A Look at Offensive Stats and the Playoffs (updated)

Let me start by saying that this post is going to use a LOT of numbers.  I've been looking at what the Chiefs have done this season compared to other teams and also with playoff teams from previous seasons.  Obviously the biggest question that is eating at KC fans and filling up AP's posts is the question of "will our passing game be good enough to get us to the playoffs?"  A lot of APers have serious QB envy when they watch other teams play.  Matt Cassel is far and away the most discussed and debated Chief.  I'm not here to discuss "IF" Matt Cassel will be good enough this season or going forward to make the playoffs.  What I wanted to find out is how good do we need him to be.  In other words, how far does he need to go to get the job done.  The discussion of will he get "there" is hard to have if we can't define where "there" is.  I've crunched a bunch of numbers, so hold onto your hats because here we go.

It seems most NFL fans have come to believe that you have to have a QB that can throw for 300 yards on a regular basis in order to win games consistently in the NFL.  So far this season, that has not been the case.  There are nine teams that are averaging around 250 yards passing per game or more this season.  Here are those teams, their passing yards/game, record, PPG, and PPG allowed:

Team Pass Y/G Record PPG Op PPG
SD 337.8 2 & 3 28 21.2
Den 333 2 & 3 20.8 23.2
Dal 326.2 1 & 3 20.2 21.8
Ind 317.2 3 & 2 27.2 20.2
NO 271.2 3 & 2 19.8 20.4
Det 250 1 & 4 25.2 22.4
Was 248.6 3 & 2 17.8 18.4
Cin 248 2 & 3 20 20.4
NYG 247.8 3 & 2 21.2 19.6
Totals 20 & 24 22.2 20.8

So the top 9 passing teams combined have a winning percentage of about 45%, are scoring 22.2 points/game, and allowing 20.8 points/game.

Now let's look at how the best rushing teams are doing so far this year.  To be fair we'll take the top 9 teams again.

Team Rush Y/G Record PPG Op PPG
NYJ 165.2 4 & 1 27 16.2
Atl 148.8 4 & 1 22.6 14
KC 148.8 3 & 1 19.2 14.2
Jax 146.8 3 & 2 21.4 27.4
Hou 142.4 3 & 2 23.6 27.2
Ten 138.2 3 & 2 26.4 19
Oak 134.2 2 & 3 22.2 26.8
Pit 133.5 3 & 1 21.5 12.5
Min 131.5 1 & 3 15.8 16.8
Totals 26 & 16 22.2 19.3

So the top 9 rushing teams combined have a winning percentage of about 62%, are also scoring 22.2 points/game, and allowing 19.3 points/game.

Interesting to note that the top 9 passing teams and the top 9 rushing teams are averaging the same amount of points/game, but the rushing teams are winning a higher percentage of games.  It's also worth noting that none of the passing teams has a great defensive PPG number, but the rushing teams are a mix of very good and very bad numbers in that department.

Now let's specifically look at what are considered the top teams in the NFL right now.  If you look at all the different power rankings you find a lot of different opinions.  However, the top four teams on almost every list are some combination of Balt, Pitt, NYJ, and Atl.  After that you see several different teams in the number five spot.  So let's look at those four teams and compare them to the Chiefs so far this season.

Team Pass Off. Rush Off. PPG Op PPG
Bal 214.2 114 18.4 14.4
NYJ 172 165.2 27 16.2
Pit 136 133.5 21.5 12.5
Atl 221.4 148.8 22.6 14
Avg 185.9 140.4 22.4 14.3
KC 158 148.8 19.2 14.2

So these four teams are considered the best in the NFL right now and are only averaging a combined 185.9 passing yards/game.  Now, let's throw out the Steelers number since Big Ben's return will soon bring that number up.  If you throw their number out the other three are averaging 202.5.  Better, but still not exactly the Colts or Saints of last season.  So the Chiefs are 45 passing yards and a FG away from having stats equal to the best teams in the NFL.

Now let's specifically look at those teams QBs and how they compare to Cassel.  Again we'll exclude the Steelers, since their QB is just now returning this weekend.

Comp % YPG Y/A TD Int
Flacco 57.1 223.2 6.6 5 6
Sanchez 55.1 180.4 6.1 8 0
Ryan 61.6 233 6.6 7 3
Cassel 54.7 162.5 6.1 4 3

I realized after I typed these numbers in that they don't include the negative sack yardage.  So that is why Cassel's yardage is higher then the KC team number above.

Now Cassel is definitely low man on that totem pole.  However, the distance between him and the other three is not SO big that it can't be overcome.  It certainly looks better then comparing him to the Peyton Mannings of the league.  It becomes even more promising if you look at Cassel's career passing yards/game numbers.  For his career he is averaging 193.9 per game.  That would put him on equal ground with those other three.  Even if you take out his NE years, his Chiefs average is 174.4.  You would think with the schedule ahead and Weis working with him he will at least get up to and pass his current Chiefs average and maybe even work up closer to his career average.

So if the best teams in the league right now aren't quarterbacked by massive yardage producers and the dominant running teams are winning more games then the passing teams, then why does everyone (not just Chiefs fans) think it's all about the big time QB?

Well, after looking at the numbers I think last season has a lot to do with it.  Take a look at this chart of all of last season's playoff teams.

Team Pass Off. Rush Off. PPG Op. PPG
NYJ 148.8 172.2 21.8 14.8
Cin. 180.6 128.5 19.1 18.2
Bal. 213.7 137.5 24.4 16.3
NE 277.2 120.1 26.7 17.8
Ind. 282.2 80.9 26 19.2
SD 271.1 88.9 28.4 20
Phi. 255.6 102.3 26.8 21.1
Dal. 267.9 131.4 22.6 15.6
GB 261.2 117.8 28.8 18.6
Ari. 251 93.4 23.4 20.3
NO 272.2 131.6 31.9 21.3
Min. 259.8 119.9 29.4 19.5
Avg. 245.1 118.7 25.8 18.6

Last season, 9 out of the 12 playoff teams averaged over 250 yards/game passing.  Only two teams that averaged under 200 yards passing/game made the playoffs.  Those are some monster numbers.  The two Super Bowl teams were both over 272 yards per game.  So the question is, what is the norm?  So far this season the rushing/defensive teams are leading the way.  Last year it was clearly the passing teams.  So I went back another year to see what the 2008 numbers looked like.

Team Pass Off. Rush Off. PPG Op. PPG
Ind. 255.9 79.6 23.6 18.6
SD 241.1 107.9 27.4 21.7
Bal. 175.5 148.5 24.1 15.2
Mia. 227 118.6 21.6 19.8
Pit. 206.3 105.6 21.7 13.9
Ten. 176.2 137.4 23.4 14.6
Atl. 208.5 152.7 24.4 20.3
Arz. 292.1 73.6 26.7 26.6
Phi. 244.4 106.1 26 18.1
Min. 184.8 146.1 23.7 20.8
NYG 198.6 157.4 26.7 18.4
Car. 197.4 152.3 25.9 20.6
Avg. 217.3 123.8 24.6 19

That is a HUGE difference in the passing numbers.  In 2008 only 2 playoff teams averaged over 250 passing yards/game and 5 teams that averaged under 200 passing yards/game made the playoffs.  Let's go back one more season to see if we can find some kind of norm to go off of.

Team Pass Off. Rush Off. PPG Op. PPG
NE 295.7 115.6 36.8 17.1
Pit. 191.9 135.5 24.6 16.8
Ind. 252.1 106.6 28.1 16.4
Jax. 208 149.4 25.7 19
Ten. 179.9 131.8 18.8 18.6
SD 187.8 127.4 25.8 17.8
Dal. 256.6 109.1 28.4 20.3
NYG 197.1 134.2 23.3 21.9
Was. 216.4 116.9 20.9 19.4
GB 270.9 99.8 27.2 18.2
TB 209.8 117 20.9 16.9
Sea. 247.8 101.2 24.6 18.2
Avg. 226.2 120.4 25.4 18.4

So now we seem to be finding some middle ground.  Four teams that are over 250 passing yards/game, four teams that are under 200, and four teams that are in between.  I think when you look at all three of those seasons you can get a pretty good snap shot of what the overall playoff team makeup is.  There seems to be room for both pass happy and run oriented teams in the playoffs.

Finally, let's zone in on the Super Bowl winners from those three seasons.

NO 272.2 131.6 31.9 21.3
Pit. 206.3 105.6 21.7 13.9
NYG 197.1 134.2 23.3 21.9
Avg. 225.2 123.8 25.6 19

So only New Orleans really racked up huge passing yards in their Super Bowl winning season.  The Steelers and Giants were both right around the 200 mark.  It should probably be noted however, that both of those QBs won the Super Bowl with game winning drives, so the passing game was not a weakness.

So now we're back to the question at hand.  If the run game, defense, and special teams all continue to play well what kind of numbers do we need from the QB position to be a legit playoff contender?  Do you think that last year represents the future of the league and by year's end most of the playoff teams will be over 250 passing yards/game again?  Are the early season "power teams" that aren't airing it out every game for real?  Will they continue to dominate all season?  These are the questions that I would really love to hear your thoughts on.

My take is that we at least have to be averaging in the 180's to make the playoffs.  If Cassel stays down around 150 teams will take the run away and we will lose games even if the defense keeps it up.  If we can get up to about 200 per game then I think we win the division and go to the playoffs.  Will Cassel be able to get there?  I don't know.  As I said before his career average is 193.9 so I'd like to think it's possible, especially given our easy schedule.

My hope is that more Chiefs fans will realize that we don't need a pro bowl 300 yard/game passer to be a legit team.  We definitely need Cassel to step up his game.  I just believe he only needs to take a couple steps to get the job done as opposed to the giant leap that some seem to think is needed.  Either way, let's hope Cassel starts taking those steps on Sunday versus the Texans.  Go Chiefs!




UPDATE:  I forgot to include the following section that I think is also an important part of this discussion.

In these three seasons there were 9 teams that made the playoffs with defenses that held their opponents to under 17 points per game (KC is currently allowing 14.2).  Those 9 teams averaged 204.7 passing yards per game.  The overall average for those three seasons among all the playoff teams was 229.5 passing yards per game.  The only teams to hold opponents to less then 17 points per game and average over 250 yards per game passing were the 2009 Cowboys and 2007 Colts.  Otherwise there seems to be a direct relationship between having a shut down defense and keeping the ball on the ground.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Arrowhead Pride

You must be a member of Arrowhead Pride to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arrowhead Pride. You should read them.

Join Arrowhead Pride

You must be a member of Arrowhead Pride to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arrowhead Pride. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.