Now that the Chiefs have secured a playoff spot, and regardless of whether they maintain the #5 seed or move past the Broncos into the #1 seed, the only question that really matters is whether they can do any damage against the rest of the AFC playoff contenders. The only AFC playoff bound team the Chiefs have faced this year so far is the Broncos, twice, and we all know how those meetings went.
This Sunday the Chiefs will face another such team, the Indianapolis Colts. The match up this Sunday will hopefully provide some insight as to whether the Chiefs have come far enough along to beat an above average team.
After 15 weeks of play, it’s time to find out what the 2013 Chiefs are (statistically speaking) made of, courtesy Football Outsiders latest tabulations:
What the Chiefs excel at is Special Teams and this is a narrative that has been consistently, fairly the case, for most of the season. Special Teams excellence is, along with other considerations, a chief (Chief?) factor in dictating the critical battle of field position. It is also the crucible out of which great teams are built. The Seattle Seahawks teams of the past few years evolving into the team they are now are a testament to this fact.
Good coaches understand this. Andy Reid and Dave Toub also, apparently, get this. Special Teams excellence is about now and about tomorrow. It is where players add value in the moment and in development for the future. The Broncos (no thank you John Elway) and the Patriots (no thank you Scott Pioli) are not what the Chiefs should aspire to, the Seahawks (yes to Pete Carroll) are the model; the Seahawks are the team to beat and a team the Chiefs are wise to emulate.
Models of excellence and Special Teams aside, what else is going with the Chiefs?
Well, for starters, the Offense is finding its groove and winning games, not relying on the Defense to keep them in the game. This is not an attempt to let the Chiefs Defense off the hook for its shortcomings but just a statement of fact. Jamaal Charles is of course of the main story here but let’s also not overlook the contribution of the second most important weapon on the Chiefs offense, Sean McGrath. Yep.
More on the State of Chiefs Nation:
The Chiefs possess so much potential on Offense. Alex Smith has shown he can be better. Dwayne Bowe knows he can be better. Donnie Avery has it in him to be a difference maker. The Offensive Line is steadily improving but is also certainly capable of being better. Dexter McCluster (Special Teams excellence) knows he can be bigger factor on offense.
I spoke last week of why Junior Hemingway should play a bigger role in the Chiefs offensive production. It’s up to him, Alex Smith, and Andy Reid to make that happen.
The Chiefs Defense, contrary to popular opinion, is playing opportunistic ball. Though they are guilty of giving up big plays and ridiculous yardage lately, they are nevertheless helping win games. The stats, reasonably, suggest porousness but the turnovers are producing offensive opportunities and points.
The ongoing exposure of Marcus Cooper needs to stop. I don’t believe he needs help scheme-wise. Rather, it’s an issue of tenacity. Marcus Cooper needs to be on it and the Defensive Line needs to get it done.
No more 7 seconds in the pocket. No more getting beat over the top. It’s all about the snap of the ball and dismantling the play, not allowing it unfold. Anywhere!
Back to the story of the Chiefs story of success, I say it’s largely about who gets the ball where. When the Chiefs get the ball, they are first in the league in starting line of scrimmage, averaging the 33.42 yard marker. On Defense, they are second in the league, averaging the 22.80 yard line.
In effect, as a result of Special Teams play, and Defense, the Chiefs net, on average, more than a 10 yard advantage with starting field position. In other words, they are, on average, excused an extra set of downs every possession. Forget time of possession, starting field position is something that really matters because it means (believe me, I resisted the temptation to not spell this out) the Chiefs Offense typically has a shorter field to work with and the Chiefs opponents typically have farther to go. Simple math.
Don’t let up boys.
Oh yeah, back to the game on Sunday. I believe this will be the first of successive tests leading into and continuing on into and through the playoffs.
The Colts are a dangerous team. Andrew Luck is the kind of quarterback with the potential to dismantle the Chiefs Defense and the Chiefs would be wise to be cognizant of that. Marcus Cooper will be tested repeatedly. The Chiefs Linebackers and Safeties will be tested against Donald Brown, the Colts best receiving option.
The Chiefs Defense also need to understand that T.Y. Hilton is playing better than any receiver on the Chiefs roster and that Andrew Luck, over the course of the season, is a better Quarterback than Alex Smith. The Colts Offensive Line is better at protecting their QB than the OL is at protecting theirs. All told, the Colts Offense parallel a formula that has resulted in the Chiefs 3 undoings this season.
So, the only question that remains is, now, and going forward, will the Chiefs rise to the occasion?
That’s my Double Take. What’s your take Addicts?