On Monday — after running it’s usual 20,000 simulations of the 2020 NFL season using its Football Power Index (FPI) — ESPN gave us a peek at one of them: simulation No. 3,869, in which the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Dallas Cowboys 42-17 to win Super Bowl LV.
Although he didn’t say so, you have to figure that ESPN’s Seth Walder published No. 3,869 because it most closely resembles the average of the 20,000 simulations.
Here’s what it would look like:
|1||Chiefs vs. Texans||W||35-7|
|2||Chiefs @ Chargers||W||34-13|
|3||Chiefs @ Ravens||W||27-24|
|4||Chiefs vs. Patriots||W||38-28|
|5||Chiefs vs. Raiders||W||35-7|
|6||Bills vs. Chiefs||L||25-13|
|7||Chiefs @ Broncos||W||27-6|
|8||Jets @ Chiefs||L||22-17|
|9||Chiefs vs. Panthers||W||41-20|
|11||Chiefs @ Raiders||W||27-13|
|12||Buccaneers vs. Chiefs||L||35-31|
|13||Chiefs vs. Broncos||W||23-17|
|14||Chiefs @ Dolphins||W||30-17|
|15||Saints vs. Chiefs||L||23-17|
|16||Chiefs vs. Falcons||W||24-10|
|17||Chargers @ Chiefs||L||35-28|
|WC||Chiefs vs. Colts||W||19-9|
|Div||Chiefs @ Bills||W||27-7|
|AFC||Chiefs @ Ravens||W||17-14|
|LV||Chiefs vs. Cowboys||W||42-17|
This is a pretty good stab at how the season could play out.
It predicts that in the regular season, the Chiefs will score 29.4 points a game while allowing 16.3. Both of those would be improvements on 2019’s averages of 29.2 and 19.3, likely putting the Chiefs in the top five on both sides of the ball.
I’ll buy that the Chiefs will begin the season 5-0 before falling to the Buffalo Bills on a Thursday night road game; the Bills game on a short week has had me worried me since the schedule was announced.
I can’t say which game the Chiefs will lose that they should win — even defending Super Bowl champs have those — so the home loss to the New York Jets is as good an unexpected “L” as any.
But I have trouble believing that the Chiefs would come into Week 17 with a 5-0 record in the AFC West and lose to the Los Angeles Chargers, thereby losing the AFC’s No. 1 seed to the Baltimore Ravens — a team that simulation 3,869 predicts will finish the season 12-4. The Chiefs would hold the tiebreaker against the Ravens on the basis of their 27-24 win in Week 3. With the only playoff bye on the line, do you believe the Chiefs wouldn’t be motivated to wipe the floor with the 7-8 Chargers? At home?
Yeah... me, either.
On the other hand, the Chargers would be playing for a Wild Card spot, so maybe it could happen. If that’s how it played out, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if head coach Andy Reid’s team entered the playoffs with a big chip on its shoulder, rolling over Philip Rivers’ Indianapolis Colts at home, getting revenge on the Bills in Buffalo and beating Lamar Jackson on the road again to reach Super Bowl LV.
But if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t bet against the Chiefs making the championship from the AFC’s first seed, either.
Simulation 3,869 has the San Francisco 49ers — the only NFC team finishing the season with just five losses — entering the playoff bracket holding the bye week. The Cowboys would take them out 39-26 in the Divisional round, advancing to the Super Bowl with a 26-14 victory over the Buccaneers.
Here’s how Walder sees the championship game in Tampa Bay:
It’s a repeat! The Chiefs blow out the Cowboys in a lopsided Super Bowl, and it’s time to talk full-on dynasty in Kansas City. Mahomes drops four touchdowns and, to no one’s surprise, wins Super Bowl MVP again. The Cowboys’ offense sputters out in the end, and Ezekiel Elliott is held under 50 rushing yards after Dallas falls behind quickly. Andy Reid, once thought of as a coach who couldn’t win the big one, has secured his place as one of the greats in NFL history.
Regardless of how the Chiefs might get there, I would take it. And somewhere, Lamar Hunt would be grinning broadly.