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Can the Kansas City Chiefs score on JJ Watt and the Houston Texans defense?

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From time to time I am asked to talk about the Kansas City Chiefs on the ESPN radio affiliate in Quincy, Illinois. Josh Houchins is the host for the show, and he sends me some of the questions he plans on asking the night before the interview.

One such question was the following:

Can the Chiefs score on the Texans defense?

My first thought was, of course they can. But that doesn't provide much in depth conversation on the radio. So I did some work to see how the Chiefs have done in 2015 against top 10 defenses. My initial line of thinking was to see how the Chiefs offense fared against the leading points per game defenses in the NFL.

Chiefs vs Top 10 PPG Defenses

OPP RANK PTS SCORED
Texans 8 27
Broncos 1 17
Bengals 2 21
Vikings 5 10
Broncos 1 29
AVG 3.4 20.8

The Chiefs have scored almost 21 points per game against top 10 defenses. Important note: I subtracted the Chiefs defensive touchdowns from these numbers.

How do these numbers compare against the Chiefs average offensive scoring? Minus the defensive scores, the Chiefs offense has averaged 22.69 points per game during the regular season. So, the Chiefs scored 8.3 percent fewer points against top 10 defenses than their average on the season was. We'll talk about this number in just a bit.

Which brought me to my next thought ... can the Texans offense score on the Chiefs defense? I calculated the exact same table for the Texans.

Texans vs Top 10 PPG Defenses

OPP RANK PTS SCORED
Chiefs 3 20
Panthers 6 17
Bengals 2 10
Jets 9 24
Patriots 10 6
AVG 6 15.4

Against top 10 defensive competition the Texans fared over five points worse than the Chiefs did. The Texans also averaged 19.89 points per game throughout the regular season (minus the defensive touchdowns.) The Texans saw a 22.6 percent decrease in production when facing top 10 defenses.

So as we can see from using points per game stats, the Texans see a 22.6 percent drop in production on average while the Chiefs see an 8.3 percent drop in production on average. This means the Texans offense is more affected by top defenses than the Chiefs offense is. At least based on this season's games. I credit this to Andy Reid's ability to scheme and game plan against a particular defense as well as the Chiefs offensive talent. Reid can be a great equalizer at times (and sometimes not so much).

For those of you who love DVOA as a metric, I calculated both the Chiefs and Texans against top 10 DVOA defenses, rather than just points per game. I used the defensive DVOA rankings from here. Below is the Chiefs table:

Chiefs vs Top 10 DVOA Defenses

OPP RANK PTS SCORED
Texans 8 27
Broncos 1 17
Packers 9 28
Bengals 10 21
Broncos 1 29
AVG 5.8 24.4

The Chiefs did even better against top 10 defensive DVOA opponents than they did against top 10 points per game defenses. Strangely enough, the Chiefs did better against top 10 DVOA defenses than they did against an average opponent. They had a 7.5 percent increase in average points against top 10 DVOA defenses.

Below is the Texans table for DVOA.

Texans vs Top 10 DVOA Defenses

OPP RANK PTS SCORED
Chiefs 6 20
Panthers 2 17
Bengals 10 10
Jets 5 24
AVG 5.75 17.8

Once again the Texans had a drop in their average score against top 10 DVOA defenses. The Texans saw a 10.8 percent drop in average points scored per game against top 10 DVOA defenses.

So to sum things up nicely...

Average Offensive Change vs Top 10 Defenses

Chiefs Texans
Offensive Change vs Top 10 PPG Defenses -8.3% -22.6%
Offensive Change vs Top 10 DVOA Defenses +7.5% -10.8%

Average Top 10 Defensive Rank

Chiefs Texans
Avg Rank of Top 10 PPG Defenses Faced 3.4 6.0
Avg Rank of Top 10 DVOA Defenses Faced 5.8 5.75

Average Points Scored vs Top 10 Defenses

Chiefs Texans
Avg Points Scored vs Top 10 PPG Defenses 20.8 15.4
Avg Points Scored vs Top 10 DVOA Defenses 24.4 17.8


On average the Chiefs offense has fared better against top defenses than the Texans offense has.  Here are a few points to take away from the article:

  • Using the DVOA stats, which some believe are more accurate, the Chiefs average 6.6 points more per game than the Texans.
  • The Chiefs have actually performed better against top 10 DVOA offenses than against their average opponents.
  • The Texans have fared worse offensively against both top 10 points per game defenses and top 10 DVOA defenses.
  • Using stats from the regular season, the Chiefs offense is less affected by top 10 defenses than the Texans are.
All of these facts tend to point in the Chiefs favor, and I believe they give at least a little reason for some optimism.  I'm hoping these stats hold true for the playoff game on Saturday. Go Chiefs!