In order to predict the future, it is important to understand the past. This holds true for many instances in life and history. Fortunately, I have found an avenue into the future of the AFC West, by looking at what has transpired so far in 2010. There's good news for you Chiefs fans. We will win the West. Follow along.
Currently the Chiefs lead the division by a half game over the Oakland Raiders, and a game and a half over the San Diego Chargers. After week 10 when the Chiefs take on the Broncos at Mile HIgh, we will be able to throw out those half games as everyone will have had their bye weeks. Lets throw out all the game statistics, as you can paint any picture with the right pallette of stats, and take a look at a the common demoninator amongst the West competitors, the schedule.
Scheduling, in my humble opinion, is the single biggest determinant of success in the NFL. The difference between winning the superbowl and missing the playoffs depends on your schedule. With the landscape of the NFL changing so rapidly in the free agency era, predicting strength of schedule is very tough to do before the season starts. But, once a few weeks have passed, schedules will often show their true strengths and weaknesses.
To illustrate this, let's take a look at a few examples:
1. The 2009 vs. 2010 Minnesota Vikings
2. The 1973 Miami Dolphins
3. The 2009 vs. 2010 Kansas City Chiefs
We begin with the Vikings. While not many foresaw the flip flop of the Viking's fortunes, it could have been easily predicted. An early season favorite to win the Super Bowl by many, the Vikings are barely alive in the weak NFC North at 3-5. Those victories came at home against 3 of the league's bottom feeders, the Cardinals, Cowboys, and Lions, with only the Lion's win being more than a 3 point victory. They are the victims of a large increase in their strength of schedule.
While the team hasn't changed much from 2009 to 2010, their opponents have. Lets take a look.
|Week||Date||Kickoff (CT)||Opponent||Results||Venue||TV||NFL Recap|
|Final score||Team record|
|1||September 13||12:00 pm||at Cleveland Browns||W 34–20||1–0||Cleveland Browns Stadium||Fox||Recap|
|2||September 20||12:00 pm||at Detroit Lions||W 27–13||2–0||Ford Field||Fox||Recap|
|3||September 27||12:00 pm||San Francisco 49ers||W 27–24||3–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||Fox||Recap|
|4||October 5||7:30 pm||Green Bay Packers||W 30–23||4–0||Mall of America Field||ESPN||Recap|
|5||October 11||12:00 pm||at St. Louis Rams||W 38–10||5–0||Edward Jones Dome||Fox||Recap|
|6||October 18||12:00 pm||Baltimore Ravens||W 33–31||6–0||Mall of America Field||CBS||Recap|
|7||October 25||12:00 pm||at Pittsburgh Steelers||L 27–17||6–1||Heinz Field||Fox||Recap|
|8||November 1||3:15 pm||at Green Bay Packers||W 38–26||7–1||Lambeau Field||Fox||Recap|
|10||November 15||12:00 pm||Detroit Lions||W 27–10||8–1||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|11||November 22||12:00 pm||Seattle Seahawks||W 35–9||9–1||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|12||November 29||3:15 pm||Chicago Bears||W 36–10||10–1||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|13||December 6||7:20 pm||at Arizona Cardinals||L 17–30||10–2||University of Phoenix Stadium||NBC||Recap|
|14||December 13||12:00 pm||Cincinnati Bengals||W 30–10||11–2||Mall of America Field||CBS||Recap|
|15||December 20||7:20 pm||at Carolina Panthers||L 7–26||11–3||Bank of America Stadium||NBC||Recap|
|16||December 28||7:30 pm||at Chicago Bears||L 30–36 (OT)||11–4||Soldier Field||ESPN||Recap|
|17||January 3||12:00 pm||New York Giants||W 44–7||12–4||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|Note: Team names in bold indicate that the game indicated is a Vikings home game.|
Courtesy of Wikipedia.com
With the exception of the Ravens and Bengals games (both home victories), it's hard to find a good team on this schedule. You could argue Green Bay, but there was extra motivation in those games. And now 2010 so far:
|Week||Date||Kickoff (CT)||Opponent||Results||Game site||TV||NFL.com
|Final score||Team record|
|1||September 9||7:30 p.m.||at New Orleans Saints||L 9–14||0–1||Louisiana Superdome||NBC||Recap|
|2||September 19||12:00 p.m.||Miami Dolphins||L 10–14||0–2||Mall of America Field||CBS||Recap|
|3||September 26||12:00 p.m.||Detroit Lions||W 24–10||1–2||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|5||October 11||7:30 p.m.||at New York Jets||L 20–29||1–3||New Meadowlands Stadium||ESPN||Recap|
|6||October 17||3:15 p.m.||Dallas Cowboys||W 24–21||2–3||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
|7||October 24||7:20 p.m.||at Green Bay Packers||L 24–28||2–4||Lambeau Field||NBC||Recap|
|8||October 31||3:15 p.m.||at New England Patriots||L 18–28||2–5||Gillette Stadium||Fox||Recap|
|9||November 7||12:00 p.m.||Arizona Cardinals||W 27–24 (OT)||3–5||Mall of America Field||Fox||Recap|
It's pretty easy to see the difference. Enough about the Vikings. Onto example #2, the undefeated season of the '72 Dolphins.
I don't want to get into too much depth about this so here's my point. This team had one of the easiest schedules in the history of the league.
Statistically, the Dolphin’s 1972 schedule was one of the weakest played by any team in many years. Their regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .396 and only two opponents had winning records that year (both were 8-6).
While I won't say they Dolphins only won because of their easy schedule, I will say that they are remembered as one of the all-time greats because of it. If that team goes 10-2 and wins the Superbowl, nobody remembers them. Their strength of schedule made this possible.
Finally, on to the '09 Chiefs vs. '10 Chiefs.
Many people outside of Kansas City are incredibly surprised with the large turnaround the Chiefs have made in the span of a year. There are lots of reasons we can point to for the improvement; Coaching changes, development of players, impact rookies. While all of these things make a huge contribution to our recent success, the schedule has also played a large role.
In 2009, KC had one the toughest schedules in the league. The Chiefs faced the AFC North, and the NFC East, easily the 2 best divisions in football. Could this have masked the progress we were making under Todd Haley's new demanding coaching style? I think so. With an easier schedule, that team could've won 6,7 even 8 games, despite seemingly poor play on both sides of the ball. While there were games we would've lost no matter who we played, there were games we would have won versus weaker opponents than Dallas, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.
2010 brings a different vibe. The schedule is one of the easiest in the league (although after week 6, it is looking tougher than expected.) The Chiefs are 5-3 against a slate of relatively weak opponents...and it only gets better. Comparatively, the Chiefs have only played 1 game against the NFC West, a blow out victory vs. the 49'ers. Oakland has played all 4 NFC West teams, barely beating St. Louis and losing to San Francisco and Arizona. San Diego has played 3 of the 4 and lost to St. Louis and Seattle. (We will not discuss the Donkey's as they need not be mentioned...man that feels good to say, eat it Bronco's fans.)
Against the AFC South, the toughest section of our schedule, the Chiefs are 1-2 with a game vs. Tennessee at home remaining. The Chargers are 3-0 with the Colts left and Oakland is 0-2 with the Jags and Colts left.
Considering Oakland's remaining schedule with no easy NFC west games left and 2 tough AFC south games to go, the Chiefs have a considerable advantage. This would make one assume the real competition in the AFC West comes down to 2 teams, the Chiefs and Chargers.
To go 9-7, the Chargers would need to win 5 of their 7 remaining games. This includes road trips to the Colts, Bengals, and Broncos (where they always lose) and home dates with Oakland and KC. While it is possible that the Chargers could win out the rest of their games, this would give them an 11-5 record. Most likely they will lose at least 1 more game and probably even 2.
Lets breakdown each scenario:TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION
If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- Strength of victory.
- Strength of schedule.
- Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best net points in common games.
- Best net points in all games.
- Best net touchdowns in all games.
- Coin toss
Note: These scenarios all include the Chiefs losing in San Diego because winning this game would be a huge nail in the San Diego coffin.
Scenario 1. Chargers finish the season 7-0 (11-5).
In this instance the Chargers would finish the AFC west at 4-2 with 2 losses already in the division.
For the Chiefs to win the AFC West:
a) The Chiefs would need to finish the season 7-1 (12-4). In this scenario, divisional record would not matter.
b) The Chiefs would need to win all 4 division games plus 2 more non-division games. This would go to tiebreaker 3, common games %
We would look at just the NFC West and AFC South since our division records are equal. At the end of the season, the Chargers common opponents would be 6-2 assuming they win the rest of their games (losses to Seattle and St. Louis). This would mean the Chiefs must win the AZ, SEA, STL, and TENN games.
Conclusion: If the tiebreaker comes to common games, the Chargers would win the West. If the Chiefs only won 6 more of their games (enough to tie SD if they win out) satisfying both tiebreakers 2 and 3 would be impossible. The Chiefs would need to go 7-1 if the Charges go 7-0 for them to win the West.
Scenario 2: Chargers finish season 6-1 (10-6)
This is a much likelier scenario with the way the Chargers have been so up and down this season.
For the Chiefs to win the West:
a) KC would win outright if they go 6-2 (11-5).
b) Chiefs go 5-3 (10-6). Lets first examine divisional record, lets assume SD wins the rest of their division games to go 4-2 (this would include a home win over KC). KC would need to beat Oak at home and DEN next week and at home in December (for 3 of their 6 wins).
It would then come to common games.
In this scenario, SD would be 5-3 in common games (unless the loss came to the Bengals in which case the Chargers would win this tie breaker at 6-2) Since all remaining games are common games (already played Buffalo and Cleveland) the Chiefs would also finish 5-3 in common games as well.
Tiebreaker 4 is AFC record. For this, we'll assume the Chargers lose to the Colts instead of the 49'ers or Bengals. With only losses to the Pats and Colts, the Chiefs would have to beat Tennesse at home to tie AFC winning percentage. Strength of victory would then determine (opponents winning percentage). Basically since 14 of our 16 opponents are common, so it would come to the Bills and Browns vs. the Bengals and Patriots. You see where this is going.
Conclusion: If the Chiefs go 5-3, we better hope we win next week in Denver, this game becomes huge. If the Chargers finish 6-1, we need that loss to be in division. Go Broncos!
Scenario 3: Chargers finish 5-2 (9-7)
Everything about their remaining schedule with the way they have been playing tells me this is the most likely scenario, good news for Chiefs fans.
For the Chiefs to win the West:
a) Finish the season 5-3 (10-6). Considering we have 3 games against the NFC West left and home games with the Broncos and Raiders, this shouldn't be too hard to accomplish. Still though, next weeks game against Denver is huge. If we win, it gives us some leeway. Bottom line, if we don't beat the Broncos next week, we need to win one of these 3 games: At home against Tennessee, on the road at Seattle, or in San Diego.
b)Best case scenario, Chargers lose both games in division. This would mean in the Chiefs could go 4-4 and win the West with victories against Oakland and Denver at home and Denver on the road. From here, the scenario's are too vast to dissect completely
Overall Conclusion: If the Chiefs win 5 of their next 8 games, they are very likely to win the West. With the weak schedule coming up, this should not be a problem. In most cases, 5 is our magic number. If we take care of business at home and win our next 4 home games, we need one more victory on the road. Sounds easy right? Or we could just go beat the Chargers in the whale's vagina and cruise right into Dallas. Yeehaw! Either way, there is a lot of football left and a lot of ways the Chiefs win the West, but its looking like we might need to be 10-6 to do it.