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chiefStats: Five stats that could determine the Chiefs’ game against Patriots

chiefStats is here for Sunday Night Football.

The season keeps creeping along, as we’re somehow already to Week 6. So, just like every week, I’m here to spotlight five stats leading up to the game to see if there are any advantages for the Chiefs (or anything interesting of note.)

Last week, I noted that Andy Reid’s offenses put up 30.8 points per game against top-five defenses in 2017, and the Jaguars game could be more of the same. With the Chiefs scoring 30 points (sure Chris Jones’ TD helped) it’s looking like chiefStats nailed it again!

Now let’s see what items we have to discuss for the Chiefs’ Week 6 tilt against the Patriots.

1. Is this the year?

Every single year, there seems to be a portion of analysts who think the Patriots are finally on the downswing. Every...single...year.

And every single year, the Patriots keep winning football games well into the postseason. But let’s ask it again, shall we?

Is this the year the Patriots finally lose their stranglehold on the AFC?

I started by looking at the Patriots offense and defense over the past five years, leading up to Week 6, to see if there were any downward trends:

Patriots Weeks 1-5 Since 2014

Year Offense PPG Defense PPG W/L
Year Offense PPG Defense PPG W/L
2014 24.6 (13) 21.4 (12) 3-2
2015 36.6 (2) 20.6 (10) 5-0
2016 22.8 (16) 14.8 (2) 4-1
2017 29.6 (3) 28.4 (30) 3-2
2018 26.6 (9) 21.6 (9) 3-2

Just going over the numbers here, it’s not uncommon for the Patriots to have a slow start to the season in terms of the win/loss column.

It’s also not uncommon for the Patriots to be less than average on one side of the ball. So, long story short, this doesn’t seem to be an abnormal start for the Patriots. Maybe it’s just business as usual in New England?

Unhappy with the results, I went to make a quick check on Tom Brady over the past five years:

Tom Brady, Weeks 1-5 Since 2014

Year Age TD INT Rating
Year Age TD INT Rating
2014 37 6 2 85.5
2015 38 14 1 118.4
2016 39 3 0 127.7
2017 40 11 1 112
2018 41 12 6 96.1

Most of the stats look pretty standard, except one — and it jumped right off the screen at me. Tom Brady’s interceptions are way up. He and the Patriots have not done a great job of taking care of the ball through the air. Just how bad you ask?

So the question is back on the table — is Brady fading?

Well, if you remember another quarterback named Peyton Manning, they too had troubles with interceptions towards the end of their career:

Peyton Manning Week 1-5 during last five years of career

Year INT
Year INT
2011* --
2012 3
2013 1
2014 3
2015 7

I’ve heard a lot of responses about Brady’s interceptions being a product of tipped balls from receivers, but make no mistake, the interceptions are a problem.

As people age, they lose velocity. In the NFL, when you lose velocity as a quarterback, you’re going to throw more interceptions. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

To me, this is the key storyline headed into the game. Will Patrick Mahomes take the reigns from Brady, or does Brady have plenty left in the tank?

Regardless, if I’m Bob Sutton, I’m dropping eight frequently and having my defensive backs jump every single passing lane they can.

2. Third down

Using Bill Connely’s advanced stats guide, we can pull some pretty cool information regarding third down for both the Patriots and the Chiefs.

The Patriots have the fourth best third-and-long conversion percentage in the NFL, while the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL at stopping third-and-long conversions.

Strangely enough, the Patriots are better at converting third-and-long than third-and-short/medium when compared to the rest of the NFL.

Heading into this game, it is looking like third down could be an issue for the Patriots. Not only are they in the bottom of the league in most defensive third down categories, but also, their opponent — the Chiefs — are in the top 10 in two of the three third-down conversion categories.

On the flip side, the Chiefs defense has been great on third down, and the Patriots have struggled to convert third-and-short/medium when compared to the rest of the NFL.

I’ll definitely be tracking third down through this game, but leading up to the contest, the Chiefs have a sizable advantage on third down.

3. Red zone

Like before, we’ll use the SB Nation advanced stats guide to help gather some information for the red-zone numbers:

One of the most important aspects heading into the Chiefs/Patriots game will be how the respective teams perform in the red zone. With both teams likely to be moving the ball well on Sunday night, the team who settles for more field goals will likely be the team who is sent packing with the loss.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots have been up-and-down in the red zone, while the Chiefs have been dominant across the board (save for the 21 to 30-yard success rate.) Regardless, the Chiefs offense has been much better in the red zone than the Patriots offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, both units have struggled in the red zone.

Ultimately, the red-zone matchup favors the Chiefs, but the ball usually tends to bounce the Patriots’ way in Foxborough.

4. Reid and Pederson

For whatever reason, Andy Reid and his understudy, Doug Pederson, have had Bill Belichick’s number in their last four meetings:

To make it worse for the Patriots, the average point differential in these games has been 10.8 points. That’s an ass beating, and it’s so bizarre to recognize that coach Reid’s philosophies have worked so well against the Patriots.

Will it continue on Sunday night? I’m not sure, but I’d put money on Reid having a good game plan ready for the Chiefs.

5. Top-five offenses

I did this preparing for the Steelers game and it worked, so why not try it for the Patriots’ game too? Let’s see how Belichick has done against top five offenses since 2015 (includes playoffs).

Unlike the Steelers, the Patriots have done quite well against top-five NFL offenses.

If the Chiefs get into a shootout in New England, and Mahomes out-duels Brady at the end of the game.... well, I’m at a loss of words for how awesome that would be.

That ends this week’s edition of chiefStats. What are your keys stats/topics to the game?

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