Those crazy Chiefs fans. They’re 8-0 the season after a 2-14 season, leading the AFC West and boasting the best D in football right now. Surely there must be nothing but joy and happiness coming out of KC at the moment? Well not entirely (and don’t call me Shirley).
For some reason a minority (and I’m pretty confident it is a minority) of fans have got their knickers in a twist because certain journalists have the nerve not to place them number one in the power rankings. Their annoyance seems to increase when the Broncos are ranked above them. In this post I’m going to try to take an even handed look at both teams to decide who should be ranked highest in the always fun, but ultimately meaningless, power rankings.
Schedule – A lot has been said about the strength of the opposition the Chiefs have faced so far this season. They’ve not really played any good teams yet, and even average teams, such as the Browns and Texans were depleted at QB so arguably weren’t at their best when facing the Chiefs. However, a fair counter argument is the Broncos haven’t really faced anyone of note yet (apart from the Colts, who we lost to). Although a recent Arrowhead Pride post argues otherwise (It’s a good post and worth checking out) our schedule has been tougher. The trio of the Colts, Ravens and Redskins are better than the Browns, Titans and Texans but the Colts aside the team’s we’ve faced are nothing to write home about. Whilst I think the Broncos have had the harder schedule, they did lose to the Colts, so I’m giving neither team the advantage based on schedule.
Points – The Broncos have scored more points than anyone (343). That’s a fact Jack, and the Chiefs are nowhere near (although their 192 points scored is not to be sniffed at). The Chiefs have been measly in points allowed allowing only 98 so far this season. The Broncos however have allowed more than all but 4 teams. You can argue that the Broncos opponents have upped their totals in garbage time, and that when you’re that far ahead what does an extra touchdown matter, but likewise the Chiefs could argue that their stout defence means they don’t need to put up the massive numbers the Broncos are. The Chiefs will argue they’ve limited teams who have put up big numbers against the Broncos (i.e. the Cowboys); we’ll argue that we’ve blown away teams the Chiefs put up comparatively low points against (the Eagles). It’s swings and roundabouts though. I was kind of surprised to see that the point differentiation against the 5 teams we have both played was so close, +17 for the Broncos, +15.6 for the Chiefs, but the Broncos do have the advantage. It’s also fair to say the Broncos are having an historic year in terms of scoring points, and have averaged 43 points a game. The Chiefs key stat is allowing teams to score on average 12 points a game. Close, but a team who is involved in high scoring games is more fun to watch. The Broncos have the advantage here.
Offense –I’ll give the Chiefs running game kudos, Jamaal Charles is a beast of a running back. Plus Alex Smith is a good game manager who doesn’t throw many picks. But the all-round offense of the Broncos makes this a no contest. Peyton has already thrown 29 touchdowns (if this pace continues you’re looking at 58 touchdowns this season). 3 receivers are on target for 1000 yards, and if his injury isn’t too bad Cesar could also get in on the act. We also have a running game this season. 11 rushing touchdowns is not too shabby, and Moreno is playing the best football of his career ( 9 touchdowns so far and he’s on target for 900 rushing yards, plus over 500 receiving yards). Sorry Chiefs, in terms of Offence you’re not even close.
Defence – The Chiefs win this one. Their points allowed is ranked 1st, their pass defence is top 5 and run defence is also good, whilst they lead the league in sacks (36). But there is life in the Broncos defence yet. Against the Redskins the D finally showed up (and against a pretty good offence). If it weren’t for 2 touchdowns due to offensive turnovers (the 3rd touchdown was also due to a boneheaded penalty on a 4th down kick) we’d be looking at a stellar defensive display. This was the first time Von, Harris and WW, arguably the 3 best defensive players, played together this season. We’ve had a quality run defence so far, and now we have a pass rush, and are finally playing man to man coverage. Expect this unit to show improvements in the second half of the season (more on that later).
Discipline – One of the reasons the Chiefs are so good this year is due to their game management and discipline. The players are doing their job, and well, and Andy Reid needs to take a lot of credit for this. They have fourth fewest penalty yards per game (41) and the 4th least turnovers against (8) in the league. Their turnover differential is 12. The Broncos on the other hand are much less disciplined sitting in 24th in penalty yards (63), and 32nd away from Mile High (a whopping 96.7 penalty yards per game). Over the season we have the 3rd most turnovers against (17) and -1 turnover differentiation. The Chiefs are currently winning in terms of discipline, but they should be worried. If the Broncos improve their discipline, they’ll potentially be blowing out opponents by bigger scores. If the Chief’s discipline tails off there’s not a lot of wriggle room to still be beating opponents when many games are already close.
Potential – For me the Chiefs are playing good football, but, I’m not sure how much more they’ve got in the tank. The Defence is playing superbly, and I’m not sure you can squeeze much more out of them, whilst the Offence is leaning heavily on Jamaal Charles because there aren’t that many other weapons. There may be some room for improvement in the passing game, but I think they have been playing pretty close to their best. The Broncos on the other hand have room to improve. The offence can improve by reducing turnovers and drops. The defence can only get better against the pass, and the return of Von Miller alone, even if nothing else improves, will allow us to put much needed pressure on the QB more consistently. Look at the last game against Washington, RGIII was manhandled, and this lead to rushed throws, picks, and a defence that looked a lot better not only in the stats, but on the eye too. If JDR continues to play man coverage, rather than zone which doesn’t suit our defensive backs, we’ll see further improvement in the pass defence. The Broncos win this one.
So after all that, I can confirm the Chiefs don’t deserve to be ranked number one in the power rankings, even with an 8-0 record. They are playing some good football, and deserve to be talked about as one of the top teams, but the Broncos edge them out currently, and there is still a lot more in the tank for this Broncos team. Having said that the Broncos don’t deserve to be ranked no. 1 at this point either. The 49ers, Saints, and even possibly the Colts are the hot teams at the moment and the Saints probably just edge it for number 1 in my power rankings.
Enjoy the bye guys, then lets start taking out the rest of the West.