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National media power rankings are biased against the Chiefs

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s note: This is the definition of an offseason article. Hey, we all have to find a way to pass the time before real football starts.

Year after year, I have heard Kansas City Chiefs fans complain about a media bias against the Chiefs.

Several fans believe the media regularly does not respect the Chiefs organization. After a long time of hearing these comments, I decided to see whether or not there was a media bias against the Chiefs.

How We’ll Do This

How can you prove something like bias against an NFL team? It’s a pretty difficult thing to prove. Doing the best I can, I came up with the following plan:

  • Grab the NFL preseason power rankings from 2013 to 2017 from three national media outlets (ESPN, and SB Nation)
  • Gather the Pro Football Reference Simple Rating System (SRS) end of season ratings from 2013 to 2017
  • Compare the preseason ratings from the past five years, with the SRS ratings from 2013 to 2017
  • Use the difference in values to show bias (or overvaluation) for NFL teams

Why are we using SRS you ask? — In all my research, the SRS value from Pro Football Reference is the best value I have found to describe how good an NFL team is.

The SRS value is calculated using matrix math that takes into account each NFL matchup for each NFL team. You can read more on how the SRS value is calculated here.

Long story short, the SRS value is a great way to find a true ranking for NFL teams at the end of the year.

Also, if we’re being honest here: this article is about whether or not these three outlets undervalue the Chiefs in the offseason on a consistent basis.

Bias and the Chiefs

So let’s see how the three publications did placing value on the Chiefs before the season started. (Note the projections were written by Elliott Harrison).

ESPN Bias Against Chiefs

Year Preseason Rank End of Year SRS
Year Preseason Rank End of Year SRS
2013 22 7
2014 15 5
2015 14 4
2016 9 4
2017 8 11

On average, ESPN undervalued the Chiefs by 7.4 positions from 2013 to 2017. At the moment we have no idea how that stacks up against other NFL teams, but don’t worry, I’ll hook you up with that information later. Bias Against Chiefs

Year Preseason Ranking End of Year SRS
Year Preseason Ranking End of Year SRS
2013 28 7
2014 13 5
2015 8 4
2016 9 4
2017 9 11

On average, undervalued the Chiefs by 7.2 positions when valuing the Chiefs at the start of the year.

SBNation Bias Against Chiefs

Year Preseason Ranking End of Year SRS
Year Preseason Ranking End of Year SRS
2013 20 7
2014 15 5
2015 10 4
2016 12 4
2017 8 11

SB Nation undervalued the Chiefs by 6.8 positions. I’m pretty sure Joel takes part in developing these rankings. so we should all thank him for helping SB Nation be the least biased against the Chiefs.

So we get it, these media outlets consistently undervalue the Chiefs, but what about the rest of the NFL?

Chiefs Bias Compared to Rest of NFL

Now let’s see how the Chiefs do when compared to the rest of the NFL in terms of receiving negative bias. First, we need to explain some things.

The values in the table below are the difference between the publication’s preseason ranking and the SRS ranking at the end of the year. A negative value represents positive bias (or overvaluation) and a positive value represents negative bias (or undervaluation).

The higher or lower the number, the higher or lower the bias.

NFL Preseason Rankings Bias 2013 to 2017

Team ESPN NFL SBNation Avg
Team ESPN NFL SBNation Avg
BUF 8 6 8.4 7.5
KC 7.4 7.2 6.8 7.1
RAM 6.6 6.6 7.2 6.8
PHI 6.2 7.2 5.4 6.3
CHG 5.8 4 4.2 4.7
NO 2.8 6 0.2 3.0
DET 4.4 2.6 1.2 2.7
MIN 4 0.6 2.8 2.5
CAR 1.2 1 4 2.1
JAX 2.6 1 1.8 1.8
NYJ 1.6 -0.2 2.2 1.2
ARI -0.4 0.2 3.6 1.1
PIT 1 1.6 0.4 1.0
CLE 1.6 1 -0.4 0.7
RAI 0.6 0.4 0 0.3
TEN 0.8 0.4 -0.4 0.3
DAL 0 0.6 0 0.2
NWE -1.2 0.4 -0.8 -0.5
BAL -2.6 2.4 -3 -1.1
CHI -2.2 -1 -1 -1.4
MIA 0.4 -4.2 -0.4 -1.4
TB -1.4 -2.8 -0.2 -1.5
SF -2 -0.6 -2.6 -1.7
WAS -0.2 -2.6 -3.8 -2.2
ATL -3 -1.4 -3 -2.5
CIN -2.6 -2.2 -2.6 -2.5
DEN -4.2 -3 -2.6 -3.3
SEA -4.8 -2.4 -3.8 -3.7
NYG -4.8 -4.8 -2.6 -4.1
IND -8.2 -6.4 -3.8 -6.1
HOU -6.8 -6.2 -5.8 -6.3
GB -8 -8.8 -8.8 -8.5

To all you fans who have been saying the Chiefs are always undervalued, here’s your proof:

The Chiefs have been undervalued the second most in the entire NFL according to this little bit of research.

The Buffalo Bills are the most undervalued team, while the Green Bay Packers have been the most overvalued team.

Amazingly enough, the Chargers were the fifth most undervalued team. Year after year it seems the Chargers are picked over the Chiefs in the AFC West, and year after year the Chargers finish below the Chiefs in the standings.

Maybe the Chargers haven’t been overvalued — maybe it’s just that the Chiefs have been so undervalued it has forced the Chargers to seem overvalued.

A Little Experiment

So break out your aluminum foil hats, because we’re about to dive into some conspiracy theory here. I wanted to see if there were a deeper meaning as to why teams are valued the way they are.

So, I formed a hypothesis: Clicks generate money for sports websites. Making larger markets happy will generate more clicks. Overvaluing larger market teams generates more clicks.

So I grabbed the Facebook fan totals (only way I could find NFL fan totals) and the market values of each NFL team. I then took the data and ran a correlation coefficient to see if there is any relation between being overvalued and having a lot of fans. I also checked to see if there was a relation between being overvalued and an NFL organization having a large monetary value.

There was a weak correlation between number of fans (or clicks) and preseason valuation. There was also a weak correlation between a teams monetary value and preseason valuation. While both correlations were weak, the number of fans was more strongly related to valuation than an NFL team’s monetary value.

So what does this all mean?

There is a small chance these preseason NFL team valuations are driven by money (via clicks), but there is not anywhere near strong enough evidence to say that’s true.

The simplest (and probably best) explanation is these media outlets just stink at valuing NFL teams, particularly when it comes to the Chiefs.

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