Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Nov 2013

ESPN: Broncos Are Chiefs' Biggest Hurdle to Super Bowl

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) and Denver Broncos (8-1) do not have a win over a team with a winning record, but their combined .944 winning percentage is the highest entering a game this late in the season since the 1970 merger.

It's a step up in competition this week, but are the Chiefs really on Denver's level? Kansas City is a 7.5-point underdog. The Chiefs have only been favored by 7.5 points once this season (Oakland game).

At Insider we break down all 31 teams since 1997 to start 8-1 or 9-0 by looking at their performance through Week 10 and the caliber of teams they faced. Here is the master table, which also includes the 2013 Seahawks:

NFL Statistics Thru Week 10 For 8-1/9-0 Teams Since 1997
Team Differentials and DVOA Efficiency Opponent Averages
Team Year W-L PD YD TO DVOA OFF DEF SOS DVOA OFF DEF
NE 2007 9-0 208 1,381 11 74.8% 49.1% -17.4% 0.481 7.3% 10.5% 4.5%
KC 2003 9-0 137 260 18 49.4% 28.7% -6.9% 0.383 -5.1% -2.9% 2.2%
DAL 2007 8-1 101 884 4 41.7% 28.9% -12.8% 0.469 1.2% 2.8% 1.4%
DEN 1998 9-0 131 696 6 38.6% 36.4% -1.5% 0.457 -1.5% -1.9% -0.6%
PIT 2004 8-1 74 708 11 38.4% 15.8% -24.7% 0.481 2.0% -3.6% -1.6%
SF 1997 8-1 119 929 15 37.0% 0.7% -32.2% 0.333 -15.1% -15.1% 0.6%
DEN 2013 8-1 133 754 -2 36.9% 35.4% 3.0% 0.410 -12.0% -3.9% 7.5%
NE 2004 8-1 85 301 4 36.0% 21.1% -14.4% 0.506 4.8% 0.0% -5.2%
JAC 1999 8-1 137 713 14 34.8% 5.4% -20.5% 0.349 -15.2% -6.7% 7.1%
IND 2005 9-0 145 906 7 34.5% 25.3% -13.0% 0.321 -17.9% -8.1% 10.5%
IND 2009 9-0 110 706 7 34.2% 23.9% -10.5% 0.457 3.4% 5.5% 2.9%
TEN 2000 8-1 56 551 5 34.0% 4.1% -23.3% 0.530 2.5% -1.2% -6.5%
NYG 2008 8-1 102 989 6 33.2% 18.8% -9.7% 0.395 -9.4% -7.2% 3.1%
CHI 2006 8-1 152 742 7 33.0% -3.1% -25.9% 0.407 -12.2% -8.0% 2.7%
STL 2001 8-1 133 1,381 -5 32.3% 23.1% -14.0% 0.494 4.6% -1.4% -3.5%
PHI 2004 8-1 86 111 12 30.6% 27.0% 4.4% 0.494 0.2% -4.3% -3.5%
GB 2011 9-0 134 224 11 30.0% 33.5% 5.2% 0.415 -6.9% -1.0% 4.3%
SEA 2013 8-1 83 466 6 30.0% 6.4% -17.5% 0.427 -1.6% -3.7% -2.3%
DEN 1997 8-1 108 543 5 29.8% 19.1% -7.3% 0.444 -3.8% 1.4% 3.1%
NO 2009 9-0 134 748 6 26.7% 22.9% -7.5% 0.395 -8.8% -7.0% 0.6%
TEN 2008 9-0 103 258 10 26.0% 5.4% -21.8% 0.420 -1.4% -1.3% -2.0%
MIN 2009 8-1 87 364 4 25.1% 14.5% 0.2% 0.358 -13.2% -9.3% -0.4%
HOU 2012 8-1 107 655 10 23.6% 7.3% -24.7% 0.500 6.2% -0.8% -2.5%
SF 2011 8-1 95 -208 13 21.6% -1.8% -11.6% 0.481 0.5% 1.0% -0.2%
GB 2007 8-1 86 630 2 20.8% 14.9% -5.3% 0.469 -2.1% -0.1% 1.4%
GB 2002 8-1 89 446 15 17.9% 13.1% -11.9% 0.463 0.9% -3.6% -0.2%
IND 2006 9-0 60 554 8 17.4% 29.6% 7.2% 0.494 4.7% 6.6% 2.7%
MIN 1998 8-1 129 609 5 15.0% 24.5% 8.6% 0.358 -3.9% -5.8% 0.5%
OAK 2000 8-1 84 -82 12 15.0% 18.1% 3.2% 0.333 -7.2% 1.5% 5.9%
KC 2013 9-0 104 -86 15 13.0% -3.4% -10.2% 0.357 -15.7% -7.7% 5.7%
ATL 2012 8-1 73 177 10 7.1% 7.5% 1.7% 0.370 -5.6% -0.8% 3.4%

Note: PD = Points Differential, YD = Yards Differential, TO = Turnover Differential.

Despite playing the second-weakest group of opponents (total DVOA), the Chiefs have the second-worst DVOA of the 31 teams and the worst offense.

The Chiefs have the most punts per drive this season. Denver has the fewest. It's a big mismatch and DVOA is not fond of the Chiefs' defense (ranked 7th in 2013) despite it's historic success. When you factor in all the backup quarterbacks they have faced, it's not hard to see why.

Given the past history of the Chiefs, Andy Reid and Alex Smith, that's a lot of examples of home playoff losses where the offene just couldn't score. If this offense does not get any better, look for history to repeat itself in January.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 15 Nov 2013

11 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2013, 2:21am by Scott Kacsmar

Comments

1
by Sepo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 1:33pm

Only 1 of the top 6 won a Super Bowl (1998 DEN)

Also GB in 2011 had a higher DVOA than SF, but we all know SF was a much better team. (3-0 vs GB since)

3
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 3:02pm

We probably need a disclaimer on this site that states how regular-season results translate worse to the playoffs than ever before. So while Alex Smith has 9 TD passes in 9 games, I guess this means he's right on pace for 11 TD in the postseason like Joe Flacco last year.

I'm not so sure the 49ers were better than Green Bay that year. They did not meet until the following season. I thought we might see a SF/GB NFC Championship in 2011, but the Packers had a very 2005 Colts' depressing type of finish (on and off the field). Rodgers played on Christmas, then not again for a few weeks and the rust was evident against the Giants. The defense was living off turnovers all season so if a team could protect the ball (not to mention how well the Giants played them in New Jersey), then an off day from Rodgers was all they really needed to take advantage of a flawed 15-1 team.

2
by mrh :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 2:23pm

Chiefs fan. The back-up QB thing is a bit misleading.

If we look at QBs for their teams in Week 1, the Chiefs have faced Eli, Romo, and Pryor, all still starting (pending this wweek for Pryor). They also played Vick and Gabbert. While they were their starters, per DYAR, they actually have were worse QBs than the backups the Chiefs missed out on playing (Foles and Henne).

KC has played 4 QBs who were not Week 1 starters. Three of those backups have actually been BETTER than the original starters: Keenum (over Schaub); Campbell (over Weeden - and Hoyer); Fitzpatrick (over Locker). Again, this is all per DYAR. The only backup the Chiefs have faced who was worse than his team's "starter" was Tuel (and he was worse than the first backup as well).

The bottom line is that the Chiefs have faced a lot of BAD QBs this year, including Eli who has been bad this year. Whether those qbs were backups or not is really irrelevant. I think the Chiefs would have beaten all of those teams regardless of which QB they played on the given day - even Buffalo, I saw Manuel this past weekend.

KC now faces a huge jump in class. Even if their defense (or even their team as a whole) is the best in the league (and no, I don't think they are), it would be a surprise to win in Denver. It's always a surprise if the Chiefs win in Denver. The big test is two weeks from Sunday in Arrowhead.

4
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 3:47pm

Shouldn't you use DVOA instead of DYAR given the unequal sample sizes of games played by those QBs?

Henne is better than Gabbert, but I agree that Keenum has been HOU's best QB this year and Campbell is better than Weeden. Tuel is garbage though. A healthy Thad Lewis probably wins that game for Buffalo. Changed entirely on that pick six.

Still, there's a lot of inexperience to deal with there and we seen that in the 4Q when Keenum could do nothing against KC's blitzing. Pryor also invited a ton of those sacks. You're just not going to get that against Manning/Rivers in the division or someone like Tom Brady in the playoffs.

5
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 6:55pm

The 2003 Chiefs are a very interesting team and highlight something Aaron has talked about regarding DVOA stuck being predictive and explanatory.

They really were a great team for 9 weeks despite their horrible strength of schedule. But it looks completely unsustainable. That +18 turnover margin is ridiculous (on pace to be the second highest post 1978 number behind the 83 Redskins) and after 8 weeks they're otherwise mediocre defense was on pace to have 54 takeaways, which I think would be a post 1978 record.

That's how you put up a great record, but there's probably a less than 5% chance of that turnover ratio sustaining itself.

Sure enough, the defense went from 27 takeaways in the first half of the season to 10 in the second half of the season, the turnover margin went from +18 at the halfway mark to +19 at season end (which still led the league) and the team went from being a juggernaut to being only a little bit above average, which meant that they still had a very good DVOA rating at season end.

In general, it does seem like the teams that dominate in yardage do a better job of maintaining their level of play than teams that are dependent on winning the turnover battle.

6
by steveNC (not verified) :: Fri, 11/15/2013 - 11:57pm

Interesting that 2006 IND managed the 9-0 record with only 60 net points.

7
by D2K :: Sat, 11/16/2013 - 12:27am

Its not a "net points" chart, but a "point differential" chart. That 2006 Colts team won 7 of their first 9 by 7 points or less, and 4 of those first 9 were decided by 4 or less points. The narrative for the most part of that year WRT to the Colts was "how many points do Manning and the Indy offense have to score, to cover up a pretty poor defense?" Or something trite along those lines.

8
by tuluse :: Sat, 11/16/2013 - 3:09am

Peyton was incredible that year. It wasn't just the points scored, but the final 5 minutes each half were handled perfectly. It felt like the Colts would always score and not leave the other team enough time to respond.

9
by kamiyu206 :: Sat, 11/16/2013 - 6:32am

-Despite playing the second-worst group of teams as measured by average DVOA, the Chiefs have the second-worst DVOA (13.0 percent) of the 31 teams. That's alarming.-

Isn't this double counting?

Part of the reason Chiefs' DVOA isn't great is, they faced the easiest schedule so far and DVOA already accounted for that. So their DVOA rating already reflects the schedule information.

10
by Rick S (not verified) :: Sat, 11/16/2013 - 11:32am

I see KC going 3-4 in their last seven games, (Swept by Denver, split with SD, loss to Indy) to finish a very respectable 12-4. Unfortunately they will probably be remembered as "faders", because they are overrated now based upon their record, which is a product of the teams the faced.

If anything, KC help's Denver's Super Bowl chances because they have division competition that keeps them sharp through more of the season. It seems that every few years there is a team like the 2011 Packers, 2005 Colts, 1996 Broncos that have things wrapped up so early they lose their edge when the playoffs arrive.

11
by Scott Kacsmar :: Sun, 11/17/2013 - 2:21am

In case anyone's interested, I put up a preview for the game on my blog, making note of the points-per-drive numbers against Peyton Manning when he loses, how the Chiefs rarely hit those marks and how Manning's done against top five pass defenses (DVOA) in the last decade.

http://captaincomeback.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/nfl-week-11-predictions-...