Despite the most successful two-year start in franchise history, the coveted division title has eluded the Kansas City Chiefs since the 2010 season. The team did secure a postseason berth in year one of the new administration, but they qualified for the tournament as a wildcard. Unless you’ve been in hiding, you’re aware that the Denver Broncos have claimed the division crown in each of the four seasons following the Chiefs’ 2010 campaign. Pundits across the NFL believe the Chiefs have a legitimate shot at unseating the Broncos in 2015. Kansas City certainly has a capable roster, but bringing that to bear will require several different things.
Let’s take a quick look at a few division-specific numbers that might help establish my criteria for winning the AFC West. Here are a number of tendencies that may have complicated the process of returning to the top of the division for the Chiefs. Bear in mind, these are aggregate statistics from the divisional matchups in the 2014 season. I’ll do my best to avoid a cliche prescription for the Chiefs, but there are obviously tried-and-true methods for winning we’re all familiar with. Even casual fans of the National Football League realize that better offensive and defensive performances increase the odds of victory. Today, my hope is establish a realistic statistical baseline that will make Kansas City a favorite to win the West (on paper).
I’ll start by collecting data for the Chiefs in their divisional games from 2014. The next step will be to identify the high watermark hit by the defending division champion in each category. We’ll keep it simple and call that the “Denver Peak.” From there, I’ll use a median calculator to determine a value between the two numbers that can serve as a feasible goal for the Kansas City Chiefs. Complicated enough? Let’s begin.
Rushing Yards Allowed: 740 (123 per game)
Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Subtract Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, and Mike DeVito (three of the team’s best in run support) from a 2013 run defense that ranked 22nd in the league and it’s plain to see why they dropped another six slots in 2014. The West posted three games of 112 or more rushing yards against the Chiefs. Incidentally, Kansas City went 1-2 in those games. Stopping the run will be an integral part of winning the arms race in the West.
The Denver Peak: 388 (64.6 per game) — Median: 564 (94 per game)
If you extrapolate the above median over the entire regular season, you get the 6th-best run defense in the NFL. It’s tough to imagine a run defense of that caliber failing to make the playoffs. Only three of the league’s ten best run defenses didn’t qualify.
Next: The next two categories...