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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  • Curtis

    Helluva write up. Puts the myth to rest for me, because honestly, I keep telling myself, “Well, it’s just such an easy schedule.” Despite how easy it is, no “experts” came even remotely close to predicting the Chiefs would be 7-0 at this point in the season.

    • toperspective

      And historically the NFC east has been a strong conference.

      • berttheclock

        Just as historically the Georgia Bulldogs have been strong. BTW, I’m a diehard Jayhawk, but, kudos to Mizzou.

      • berttheclock

        Ebb and flow. But, you are correct in their historic strength. However, that ebb and flow concerns both the AFC West and the NFC West. Both were step children not too many years back. The year before and the year after Alex Smith was drafted by the Niners, they were the worst team in the NFL. Seattle ended up winning their division, one year, with a 7-9 record and they had an upset in the playoffs.

    • Jason Seibel

      Glad I could “snopes” this myth for you.

      • Logan Grace

        Will there be an AA radio episode this week?

        • Jason Seibel

          Just finished recording it, sir. Should be up within the hour.

      • KCMikeG

        Is SOS influenced by having to play on the road with only 3 days rest and 3 games in 14 days and 3 out of the first five games being on the road while learning a new offensive and defensive system from a nearly completely new coaching staff with 30 new players and TE & OL injuries? This team is only going to get better and we are going to experience greatness again.

        • Troy Utt

          Truth be told it was 3 games in 11 days… With the last including a travel day to Philly.

  • Blake Molina

    Guess where 7 of their opponents’ losses came from in the strength of schedule? From losing to KC

    Just saying

    • chris

      8 other losses where by denver and san diego (good teams) and mqny of the otherlosses came when two teams the chiefs have played played each other… sos is garbage in determining how good a team is

  • berttheclock

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jason for this much needed column. Perhaps, those who harp the most about strength of schedule could discuss that subject with the powers at ESPN, NBC and NFL Network, who, after every season attempt to put together a strong lineup of games for MNF, Sunday and Thursday Night football games. I’m sure when they complete their lists, those lists look rather impressive. However, once the new season begins, look at the number of “winners” who fade. Anyone seriously believe any suit really thought the Giants versus the Bucs would be so void of wins when that game was scheduled? Just look at the Chiefs recently. After a winning season, they returned to prime time only to fall apart as a team. After two straight losing seasons, the only game they could have this year on prime time was the Thursday night game against Philly and that was only due to Andy Reid returning to coach against his old team. Now, suddenly, with the Chiefs winning, last Sunday’s game was moved by CBS from the early to the afternoon game so it could be shown nationally. If some of those Bristol and NYC suits could do it, believe me they would have the Chiefs suddenly switched to prime time games for the final half of the season.

    • Luke Seidl

      Technically, the chiefs were on Thursday night football because every team in the league is required to play one Thursday night game. Its harder to play on Thursday so they do this to be fair to all teams. If it were up to the league, the chiefs wouldn’t have been scheduled for a single prime time game this year.

      • KCMikeG

        And now they are knocking on our door (schedule change vs Texans). Hope Clark is taking advantage of their sudden need for us financially. Got some players to pay to keep this party rolling next year.

      • BigGil

        Kinda sorta. It’s less “it’s harder for teams to play on Thursdays, so if we want to have one or two Thursdays with game(s) (Opening Night and Thanksgiving) then we should make it that all teams have to at least one Thursday game” and more “well, maybe smaller market teams should have at least one primetime game regardless of how bad their team looks… ehhh let’s relegate them to Thursday night…”. Knowing that there’s a chance that that could result in less interest to football fans that aren’t fans of the teams playing, they then try to cook up games that could be decent due to one or more factors: 1) teams seem like they could be evenly matched (Browns/Bills); 2) some underlying human interest storyline exists (Reid’s return to Philly); 3) divisional matchup involving a team with high expectations (Seahawks/Cardinals) or a divisional matchup that seems like it could be evenly matched (Panthers/Buccaneers).

  • KCMikeG

    Thanks Jason. Your work is incredible! I would add the following stats. The soft schedule we have played full of losing teams (15-33) would be 22-26 if we had lost to them just because we were terrible last year. Darn SOS holding us back – Ha.

  • berttheclock

    One reason some of the so-called pundits trash the Chiefs “weak schedule” is due to KC beating the Eagles. Prior to that game, the pundits had rushed to the position that Kelly was the new guru of the NFL and the Eagles would be very hard to defeat. The Eagles came out smoking against a lame Redskins team. Why, just look at the speed in which Kelly has them running plays. They are going to be too fast for the league. Some spoke about poor Andy having to return to Philly under such circumstances. Geez, after the game commenced, the Eagles were even faster at running plays as they lowered the time to just under 20 seconds. When, Andy Reid and his marvelous new team destroyed the Eagles, then, those same pundits starting wondering about how was it possible for a 2-14 team to do such? Had to be some sort of fluke, eh? Now, those same pundits mix the Eagles into that same batch of weak teams.

  • antony555

    Two points even if the horses that KC and den have were used to pick our opponents by stomping a certain number of times with their hooves, you have to beat the teams your supposed to beat; and we have.
    And we have the players and coaches that if in Jacksonville; or Tampa; are for that matter in New York, would be undefeated as well. How can anyone that knows a hoot about the game say the team has not just turned it around like the 9ners and the Saints did the very next season after getting kicked all over the NFL by each team they played. Dang this is Andy Reid at his best with supporting staff in place year one. This team will only get better in the following few years and will be a force for many years to come. We don’t have a QB that’s 37yrs old and will retire in a very few years. So what will they do after that happens bring tebow back?.. Go Chiefs Go!!

  • BarryLuvsReggie

    What it all means is the same thing when McDaniels came to Denver with a new staff, new QB..etc…..They started out the first half of the season on fire then were figured out. Same thing with the Chiefs….New Coach, New QB…ALL new……Staring out on fire and now are going to hit mid season. I say let them keep winning…that added pressure of that alone is enough to be the weight that breaks their backs when you most want it to happen……nice run chiefs…it wont last

    • Jason Seibel

      So what is Manning’s excuse to continually choke when the big game is on the line?

      • BarryLuvsReggie

        Well guess you’d have to ask Manning that million dollar question. Where did that come from anyway? LOL sounded like just an angry rant………

        Be like me saying what was Montana’s excuse for not winning the Chiefs a superbowl???????????

        • Jason Seibel

          I don’t know where that came from. I think I was reading two comments at once. My bad. :)

          • BarryLuvsReggie

            LOL no prob…always interesting to see how these seasons play out in the end and the surprises that happen….guess thats what makes it fun.