It’s been a few weeks (and a few losses) since we last reviewed the Chiefs efficiency stats using Football Outsider’s DVOA Analysis. So, how does the team now stack up? Let’s find out.
The good news is that the team is improving in several key areas which is very encouraging as we inch closer to the playoffs. Special Teams, for instance, is back atop the league and in fact was #1 last week even without that knock out performance delivered to the Redskins. Another very encouraging development is the fact that the Offense has moved into positive DVOA territory which is another way of saying they are more of an asset than a liability to the team.
At the individual player level there are indications that a few of the Chiefs key players are contributing at a higher level. Jamaal Charles surge in DVOA percentage is particularly encouraging. To a lesser extent, Dwayne Bowe and Alex Smith are also beginning to move the needle to the right some. All good.
On the down side, Dexter McCluster continues to struggle as a receiver as does Donnie Avery and, to a lesser extent, the Tight Ends. Though unranked for lack of targets, Junior Hemingway has made some significant noise in terms of effectiveness when he has been targeted. Hemingway, after 11 passes for 80 yards and 2 TDs currently scores a 16.3% DVOA paired with a 73% Catch Rate. Maybe the guy has the earned the right to a few more targets, particularly when the Chiefs are within scoring range?
The preceding chart offers even more encouragement, particularly in the trenches.
Time to switch gears a bit. Typically, at this juncture, I do a little statistical comparison / analysis segment that focuses on the Chiefs next opponent. Today, instead, let’s turn our attention to tonight’s divisional match-up in Denver.
Vegas has the Broncos as 10 point favorites. I have a strong suspicion that it may not go that way at all. I like the Chargers in this game and I’ll explain why shortly.
From a Chiefs fan’s perspective, does this game really even matter in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t it pretty much a foregone conclusion that with 3 games to go, a 1 game lead, and the tie-breaker advantage, that the Broncos have the division all wrapped up?
Well, yes, but . . . however. Yes the Broncos are still very likely to win the division regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game. However, if they lose against the Chargers, which I believe they will, then I think things do get a bit more intriguing with 2 games left to play.
Assuming the Chiefs can win out, a loss by the Broncos tonight keeps all the pressure on Denver. For one thing, no playoff bound team wants/likes to lose in December to a perceived weak opponent because it hurts momentum and undermines team confidence (which of course they would never admit). Secondly, a loss by the Broncos along side a Chiefs win means the Broncos won’t get any chance to rest/sit their already banged up team anytime before the end of the regular season. In other words, this levels the playing field considerably for the Chiefs who need to continue improving and continue playing to win anyway.
Now that the dynamics and implications of tonight’s game are understood, here are some reasons why I like the Chargers tonight:
1) Philip Rivers is playing better than Peyton Manning. Over the last 4 games Rivers has averaged 71.53 QBR and 67.78% Completion Rate against Manning’s 70.85 QBR and 60.45% Completion Rate. Also, while neither QB is particularly mobile, Rivers is the more likely of the two to keep a play/drive alive with his feet.
2) Denver’s Defense is giving up an average of 26.5 pts /game, a number which has actually gone up since the return of Von Miller believe it or not. San Diego’s much maligned Defense is giving up an average of 22.4 pts/game. In a shoot out, which I fully expect this game to be, and considering the two Quarterbacks involved and the offenses that they run, I give the Chargers the edge here.
3) Peyton Manning threw a career high 59 attempts last Sunday. At 37 years of age, I have a pretty good feeling that that arm of his will not have had enough of a chance to fully rest and recover given the short week. Rivers tossed the ball only 28 times last Sunday; his arm will be fresh.
4) Wes Welker is the Broncos 2nd leading receiver. Wes Welker will not suit up tonight because of the 2 concussions he’s suffered over the last 4 games.
5) Quality receiving targets vs quality receivers targets, one can also reasonably give an edge to the Chargers. E. Royal and K. Allen rank 2nd and 4th respectively in DVOA. The Broncos E. Decker and D. Thomas rank 8th and 9th respectively. The Bolts TE L. Green ranks 1st in DVOA and A. Gates ranks 31st. Denver’s TE’s J. Thomas ranks 4th and J. Tamme is not ranked due to lack of targets. The Chargers RB D. Woodhead ranks 6th in DVOA receiving and R. Matthews ranks 7th. Denver’s K. Moreno ranks 9th in receiving DVOA.
6) Peyton Manning can claim cold weather does not affect him all he wants. The fact is, with the temperature below 40 degrees, Rivers Completion Rate stands at 69.2% while Manning’s drops down to 61.1%. The temperature at kick off time is expected to be in the 30′s.
7) While I don’t expect San Diego’s secondary to do much in the way of breaking up passes, I don’t expect Denver’s secondary to do much in that department either. Considering Rivers currently appears to be the more accurate passer, I feel his receivers benefit the most, especially against a defense that is more likely to give up touchdowns.
8) The Chargers are still in the hunt and have the most to play for.
That’s my Double Take. What’s your take Addicts?