It’s better to be lucky than good, and when it comes to the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, good fortune has paved the road to the best record in the NFL at the halfway point of the season.
There’s no shame in being lucky. That luck and good fortune has led to a confident team and at times defensive dominance. This Chiefs defense is the best we’ve seen in a decade and a half. Two months ago, if someone asked me if and when the Chiefs could get to eight wins, I would have said perhaps by the end of the year.
I figured eight wins was the absolute ceiling. As good as Andy Reid has been in his career, I just didn’t see any way he could squeeze anything more out of this roster than an 8-8 record.
I almost never think the Chiefs will be any good. I’m always a glass half empty guy, but this year I was dead wrong. Here we sit at the outset of week nine, and the Chiefs are atop not only the AFC West, but have the NFL’s best record at 8-0.
Many adjectives have been used to describe the Chiefs remarkable run through the first eight weeks of the season, some positive, some negative. One that deserves to be used more is lucky.
That’s not to say the Chiefs don’t deserve to be 8-0, they do. Winning is tough in the NFL. But the way the Chiefs schedule has fallen in line for them has a lot to do with the historic start. Not only have the teams they’ve played in the first eight weeks been bad, to the tune of a 20-41 combined record, but half of them have come to a gunfight armed with a soup spoon.
With the potent pass rush the Chiefs possess, you can’t come in against the Chiefs with anything less than your best players and best effort. And the Chiefs have been fortunate enough to face four straight quarterbacks that didn’t begin the year as their respective teams’ starting quarterback.
After having the pleasure of facing Blaine Gabbert (1.8 Total QBR this season) in week one, the Chiefs beat an impressive stretch of former Pro Bowlers in Tony Romo (62.3 QBR), Michael Vick (58.7 QBR) and Eli Manning (40.3 QBR).
Then began the run of backups. First up was Ryan Fitzpatrick (34.7 QBR) in Nashville where Kansas City escaped with an ugly win. Three straight games in Arrowhead against teams led by Terrelle Pryor (45.2 QBR), Case Keenum (36.4 QBR) and Jason Campbell (42.2 QBR) followed. Average all eight opponent QBR numbers out and it gives you a 40.2 rating, which would be good for 27th in the NFL right now. Luck, destiny, whatever you want to call it, the Chiefs have taken advantage of everything the schedule has given them. This week they get another backup, Thad Lewis (19.1 QBR) and the Buffalo Bills – a team Kansas City has defeated just once in its last six attempts and a place they haven’t won since 1986.
We’ll find out just how good they really are following the bye week next week, because the bulk of the difficulty in the Chiefs schedule lies ahead. After the trip to Buffalo, remaining opponents have a combined record of 32-19. While it’s the more difficult part of the 2013 schedule, it’s by no means a gauntlet of dominant teams.
Winning in the NFL isn’t easy and beating the bad teams and bad quarterbacks is what good teams are supposed to do. The Chiefs aren’t the first team to play an easy schedule or a string of crummy quarterbacks. They keep finding ways to win, regardless of how the offense has looked. The defense has been good all season and dominant in the fourth quarter of nearly every game.
An 8-0 record looks amazing now, but it will take improvement offensively, along with tightening up the defense and special teams to play to a necessary level in the second half of the season to make noise in January. Alex Smith is going to have to expand his vision down the field occasionally. Dwayne Bowe needs to come out of hibernation. The offensive line has to improve. Surrendering six sacks in a game like they did to the Browns won’t cut it.
Defensively, the secondary needs to play better. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers will torch the Chiefs if they don’t fix the issues that allowed Jason Campbell to pass for 293 yards and two touchdowns. If Davone Bess hadn’t have forgotten how to catch the football, the Chiefs very well could be at 7-1 today.
The Chiefs have the best record in the NFL right now and while I don’t think they’re the best team in the league, they’re close. If I put together power rankings, I’d probably go with the Broncos, Saints or the Seahawks first. Chiefs aren’t far behind, and as the weeks pass and their confidence grows, the margin will shrink quickly.
If the success in the first eight games was due to mixture of luck, scheduling and defense, the final eight games present a huge opportunity. An opportunity to shut people like me up. People that are skeptical that any of this success is anything but schedule driven. Opportunity to finish with the best record in the AFC and gain home field advantage in the playoffs. With Arrowhead roaring and back in its mid-1990’s form, it would be tough to pick against the Chiefs at home in the playoffs against anyone.