Undefeated Chiefs instill no fear
The Kansas City Chiefs are 8-0, and this weekend they play the 3-5 Buffalo Bills, a team that could be starting its third quarterback of the year, which would put them in the illustrious company of the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
After that, the Chiefs have a bye. So, it is likely — in fact, it seems almost certain, or as certain as you can be in the perpetually unsettled ecology of the NFL — that the Chiefs will be heading into their bye week at 9-0.
This makes no sense. It makes no sense for a lot of reasons: They had the worst record in the league last year; they have a new head coach; they have a new starting quarterback; the head coach and the quarterback had never played together before; their top wide receiver is having a dismal year; etc. etc. etc.
But here we are: The Chiefs are the only undefeated team in the league, with a better record than the Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers, Packers, Colts, Patriots, Saints, and on. And yet: you might be hard-pressed to find an impartial observer — read: not a Chiefs fan — who thinks KC has a better chance than any of those teams to win the Super Bowl.
I’m one of them, and I’d add the Bengals, Panthers, Bears, and Lions to the list of teams I’d hitch my wagon to before the Chiefs.
But why is that? Are we still just so conditioned to disrespect the Chiefs and Alex Smith, both properties that up until recently were anthema to anyone hoping to win a championship, and to doubt Andy Reid, a guy who consistently comes within striking distance of winning it all but always comes up short? Sure — I don’t think any of those things hurt. But there are other reasons.
Let’s start with the good first, though — there’s obviously a reason why the Chiefs are 9-0. Actually, there are two reasons. Here’s the first: They’ve allowed the fewest points per game in the league, at just more than 12. If you consistently keep teams at under two touchdowns per game, you will usually win.
To give you some perspective, the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season was 165, by the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. The Chiefs are only allowing about a point and a half more per game than they were.
The second reason is where we begin to overlap with why the Chiefs’ record doesn’t tell the entire story. The Chiefs are 10th in the league in points scored, which isn’t bad at all when you’re allowing so few.
And that level of scoring is still good for the league’s second-best points differential, which is arguably the best simple indicator of a team’s effectiveness so far. But they’ve done it against horrible, horrible, horrible teams. There’s no other way to say it: KC has been feasting on the league’s dregs. The Chiefs’ schedule is the kind of thing that kept Boise State out of the BCS Championship for five years.
Here are the teams the Chiefs have beaten so far: the Jaguars, maybe the worst team in NFL history; the Cowboys, their one legitimate win; the Eagles, who have one of the league’s worst scoring defenses and turn the ball over like they enjoy it; the Giants, who need nothing said about them; and then the Titans, Raiders, Texans, and Browns, all bottom-half NFL teams with losing records and negative point differentials who were starting at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrell Pryor, Case Keenum in his first NFL game, and Jason Campbell, respectively.
The Chiefs have beaten one team who, at the mid-season mark, possess both a winning record and have scored more points than they’ve allowed. According to Football Outsiders’ metric for evaluating teams, the Chiefs have had the flat-out easiest schedule in the league through Week 8, and by a considerable margin: their opponents are an average of 19.1 percent worse than the league average; the next easiest schedule belongs to the Broncos, at 14.6 percent
The Broncos make up for the ease of their schedule by annihilating their opponents, earning them the top rank by FO’s metrics; the Chiefs rank 10th.
And once the Chiefs get back from that bye, things get hairy. Looking forward from here, FO has their upcoming schedule as the league’s fourth-toughest, and that includes this week’s matchup against the Bills. Take that out, and here’s what Kansas City is looking at coming up: the Broncos twice; the Chargers twice; at the Redskins and Raiders; and at home against the Colts.
If my theory is correct — that the Chiefs have a sputtering, broken offense, quarterbacked by a safe but unspectacular passer; that their defense, though good, has been feasting on teams that couldn’t score against tackling dummies — then we’ll find out soon enough.
On the other hand, if the Chiefs truly are legitimate, now’s the time to show it; otherwise, some team’s going to be happy to meet them in the playoffs.