26 PPG, contains the largest cross section of the Chiefs’ 2013 opponents. They are the Dallas Cowboys (24), the Tennessee Titans (21), the Houston Texans (26), the Buffalo Bills (22), the Indianapolis Colts (22) and the San Diego Chargers (22). Again, 26 points per game should make short work of these opponents as well, but there is that unknown factor thrown in. The Texans are on the border at 26 PPG and the Cowboys are close at 24. With two games against the Chargers, based on the numbers, I predict five to six wins over these teams.
The final tier scored over 26 points per game last year and make up the most competition on the Chiefs’ schedule this season. They are the New York Giants (27), the Denver Broncos (30) and the Washington Redskins (28). While only the Broncos and Redskins are at or over the Chiefs’ predicted 2013 PPG, I predict losses to these teams, based on the numbers we have previously discussed.
Overall, that would put the Chiefs record at 11-5 or 10-6, depending on which way the games went. Again, that is with Alex Smith only throwing 3,500 yards in the season. These numbers that won’t raise the eyebrows of any fantasy football owners, but when the team is winning, what difference does it make?
Obviously this is all conjecture until the players put on pads, and the pigskins start flying in September. But the point is, I think I’ve proven with the numbers that Smith doesn’t have to be Brady in order to perform well on this team and take them to the playoffs, and beyond.
Am I wrong? I’m sure there are some Addicts out there who think I am. Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your take on my math and predictions. Thanks for reading, and GO CHIEFS!!!