Where do the Kansas City Chiefs really stack up through 1 month?

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Looking at the Chiefs schedule in comparison to the rest of the AFC West.

What a terrible start to a Kansas City Chiefs season. Seems like a lot like last year, when we got blown out twice and then lost to the Chargers before squeaking out a win over the Vikings.

It's tough to be a Chiefs fan right now.

But let's take a minute and look at these first four weeks in the context of winning the division and going to the playoffs. There are 12 games left and at the end of the season what matters is your win-loss record overall, and your win-los record vs. the other teams in your division.

It's important to realize that week to week record can be extremely deceiving. For example, say the Chargers went 2-1 against the Browns, Jaguars and Colts in their first three weeks and the Broncos were 2-1 against the Texans, Patriots and Ravens over the same period. In this scenario, it'd be easy to say the Broncos were performing better, even though the two teams might be tied for the division lead. Accordingly, what's more important than week to week record is examining performance against Common, Equivalent and Division opponents. So let's break it down that way.

Common Opponents

Common opponents are those that show up on every team in the division's schedule. Excluding division opponents, there are eight of these games per year -- an AFC division and an NFC division. Division games are huge in the playoff chase, but I tend to think of non-divisional common opponents as the true barometer of how you stack up against your division (there's more emotion to divisional games, terrible teams play much better than they would otherwise, etc.).

Since every team in your division has to play them, beating a common team that your division rivals don't gives you a one game advantage over them. give For example, if the Chiefs beat the Falcons and the Raiders lose to them, the Chiefs gain a one game advantage over the Raiders. Similarly, if every team in your division beats (or loses to) the same common opponent, the outcome of that game doesn't matter at the end of the year in determining who wins the division.

Chiefs Opponent Type Performance Net Result on Division Championship Race
Falcons Common The Falcons plastered the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos. They play the Raiders next week in ATL. Guess who's going to win? This game won't matter at the end of the year.
Saints Common

No one except the Chiefs has played them yet. Chargers @ Saints this week. Broncos and Raiders get them at home later in the season.

Advantage - Chiefs. Hopefully, the Saints revert to 2011 form this week and knock out the Chargers, giving us a one game advantage.
Steelers Common

The Raiders and Broncos both beat them. Chiefs/Chargers have yet to play.

Advantage - Broncos/Raiders. Unfortunately, the Chiefs/Chargers could get them at full strength.


Equivalent opponents

Equivalent opponents result from NFL scheduling that attempts to match up teams by record from the previous year. These are the only two games that are different for teams in the same division. Simply put, the worse you are, the worse opponent you get.

This year, our division's Equivalent opponents come from the AFC South and the AFC East. The Chiefs have a last place schedule, so they get to play last year's worst team from each division (the Colts and the Bills respectively). The Broncos won the division last year, so they get to play last year's division winners from each of those divisions (the Texans and the Patriots respectively). The Chargers get the Titans and the Jets, and the Raiders have the Jaguars and the Dolphins.

Chiefs Opponent Type Performance Net Result on Division Championship Race
Bills Equivalent

Chiefs - Got ripped by the Bills.

Broncos - Playing the Patriots instead next week in Foxborough. Based on the Broncos' performance vs. good teams (Falcons, Texans), my guess is they'll lose.

Chargers - They get the Jets in Week 16.

Raiders - Lost to Dolphins.

Advantage - Chargers. They have an easy opponent who continues to get weaker due to injury. The other three teams in the league have already or will likely drop this game.
Colts Equivalent

Chiefs - Playing Colts in Week 16.

Broncos - Lost to Texans.

Chargers - Beat Titans.

Raiders - Playing Jaguars in Week 7.

Advantage - Chargers, largely because half the division hasn't played this game.


Division opponents

Obviously, winning or losing division games is tremendously important because of its two-fold effect on your division championship chances. I think people pay particular attention to these, so I'm not going to spend much time on them. Briefly, the Chargers are 2-0 on the road against the Raiders and Chiefs, the Chiefs are 0-1 at home, the Raiders 0-2 split home/away, and the Broncos are 1-0 at home. Clearly, advantage Chargers.
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Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The Whole Picture

So where are we really at?

The Chiefs beat a team they shouldn't have in the Saints, who will hopefully rebound and handle the other teams in our division, giving us a one-game advantage on that Common opponent. That balances losing a Bills game that we should have won to stay even with the Chargers (assuming they handle the Jets, which seems very likely right now). However, the home loss to the Chargers will be tough to overcome, and the Steelers game has taken on added importance because the Broncos and Raiders beat them.

The Chargers are in the best shape, primarily because they've managed to win two division games on the road. Their Titans win gives them a one game advantage over the Broncos, who were pummeled by the Texans. To eliminate the Chargers' edge, we have to beat them in San Diego, handle the Colts and hope San Diego loses to the Saints this weekend.

The reality is that no one's running away with the division: the Chargers lead the division at 3-1, the Broncos are at 2-2 and we're tied right behind with the Raiders at 1-3. The 1-2 Steelers are the best opponent any team in our division has beaten. If the extremely tight spread on records last year is any indicator, the Chiefs win against the Saints could be really beneficial at the end of the season.

I know this isn't consolation for blowouts, I'm as frustrated as everyone else, but the point is that the season isn't over. We can still watch and hope.

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