But they may still win the AFC.
Power rankings are a strange thing in that they are always the focus of fans each week and no one agrees on how they should be determined. I for one think that the team’s actual record should be ignored when determining power rankings. A list of teams by win-loss record is called the standings.
The purpose of power rankings is to get at a real measure of how good a team is and whether they are on the upswing or downswing. My favorite means of measure is the one used by the ESPN Football Today Podcast, which endeavors to rank teams based on who they think would win a three-game series in a neutral location (host Matt Williamson frequently suggests my hometown of Topeka).
Currently, the Chiefs sit atop both the ESPN and NFL.com power rankings and also lead the league as the only remaining undefeated team. But, that doesn’t make them the best.
Anyone who has watched every minute of the Chiefs’ play this year has seen some serious flaws rear their ugly head. QB Alex Smith is ranked 32nd in completion percentage among players that have thrown at least 10 passes this year. That’s behind guys like Chad Henne, Thad Lews, Mike Glennon, and Geno Smith. Granted, that’s not all his fault, but considering the fact that only nine quarterbacks have more attempts than him this year, this is a serious problem.
RB Jamaal Charles is having a league-MVP season, but it’s hard not to think that he’s being a bit overused for grinding out yardage as the team’s top rusher and receiver. As a result, he has just one run over 20 yards so far this season. Obviously, he has made up for that with production elsewhere – his 36 receptions already top his 2012 total – but I think it is fair to ask, is that really worth it?
Charles has been the Chiefs lone big-play, home run threat for years. WR’s Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery can also haul it in deep, but those plays are not really Smith’s forte and Bowe has never been a pure speedster. Charles is the team’s only source of dynamic breakaway scores, and although the Chiefs’ defense has kept them in every game this season, that is going to continue to get harder while the Chiefs offense continues to move mostly at a snail’s pace.
Wrap your head around this: the combined records of the Chiefs past 2013 opponents is 15-35 and that list includes just one team with a winning record – the Dallas Cowboys, whom the Chiefs beat by one point at home. The combined record of the Chiefs opponents for its next nine games is 35-26 and that list includes just two teams that are more than a game below .500 – Washington and Oakland.
Am I saying that the Chiefs are a fraud and headed for a slide? No. What I
am saying is this: the schedule is going to get a lot harder coming up and the Chiefs are going to need to get better to keep this run going. In the end, I really wish we could just fast-forward the season to Kansas City’s two games against Denver as those are really going to determine whether or not KC is a legit championship contender.
Right now, do I think the Chiefs are better than the Saints who have beaten the Dolphins and Bears and whose lone loss was to the Patriots in Foxborough? No. I also think that Denver, despite dropping a close one on the road to Indianapolis, has proven far more than the Kansas City Chiefs have this season. Would the Chiefs beat Seattle, whose 6-1 warpath includes a 29-3 beatdown of San Francisco, in two out of three games played in Wyoming? I generally think not.
That said, this season is nearly half over and the fact is that if the playoffs started today, the Chiefs would be the AFC #1 seed looking at a bye and home-field advantage. The team’s formula for success is both clear and consistent – steady as she goes, don’t make mistakes, and own the 4th quarter. That has gotten the Chiefs through every game so far this season, and there is no indication yet that it won’t keep working.
Before this season, we were talking about the possibility of the Chiefs squeaking into the playoffs. Now, barring a totally unfathomable collapse (and I don’t mean Charles getting hurt, I mean a fissure in the Earth literally opening up and swallowing the city of Kansas City), this team is going to get another crack at ending the league’s longest playoff-win drought.
That is good enough for this humble fan. As fun as it is to have our team riding the top of the league, I don’t expect it to last. We’re not the ’85 Bears or the 2008 Pats. The important thing is that this rebound season is already historic for the league and special for the Chiefs.
As for the Broncos, “Come at me, bro.”