Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans show their support during the second half of the game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs Strength of Schedule: What it All Means

One of the Kansas City Chiefs face this year, at least in the respect department, is the fact many “talking heads” on the sports networks, “non-Chiefs Kingdom fans,” fans of the Denver Broncos and even some skeptical Chiefs lovers say that even though the team is 7-0, they haven’t played anyone. This statement rolls off the tongue so easily for some, it’s almost as if they believe Clark Hunt got together with all the other owners in the off season and the teams selected their schedules themselves.

In reality, that’s not how it happens.

But, alas, many fans aren’t aware of the process that goes into creating the NFL schedule every year. There is no magic involved. It has very little to do with how good (or bad) your team was the year before. In fact, a team’s previous season record only accounts for 12.5 percent of schedule make up for the following season. More about that in a minute.

So, how is the NFL schedule (and more importantly the 2013 Chiefs schedule) put together?

It’s quite simple, actually.

The first six games blocked out in a schedule are your division games. We know for sure that every year the Chiefs will play the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders twice each season. That’s six of the 16 games right there.

The next eight games are decided well ahead of time, on a rotational basis. Every season, each division plays four cross-conference games. The division within the NFC that plays the AFC West rotates every year. This year, it just so happened that the AFC West plays the NFC East. The fact that Andy Reid came to Kansas City this year had nothing to do with that. It had already been predetermined years before when this system was set up. So by adding the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles into the mix, that makes 10 of the 16-game schedule.

In addition to the four cross-conference games, each division also plays four inter-conference games. This year, the AFC West meets with the AFC South. The Chiefs have already met with three of those opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans. The only remaining team is the Indianapolis Colts. That count puts the season at 14 games. So, where do the final two games come from?

That’s the 12.5 percent I talked about earlier. Only two games per season have anything to do with the team’s previous season record. The AFC West plays the AFC South this year. So each team in the AFC West will then play one team from the other two AFC divisions (the North and the East) that corresponds to their position in their division last year. Ironically, the Chiefs’ next two games are against those opponents. The Cleveland Browns come to Arrowhead on Sunday because they finished last place in the AFC North last year. Next week, the Chiefs travel north to take on the Buffalo Bills because that team finished last in the AFC East last year.

There is no way of knowing how a team will perform from year to year. Nobody (and if you say you did, I’ll call you a liar) predicted the Chiefs would go from 2-14 last season to the only undefeated team in the NFL moving into Week 8. It just doesn’t happen like that. So, what does the “strength of schedule” actually mean?

It means that while the Chiefs have to play the Bills and Browns this year – both teams that have vastly improved from last season – the Broncos have to play the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots – both teams that have rapidly declined.

So who has the easier schedule?

Technically, because the Broncos were a division winner last season, they do. The “strength of schedule” formula is based on “how good” a team was the previous vs. “how difficult” the teams are they are facing in the current year.

The Chiefs were the “worst” team in the league last year. It should stand to reason then, that every team “should” be better than them. But thus far, they’re not. Because the Chiefs are undefeated, no matter what their schedule says they should be.

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