FanPost

How good is the Kansas City Chiefs offense?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts -Joel

Heading into the season, we knew what to expect from the Chiefs: good defense and special teams, just an ok offense. In the words of the infamous Dennis Green, "they are who we thought they were". Well, maybe not quite. We knew the defense was going to be good, but not this good. We knew the offense was going to be the weak link in the team, and unfortunately they have lived up (or, rather, down) to those expectations.

Through three weeks, this Chiefs team is 3-0, Arrowhead is rocking, and we here at AP are talking about playoffs (as much as Jim Mora doesn't want us to). The looming question facing the Chiefs now is how good is the offense? I have described the Chiefs offense as "mediocre" throughout the season, but as it turns out I was being generous.

The Chiefs offense is one of the worst in the league, by nearly every measure.

The Chiefs are actually 12th in the league in PPG, at 23.7. But if you take away the 14 points the defense is directly responsible for, that number drops to 19 PPG, which would be tied for 23rd - with the Raiders. The Chiefs are relying on the defense to score points, which isn't good. Defensive scoring is random and shouldn't be part of the game plan. They didn't need Tamba Hali's pick-6 to beat the Jaguars, but they did need Eric Berry's against the Eagles.

They also are just not moving the ball; their 333 yds/gm is 21st in the league and their 4.9 yds/play ranks 25th. "Well Kyle," you may ask, " if the Chiefs offense is so bad, how are they undefeated this year?" That's an excellent question, thank you for asking. The answer is that the defense and special teams are much, much better than we thought. Here are the defense's statistics through three games:


Pts/gm

Yds/gm

3rd down%

Pen

Pen yds

ToP/dr

Yds/dr

Pts/dr

DSR

Chiefs Def

11.3

309

28%

16

102

2:02

21.88

0.82

58.9%

NFL Rank

T-2

T-8

3

T-7

3

2

3

3

3

(Notes: ToP/dr is how long each opponents' drives last. DSR, "represents Drive Success Rate, as introduced in Pro Football Prospectus 2005 [and recorded by Football Outsiders] which measures the percentage of down series that result in a first down or touchdown.")

This defense is doing everything possible to help the Chiefs win: they're not letting teams move the chains, forcing punts, keeping the other team from scoring, not getting penalized, and giving the offense the ball as much as possible. They have a +9 turnover margin, the best in the league (and as Joel pointed out, through three games last year the Chiefs were last in the league). The problem is the offense hasn't been able to do anything with the chances they have been given.

I've done several "the good, bad and ugly" posts this year, and in both of them (I didn't do one after the Eagles game because I was planning on writing this post) I talked about the Chiefs' lack of ability to move the chains and sustain drives. Here's how bad the Chiefs are at moving the ball:


Yds/gm

Pts/gm*

3rd down%

Yds/p

Yds/dr

ToP/dr

RZTD%

DSR

Chiefs Off.

333

19

32%

4.9

24.62

2:37

55%

64%

NFL Rank

21

T-23

27

25

30

13

15

24

*Adjusted to reflect only points scored by the offense.

They've had some success in the red zone, where they are 6-for-11 on scoring TD's. That 55% mark is good for 15th in the league this year. That's an upgrade from last year, where they only scored a RZTD 27.3% of the time and were dead last (no one else was under 40%). If the Chiefs' continue their 55% clip they will end up about middle of the pack. If they could climb closer to 60% they would have much more success this season, but 55% is much better than 27%, and good enough to have success in the playoffs (the 49ers were 15th in the league last year with 54.69%).

The problem the Chiefs are having is getting to the Red Zone in the first place. They're 30th in yards per drive, with only Tampa Bay and Jacksonville behind them, and Cleveland directly in front of them (not good company to be in). This is a really, really bad offense. But here's the real kicker: the Chiefs' offense has the best starting field position in the NFL this year, and still can't score.

The Chiefs average 17 yards per drive better field position than their opponents (ok, ok, 16.95), the best mark in the NFL (2nd table). Only two other teams average more than 10 yards better starting field position than their opponents (New England and Chicago). The Chiefs' average starting line of scrimmage (LOS) is their own 36.97 yard line (best in the NFL), while their opponents average starting LOS is their own 20.02 yard line (also best in the NFL). What all of that means is the Chiefs's offense is handed consistently great starting field position and can't do anything with it, then they let the special teams pin opponents deep in their own territory. The defense bails out the offense by not letting opponents move the ball, giving the offense the ball back with great starting field position. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If the question is "how good is the Chiefs' offense," the answer is really, really bad. The larger concern, though, is how is it going to impact the season moving forward? The good news is that the Chiefs are already 3-0 with one of the worst offenses in the league. About the only way to go at this point is up. The other good news is that we know the areas where the Chiefs can improve. It starts with the offensive line. The Chiefs have one of the youngest, most inexperienced units in the league. They should (hopefully, maybe) improve this season as they gel and get more experience.

You can argue with the play calling (specifically the run-pass ratio) untill you're blue in the face, but after 14 years as a head coach, I don't think Reid is changing his playbook anytime soon. One thing that might help is for Alex Smith to throw the ball downfield more. We know that he's not a great downfield thrower (1-for-3 on throws 21+ yards down field this season) and that it's something he rarely does, but he may need to start taking a couple shots down the field to lossen up the defense. Even if he doesn't hit a lot of them (in the linked FanPost, Joe Mantegna pointed out that a lot of the "elite" QB's don't have a great down-field percentage) getting the defense thinking about Smith taking a shot down field could ease up on some of the coverage he's seeing.

The other issue is health. Obviously the offensive line needs to stay healthy in order to gel (we all saw what happened in the Dallas game when Branden Albert went out with an injury), but the TE's getting healthy may be the best thing for the Chiefs' offense this year. While Fasano is mediocre and overpaid, he's at least a veteran that represents a reliable target for Smith in the middle of the defense. Kelce is a wild card, and if he ever gets healthy he could add an entirely new dimension to the Chiefs' passing attack.

The Chiefs are eventually going to lose some games, and when they do it's not going to be because the defense gave up 35 points (ok, maybe against the Broncos. But then again with the way they're playing maybe not even against the Broncos). They're going to lose games because a bad offense fails to move the ball and score points. When is that going to be? I don't know. But the Chiefs' offense has played against two bad defenses (Jax and Philly) and one average defense (Dallas) and haven't looked good against any of them. So realistically it could be anyone. But again, the only way to go is up. If the Chiefs' offense can go from bad to even "league average", they'll be tough for anyone to beat.

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.

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