No matter how one slices it, 4-0 is the best way to walk off the first quarter of any season regardless of how you got there. Most of the popular NFL Power Rankings now seem to want to put the Chiefs around #5 on their list. Is that realistic? For a less subjective take, let’s look at how Football Outsiders DVOA Analysis sizes up the Chiefs after 4 weeks of regular season play.
First, the big picture:
The great thing about Week 4 with DVOA Analysis is that it is the first point in the season that opponent defensive adjustments can be figured into the equation. In other words, a truer picture now begins to emerge in terms of how a team is doing relative to the rest of the league. Notable here, the Chiefs as a whole continue to play relatively well, maintaining their #3 ranking in Total Efficiency.
On Offense, the Chiefs appear to be improving. They have been playing very good defense since the start of the season and hopefully that continues. On Special Teams, steady improvement (actually a rather big improvement over last week’s ranking) from a somewhat shaky start of the season.
Alex Smith, for his part, continues to hold his own among the top half of the league’s quarterbacks, currently ranked 15th in QBR (53.5), and owns a somewhat respectable completion rate of 61.5%. Jamaal Charles has yet to catch fire as we’ve seen in past seasons but he is nevertheless still performing decently out of the backfield (noteworthy in particular is Charles #4 overall DYAR ranking in the receiving category for RBs). Unfortunately, the Chiefs WR corps continues to lag considerably behind the rest of the league at that position (I found especially disappointing Donnie Avery’s two missed catches last Sunday considering how well he had been performing in the weeks prior).
The most pleasant and fortuitous surprise on the Chiefs offense so far has to be the emergence of Sean “Duck Dynasty” McGrath, the currently 4th ranked TE in DVOA, who appears to be improving week after week and making an impact in every game he’s played. A text book waiver wire acquisition right there.
Taking an even closer look, we see both signs of optimistic and concern:
At this level of analysis, we see the Chiefs Defensive Line has been very solid against pass protection, but showing signs of softness against the run. The Offensive Line has been struggling at Pass Protection but generally doing okay, not great, in the rushing attack. It’s probably a little too early to make much of Strength of Schedule after Week 4 but it does seem a little concerning that the Chiefs first 4 weeks of play qualifies them for the easiest past schedule (the Bronco’s past schedule ranks 30th by the way) while their pending schedule (3rd toughest) suggests the road ahead has a few major hills and obstacles yet to be encountered. Despite the fact that the schedule is expected to get a lot tougher, the Chiefs are nevertheless playing well enough to be projected in excess of 10 wins which currently positions them highly, odds-wise, for post season play.
Now for a little analytical insight into how the Chiefs match up against their next foe, the Tennessee Titans:
The Titans rank 8th in Total Efficiency, 14th in Offensive Efficiency, 9th in Defensive Efficiency, and 23rd at Special Teams Efficiency. This suggests the Chiefs have been playing the better ball of the two, but not by much. Perhaps also noteworthy here is the fact that the Titans ranking to date has been aided by the presence of the now injured QB Jake Locker (ranked 5th in QBR at 72.3), whose statistical performance in terms of DVOA and DYAR is fairly comparable to that of the Chiefs Alex Smith. Ryan Fitzpatrick is about as good a back up as you’ll find but he is nowhere near as mobile as Locker, whose abilities as a rushing threat has been a significant plus for the Titans to date.
This game is winnable for the Chiefs but it is by no means a game they can take lightly. The Titans have strengths on both Offense and Defense and home field advantage to go with. The Chiefs are by no means a finished product and would be foolish to look past this game.
That’s my Week 4 DVOA Double Take. What’s your take, Addicts?