Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Dec 2010

FREE: Kansas City Chiefs Chapter of FOA 2010

Today, the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West with a win over the Titans and a loss by the Chargers to the Cincinnati Bengals.

In July, there was exactly one national outlet predicting that the Chiefs would win the AFC West: Football Outsiders.

In Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, we projected a AFC West crown for the Chiefs, thanks to an extremely weak schedule, decline from the Chargers, an elite running game, and a breakout season from outside linebacker Tamba Hali.

If you didn't purchase FOA 2010, here's your chance to read the Chiefs chapter detailing the expected improvement for free. You can download a PDF version of that chapter here.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 26 Dec 2010

42 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2010, 6:12am by tuluse


by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 9:51pm

cOngrats to Chiefs, but will eb one and done after Balti, Pitts, or Jets beat them in Wi;d Card game.

Raiders will take AFC Wrst in 2011.

by bingo762 :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 11:20pm

That is correct, Joe. Raiders will take AFC Worst in 2011

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:04pm

The Chargers, though, will probably fire Norv and win the AFC West because they still have by far the most talented team in the division and its just insane that they managed not to win it this year.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:36pm

I'm not sure I believe the conventional "SD is the most talented team in the division" idea. They certainly have the best QB and have played very well in 2 facets of a 3 facet game... but I think the Chiefs roster can reasonably be compared to SD. The difference is that the Chiefs are stocked with a bunch of young, up and coming players like Eric Berry and Jamal Charles - their TE and WR aren't going to eclipse Jackson and Gates, but they are still pretty good (and getting better.) So much of the question of talent depends on the development of the Chiefs young players, but having All-Stars at a few positions doesn't mean SD has the more stocked roster. There's no pass rusher or running back or defensive back on SD I'd take over Hall, Berry & Charles. Also, Charger are probably a touch over-valued because their division has featured so many bottom-feeders for years - it's easy to look great against super-chumps...

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 1:47am

Coming from a Colts fan who has a great deal of dislike for the Chargers... their crappy luck, ST, and injuries cannot continue indefinitely. I'll draw from Colts history. For about five years the Colts had a top O, bottom D, and bottom-third ST and still made the playoffs every year but one from 1999-2004. (The current Chargers are probably better than the 1999-2002 Colts.) The Indy D rounded into form and despite poor ST and miserable injury luck, they've made the post-season every year since (knock wood), winning and losing in two SBs. Now many have said this is underachieving and that the Chargers are super-under-achievers, but that's the NFL. The other guys get paid too and in any given year there are probably 3-4 teams who, but for the wrong bounce of the ball or an untimely flag, etc would be in the SB. (Think of MINN last year.) Maybe the Chargers need a new HC or new culture... not sure, but that's a damn good team--despite the lame ST play. Rivers, despite my great dislike for him, is a top QB. The receivers and RBs are more than adequate. The D is vicious. I wish the Colts could do somethign to get Garay at DT--he ate them alive this year. I wonder if SD kept Osgood if they'd have won two more games because of better ST play... and if none of us would be having this discussion....

by Dean from Oz :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 10:26pm

Quick question RJ - do you have a yearly template for this post? Would certainly save you time and you'd only need to change who won the division and the year.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 11:23pm

no yearly template

Thing is make preidicitions every year and think Raiders goign to win division most years or all years mayeb

Most picks good though . Did good with pick em leagueus this year like most years. Not a bad preicdotor of games but do get some wrong. As for division pciks got Oakland 2010 afc west champs wrong. Sometimes blind kangaroo find good patch of grass to eat just like KC Chiefs win West over Raiders this year.

by tally :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 10:42pm

It's much more fun when he improvises.

by RickD :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 11:03pm

Great job by FO predicting the year that the Chiefs had this season!

by RickD :: Sun, 12/26/2010 - 11:05pm

From the PDF:

after all, our mean projection has them just
narrowly beating out the Chargers...


by MJK :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:51am

FO also predicted improvement of safety Jarrad Page. They were right...but not for the Chiefs...

In general, isn't the Chiefs' improvement pretty much due to an improvement in personnell? Pioli is a good talent evaluator. I don't follow Chiefs enough to know, but hasn't his personnell decisions worked out pretty well so far?

by BJR :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 9:41am

I can't be bothered to re-read the chapter right now, but from what I can remember the biggest factor behind the Chiefs prediction was schedule strength. A lot of folk cottoned on to the fact that the Chiefs were playing a very weak schedule later on in the year when Cassel, Bowe, and Charles were putting up great fantasy numbers, but FO were all over it from the start.

That's the reason I give credit to FO here. Anybody can speculate on the impact of off-season personnel/coaching decisions, and some will be more informed and accurate than others. But FO calculated that the Chiefs were playing the easiest schedule in the league this year (according to last year's performance), and therefore had a good chance of winning some games. It is that type of objective analysis that really provides value.

by Sudden (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:58pm

It doesn't make a ton sense to predict we win the division on schedule strength alone though. Keep in mind that we play 12 games identical to the other three teams in the division. And on paper, SD's schedule should've looked as easy as ours because although they had to play NE and CIN (Is that really tougher than CLE this season though?) they also got the good fortune of playing us twice, while we had to play them twice (which going into the season would've looked about equal to playing BUF and CLE).

by BJR :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 8:33pm

That's fair enough. I was really only referring to the fact that they projected the Chiefs a healthy wins total, rather than that they would win the division.

I can't really recall why FO projected the Chargers to decline, although I'm certain it wasn't because they thought they would have the worst ever special teams for the first 6 weeks of the season.

by Anonymous Jones :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:10am

Hey, congrats on the ultimate result, but the theory that the Chargers would decline enough in granular performance (as opposed to the wide view of merely tallying wins) to let the Chiefs take the AFC West does not in fact appear to be very well supported by this season's data. Yes, the Chargers did have a historically bad special teams unit (by result), but (1) I'm not convinced that the outlier result is really the fruit of poor construction of the unit (as opposed to outlier luck) and (2) there is no way that any such outlier result would have ever been predicted based on past performance. Even with the outlier ST results, both the SD DVOA and the SD point differential indicate the Chargers have a significantly superior team to the Chiefs. Yes, I'd rather make the playoffs than be the superior team, but let's not lose sight of the idea that broken clocks are right twice a day. It's not enough to be right; it's important to be right for the right reasons (not that the writers of the FOA didn't, on the whole, have very good reasons; the analysis other than the Chargers decline was quite sound).

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 12:03pm

This is exactly what I was thinking. It is great that you called the KC improvement and easy schedule, but it is hardly fair to say that SD declined. They were the second best team in the league this year. I do also give FO credit for being able to currently see that about SD despite the special teams failures and lack of wins.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:03am

Whut?? The Chargers were the 2nd best team in the league this year? Yeah, the 2nd best team in the league doesn't lose to Seattle, Rams, Oakland (twice)and the Bengals. The only remotely good team they beat all year was the Colts.

And stop with the special teams excuses. They are who they are. A terrible road team who plays up and down to their competition. Special teams had nothing to do with their lose to the Rams, 2nd lose to Oakland, and the Bengals.

And everyone throws out these pointless numbers -- they're the No. 1 offense and defense -- but that's just total yards with no reference to who they are playing. They had one of the easiest schedules in the league this year, that's why those numbers look impressive.

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 6:12am

I think he's referring to San Diego's weighted DVOA, which says they are currently playing like the 2nd best team in the league, not that they were the 2nd best team throughout the year.

by davepyne :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 8:59am

good point

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:48am

Since the Chiefs sit at 22 in weighted DVOA and the Chargers are at 2, you should hardly be congratulating yourselves. Look, our unique preseason prediction, which is now in total disagreement with our current stats, was totally right, which means we were right, but now we our totally wrong, look at how awesome we are, buy more books!

The chapter was good though, and it makes sense, but obviously DVOA doesn't agree.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:19pm

Yeah, well, the guys who run the site know that strength of schedule matters. So if the Chargers have a high DVOA and still cannot win the division because they had a first-place schedule while the Chiefs had a last-place schedule, then how is that a flaw of either DVOA or of their ability to predict division winners?

The prediction was that the Chiefs would win the division, not that they would have the highest DVOA.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:43pm

In general, this is a really good point, RickD. However, in this specific case, FO/Aaron did project the Cheifs to have the higher DVOA.

In fact, this looks like a good time to examine the actual projections against the actual results (through week 15):

Type _____ Projected __ Actual
Total _____ - 0.7% ____ + 3.9%
Offense ___ + 1.9% ____ +11.0%
Defense ___ + 3.3% ____ + 5.1%
ST ________ + 0.6% ____ - 2.0%

Type _____ Projected __ Actual
Total _____ - 5.5% ____ +24.0%
Offense ___ +12.1% ____ +32.1%
Defense ___ +15.4% ____ -11.8%
ST ________ - 2.2% ____ - 9.3%

EDIT: So, in general, FO's projections were low on both offenses. They were overly-optimistic about the Chiefs' defense, while at the same time overly-pessimistic about the Chargers' defense. They were a little optimistic about the Chiefs' special teams, and while they projected the Chargers' as much higher than they actually were, they did peg San Diego for 30th in the league.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 1:58pm

I think that is taken into account with projected wins in the actual stats, where the Chargers are at 9.4 and the Chiefs are at 7.5. I'm guessing two wins is no small difference. Also, KC barely won their two games against Buffalo and Cleveland, whereas San Diego lost their two against a great New England team and a bad Cinci team that was having a great day.

My point is that FO did a good job on predicting KC improvement, but that doesn't mean that they should be patting themselves on the back for predicting they would win the division, when that was nothing more than luck; epic bad luck by San Diego and good luck for KC.

by apollos :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:19pm

'...it is hardly fair to say that SD declined. They were the second best team in the league this year.'

I'm not quite Raheem Morris, as evidenced by my affection for this site, but this has got to be one of the more preposterous discussions I've seen.

It isn't fair to say a team that finished 13-3 a year ago and has dominated the AFC West for years, declined when they will, at best, finish 9-7? Not fair?

Also, DVOA is great but do you guys really go around calling SD the 'second best team in the league' using that statistic only? I don't care what the statistics say, SD is not the 'second best team in the league.' Not even close. I'll say it slowly... the Chargers declined. Yep, still sounds right.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:40pm

As an Eagles' fan, I will tell SD fans right now: the DVOA trophy is a cold comfort.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 5:18pm

I don't understand where this "second best team in the league" comes from.

By overall DVOA, the Chargers are the FOURTH best team in the league.

It's weighted DVOA that has (or, rather, had...it's going to drop after losing to Cincy) them at #2. And wDVOA doesn't tell you how their season has been...it tells you how they're playing right now, going into the playoffs. Given that San Diego is not going to the playoffs, wDVOA is kind of moot.

What DVOA is telling us is that it thinks San Diego is a better team than Kansas City, in the sense that, when facing the same sorts of plays on offense or defense, San Diego will on average do better than Kansas City. However, the special teams and the coaching has been much, much better for Kansas City, meaning that Kansas City doesn't HAVE to face the same sorts of situations that the Chargers do. That is probably why the Chiefs are winning the division.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 6:25pm

Don't forget that weighted DVOA more heavily values the 31-0 shellacking that the Chargers put on he Chiefs. While it counts, and the Chargers dominated that game, there is also an asterisk* on that game when judging how the Chiefs will (or the Chargers would have) perform(ed) going forward.

*Brodie Croyle.

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 2:56pm

So what everyone is saying is that FO shouldn't get credit for a correct prediction because they weren't exactly right about how that prediction would come about?

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 3:36pm

No, it is not what I am saying.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:32pm

Chiefs fan. Special teams count. Both had easy schedules. The Chiefs took advantage and the Chargers did not. I don't think the 2nd best team in the NFL would get swept by CIN, SEA, and STL, even on the road.

I think the Chiefs would be about a .500 team against a league average schedule; I'm not sure SD would be much better.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:39pm

oof. SEA, CIN and STL? I didn't realize that. That's embarrassing by any standard. Just... oof.


by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:43pm

Also: Oakland twice. Twice!

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:57pm

But don't feel bad, the Panthers could only muster two wins against the NFC West too.

by t.d. :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 4:33pm

It was a great year across the board for FOA, not just in this one prediction. They'll have gone six for six for AFC playoff teams, and they weren't bad in the NFC either.

by SS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:11pm

The debate is pointless ... Fact is Kansas City is going to the playoffs and the Chargers are going to be watching from home. Disect all the stats you want ... KC is in, SD is out ... deal with it. The fact that FO predicted it ... good call ...

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 7:31pm

Every debate on this site is pointless, none of us have any power over what an NFL team does. We just do it for fun.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 10:19pm

Actually, it's time for me to reveal... I'm Jeff Lurie. And I will not be spending big dollars this off-season to import SD's special teams unit wholecloth.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 1:51am

You call this fun? I do it because I am a masochist.

by greybeard :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 8:41pm

Not to reign in on your parade but when are we getting the free chapters for ARI where the difference between projected and actual week 15 DVAO is >30%), SD (> %30), MIN (> 30%), WAS (> 30%), DET (> 27%), CAR (> %25), and 4 or 5 teams other teams with ~20%?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/27/2010 - 10:28pm

This just in: SD owner says Norv will be back for 2011!

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 1:55am

Actually, someone hacked the ESPN.com site to insert Norv's byline and photo on an AFCW blog article. Sweet.


by pazz (not verified) :: Tue, 12/28/2010 - 11:52am

If they stay healthy chiefs will play in S.B. next year. Cassel's 2nd year w/weiss and defense who will be elite, with difference makers at all levels: hali, johnson, berry and flowers.