There is a ton of chatter about the Chiefs not being as good as their record might otherwise suggest. Outside of Chiefs Nation, there seems to a sizeable, rather vocal contingent of detractors who are under the impression that the Chiefs are, well, a fraud. These naysayers seem confident that the Chiefs will ultimately be exposed when they play the back half of their schedule, starting with a road game against the Broncos on November 17th. The prevailing skepticism holds that the Chiefs have enjoyed an easy schedule and that their offense lacks the firepower necessary to keep up with the likes of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Phillip Rivers just to name a few.
It is unquestionable that the Chiefs have benefited from a relatively light schedule, faced numerous back-up quarterbacks, and that their offense is not wowing anyone. Their success can be largely attributed to Special Teams play and a Defense that keeps opponents harassed, stifled, and denied. The criticism about the Chiefs Offense has merit but what these critics are slow to acknowledge is that an easy schedule is only an advantage when you’re the kind of team that’s good enough to win such games week in and week out. I also have a sneaking suspicion that most of those taking pot shots at the Chiefs light schedule also viewed the Chiefs as among those they considered lower echelon teams before the season began and they are now in denial that they were wrong in that assessment.
What apparently gets lost in the national debate concerning the Chiefs is that the current criteria for “elite” seem to focus only on teams with winning records that also have high-octane offenses. That is silly. Nobody wins it all in the NFL by just showing up with a really good offense (Exhibit A: 2003 Chiefs).
There are currently 9 teams in each conference, with .500 records are better. The 9 AFC teams are listed below, showing overall records, records against teams that .500 or better, and lastly, records against sub 500 teams.
Gauging from results against quality opponents, one could make the argument that only the Patriots and Colts qualify as elite teams in the sense that they are the only ones who have played more than two games winning against quality teams and come away with more wins than losses and have zero losses against sub 500 teams. The Bengals 4-2 record against quality opponents also suggests they should be in the conversation despite their one loss to a sub 500 team. Fair argument?
Now let’s switch focus to the only thing that really matters for the Chiefs at the moment; namely, winning the AFC West. Neither Denver nor Kansas City has beaten any of the 3 elite teams just mentioned. Not just that, but the Broncos have in fact lost to an elite team, the Colts. From a national perspective, even though the Chiefs are 2-0 against quality teams, it seems they are still under pressure to prove their mettle against an elite, pass first offense. That’s a lot of bunk.
The two charts below provide, respectively, Football Outsiders current rankings of the Broncos and Chiefs remaining opponents. For reference, I find it useful to compare the Colts rankings to the various rankings of the other teams that the Broncos have yet to face.
Between the Chiefs and the Broncos, the team that has the most pressure to win from now until the end of the season is the Broncos. This is true for several reasons.
First of all, the Chiefs currently enjoy a two win advantage over the Broncos. That means, at least for the time being, every game the Broncos play for the foreseeable future is a must win. First up, the Broncos go on the road against the Chargers, a team that has already beaten the team that already beat the Broncos.
Second, the Broncos schedule is more daunting than the Chiefs. The Chiefs have 5 games remaining against quality opponents, 3 at home and 2 on the road, all but one of which being divisional games. Conversely, the Broncos have 6 such games remaining, 3 at home and 3 on the road. Two of these six are non-divisional games, including a road trip to New England.
Third, the success of the Broncos lives and dies with Peyton Manning. If anything happens to him, even if for one game, their chances of the Broncos winning the division instantly plummets. The Broncos offensive line is a mess and because of that, 37 year old Peyton Manning is going to suffer multiple hits before this season is done. No one player singularly defines the Chiefs, nor ultimately determines their future success; not even Jamaal Charles.
From here on out, the heat is on the Broncos and it is unrelenting. Short of a blow out, losing at Denver will not define nor determine the Chiefs season. If the Broncos lose at home against the Chiefs, it would be devastating for them.
Come next Sunday night, the Chiefs can afford to play loose and take a few risks. Nobody expect the Chiefs to win anyway so why shouldn’t they play like they have nothing to lose? If the Chargers upset the Broncos this Sunday, a real possibility, the Chiefs will be well-positioned to dish up a stunner in Denver. And if they don’t, so what?
That’s my Double Take. What’s your take Addicts?