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

This week’s edition of chiefStats is here!

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Welcome back to chiefStats, the place where we cover five statistical topics regarding the Chiefs upcoming game.

Last week, we talked about what happens to teams playing their first game with an interim coach. We learned the first game for an interim coach typically is a blowout (by either team), and that’s exactly what the Chiefs did to the Browns last week.

This week the Chiefs are facing the Cardinals, and here is their overview:

1. Chiefs defense has to improve

Every Chiefs fan wants the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, and that’s why I’m choosing to focus on defensive improvement through the season.

In the past 10 seasons, the majority of teams who have won the Super Bowl have had a top-10 defense.

Super Bowl Winning Defenses

Year Team Defensive PPG Rank
Year Team Defensive PPG Rank
2017 Eagles 4
2016 Patriots 1
2015 Broncos 4
2014 Patriots 8
2013 Seahawks 1
2012 Ravens 12
2011 Giants 25
2010 Packers 2
2009 Saints 20
2008 Steelers 1

Obviously, the Chiefs have a great offense and they may not necessarily need the best defense in the NFL to win a Super Bowl in 2018.

However, it will only help the Chiefs chances of going the distance if they can continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

The Chiefs defense currently has allowed the 19th most points per game (25.1). We want to watch that ranking drop, and we want to watch the Chiefs defense continuously allow fewer and fewer points over the course of the season.

Let’s see how the defense is progressing thus far:

As the season has progressed, the Chiefs defense has consistently improved — except for games against the Steelers and Patriots which is pretty understandable.

This is exactly the kind of improvement we need to see from the Chiefs defense if they are to maximize their chances of making a deep run in the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, the Cardinals offense should give them an opportunity to continue their improvement.

2. Cardinals offense is offensive

Like the title suggests, the Cardinals offense is not having a good year. Here are a list of items in which the Cardinals offense is ranked in the bottom five of the league:

  • 31st - yards/play (4.3)
  • 32nd - first downs (110)
  • 31st - passing yards/game (165.8)
  • 31st - TD% (2.8)
  • 29th - INT% (4.0)
  • 31st - yards/pass attempt (5.9)
  • 32nd - yards/rush attempt (3.4)

As you can see the Cardinals have been very, very poor offensively so far in 2018. This is borne out even further when you look at the Cardinals’ offensive efficiency metrics (taken from Bill Connelly’s advanced stats guide).

If the Chiefs defense gives up a ton of points to this Cardinals offense, I will be incredibly disappointed, and the Chiefs will have lost a great opportunity to continue to build momentum on the defensive side of the ball.

3. Checking in on Josh Rosen

Sometimes, when teams with a young quarterback struggle, it’s not necessarily all on the quarterback — think the Colts.

So far in 2018, Rosen is responsible for the following stats (keep in mind I didn’t include the game where Rosen came in for an injured Sam Bradford):

55.6 Cmp%
207.2 yards/start
1 TD/start
1 INT/start
69.9 passer rating

The only quarterbacks with a worse rating so far in 2018 are Sam Darnold (68.3) and Josh Allen (61.8). Needless to say, Rosen is part of the problem on the Cardinals offense and I doubt he’ll like playing in Arrowhead for the first time.

4. Defense - not a problem

The Cardinals defense has not been as much of a problem for them this season. Below is a defensive overview for the Cardinals:

  • 8th - yards/play (5.3)
  • 16th - Takeaways (12)
  • 7th - first downs allowed (95)
  • 16th - yards/pass attempt (7.5)
  • 12th - passer rating allowed (91.2)
  • 7th - pass yards/game (224.6)
  • 15th - yards/rush attempt (4.3)
  • 17th - points/game allowed (24.9)

I’d describe the Cardinals defense as slightly above average, particularly in the important yards-per-play stat.

I think the Cardinals would likely give up fewer points per game if their offense was capable of putting together more drives. It looks to me as though the Cardinals defense is better than their points-per-game totals would suggest—the issue is an offensive unit that doesn’t give much relief to their defense.

Complimentary team football is huge in the NFL, and it looks like the Cardinals offense is bringing their defense down too. That’s bad.

5. Cardinals pass rush

Looking at the numbers, the Cardinals front seven is their clear strength — particularly their pass rush.

So far on the season the Cardinals have the fifth-highest defensive sack percentage in the NFL (8.4).

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs come into the game with the fourth-best sack percentage allowed (3.6).

So for this game, the Cardinals’ strength will be going against one of the many Chiefs strengths. One of the goals for the Chiefs offense will be to keep Patrick Mahomes off the ground.

Chandler Jones leads the Cardinals in sacks with 6.5 on the season. Interestingly enough, no one else on the Cardinals defense has more than two sacks on the year. Essentially, the Cardinals have a number of guys who can rush the passer, but they also aren’t going to dominate the game.

Mahomes’ ability to maneuver in the pocket could be a big deal on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it!

It's Game Time.

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