Publicly-traded corporations in the United States are required to submit quarterly earnings reports. This process sets up an opportunity for shareholders and analysts to pick apart the company performance on a regular basis. It forces companies to have a minimum level of transparency, but it also causes management to focus on short-term targets to keep “the street” happy and keep the company stock price moving upward.
NFL teams often break down the season into quarters as well, as famously demonstrated by Chiefs coaching legend, Todd Haley. The goal is to be at least 3-1 in each four-game quarter, which would give a team a 12-4 record on the season and all but assure a playoff spot.
Short-term thinking is problematic in the business world for a bunch of reasons I won’t further bore you by exploring. But, for NFL teams, keeping focused on week by week instead of allowing themselves to look too far ahead is a smart practice. The hope is that players and coaches alike won’t overlook the next opponent, or get overwhelmed by the enormity of a full NFL season. Just like the guy with a hoodie says, when one game ends, we’re on to the next one.
Looking to see if the team has achieved its goals each quarter is a useful exercise for us anyway. We can look at the last four games, repeat the process each quarter and see if the team is on track for a championship run.
Actual: 4-0. All concerns aside, the Chiefs are undefeated in the first quarter of the season, and winning cures all ills. Even when the scores were lopsided at times, each game was a battle, and Chiefs fans should feel good about coming out with a clean record.
Analyst’s concern: drop off from last season when teams “got film” on him
Actual: 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, higher completion percentage (67.9%), YPA (9.7), quarterback rating and pretty much every other statistical category. Somehow, Mahomes is ahead of pace, without his starting left tackle, best wide receiver and a running game that hasn’t really gotten going yet.
Analyst’s expectation: Maintain production versus last season when they led the league in sacks.
Actual: Individual performances haven’t been impressive, and as a team, they are hovering around the top 10 in the league in sacks. Spagnuolo’s blitzes and stunts haven’t led to an increase in production yet, and Frank Clark is a bit of a concern for many.
Goal: Improve historically poor run defense with new scheme and players.
Actual: Worst in the league in yards per carry allowed (5.9), second-worst in total rushing yards per game allowed (175.8). Statistically, this appears to be an issue thus far. There’s still hope that the players will grow and gel within the scheme and improvement may come.
Three of the biggest bulls and bears of the quarter
Damien Wilson: It’s clear at this point that Wilson is the Chiefs’ best linebacker, which is a statement few of us would have thought we’d say a few months ago.
Bashaud Breeland: Also now the best at his position group, Breeland has demonstrated a well-rounded game and has been opportunistic. The contract year suits him.
Cameron Erving: There’s been some volatility in Erving’s stock this season. Like watching a game with Cam at left tackle, it started off with some low points but has evolved into competence. He’s holding down the fort for Fisher’s eventual return and is becoming less noticeable in the process, which is a good thing.
Darwin Thompson: He hasn’t done anything poorly to make his stock drop, but he simply hasn’t gotten his opportunity yet. After the RB2 talk proved premature, even with injuries, the rookie has been a spectator thus far.
Blake Bell: The Chiefs must love the “Belldozer” as a blocker because he’s not getting anything accomplished as a pass-catcher. The No. 2 tight end might eventually become a competition again, as Deon Yelder appears poised to rise.
Darron Lee: Lee hasn’t been bad this season overall, but he hasn’t taken hold of a substantial role on defense. This linebacker group still appears too slow and susceptible in coverage. Speed and coverage are thought to be Lee’s strength, so why is he losing snaps to Ben Niemann?
Outlook and recommendation
In stock market terms, analysts review the quarterly report and the company’s guidance for the upcoming quarter and issue a buy, sell or hold recommendation. The recommendation is based on whether the company is hitting its short term goals and the outlook for the future. The business communicates to the analyst detailed forecasts, and the analysts review the tone of the messaging along with the targets for growth and issues their own expectations for the upcoming quarter.
So, what are the Chiefs communicating based on their play in the first quarter? They have exceeded expectations by starting out 4-0 and outperforming on offense. The defense is a little below expectations so far, but it’s not costing them games yet, and there’s hope based on what we see on film. They’ve been able to overcome headwinds in the form of injuries and a difficult schedule of physical opponents, mostly on the road.
The outlook? In the second quarter, they’ll likely get back some key players from injury, have already added cornerback help (Claiborne) and might make other moves at the trade deadline to further boost their chances for a Super Bowl run.
We’re clearly issuing a strong Buy recommendation on the Chiefs for the foreseeable future.
Three predictions for Week 5
- Morris Claiborne makes his debut. He’s starting out 44th in our rankings, with the assumption that he’s going to be worked in slowly. Keep an eye on the veteran; he might just get more snaps than we think.
- Mecole Hardman bounces back. Last week was rough for Hardman, Robinson and the Chiefs receivers. We can chalk that up to growing pains against a very good secondary and predict that Hardman gets another touchdown this week.
- Frank Clark will outplay Justin Houston. I think the worry over Clark’s production is largely overblown. Expectations are unreasonably high, but he’ll deliver as the season goes on. Houston may get one splash play this week, but it’ll be clear that Frank is the better player.
For those who want a complete look behind the curtain, here’s a link to the full market movers and roster rankings. There were quite a few minor reshuffling moves in our spreadsheet this past week.
How are you feeling about the Chiefs at the beginning of the second quarter?