In this series, we review the Kansas City Chiefs’ performance primarily using Next Gen Stats (NGS) — along with other advanced metrics that turn up during the season. For any questions on the statistics used in this series, please refer to our Football Analytics Glossary and Metrics page.
Week 5 passing review
On Monday, against the Las Vegas Raiders, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a spectacular game.
Mahomes was 29 of 43 for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Mahomes was under constant pressure all night long from Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. The quarterback adjusted to this by having his second-lowest Time to Throw per pass of 2.62 seconds and only had an average intended air yards of 6.8 yards per pass — his lowest of the season.
This development of “taking what the defense gives him” is a welcome sign for Chiefs fans. Expect to see more of this short passing game next week against the Bills, who have a top-eight pass-rush as a team, per NFL Analytics.
Chiefs receiving review through Week 5
Through five weeks of the NFL season, the Chiefs’ receiving corps has been a bit of a mixed bag. Each week, you can see flashes of different players stepping up and being productive in this offense. Against the Raiders, we saw wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling go for six catches and 90 yards. Fellow wide receiver Mecole Hardman also had his best game of the season.
With so many new faces, Chiefs fans should have expected this receiving corps to need time to get on the same page with Mahomes. Here are their NextGen receiving stats for the year.
- Cushion (Csh) is the distance (in yards) measured between a pass-catcher and the defender they’re lined up against at the time of snap on all targets.
- Separation (Sep) is the distance (in yards) measured between a pass-catcher and the nearest defender at the time of catch or incompletion.
- Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY) is the average passing Air Yards per target for the receiver. This stat indicates how far downfield they are being targeted on average.
- % Share of Team’s Air Yards (TAY%) is the receiver's total intended air yards (all attempts) divided by the team’s total intended air yards. This represents how much of a team’s deep yards the player accounts for.
- Yards After Catch (YC/R) is the yards gained after catch by a receiver divided by the number of receptions.
- Expected Yards After Catch (xYC) is the expected yards after the catch, based on numerous factors using tracking data such as how open the receiver is, how fast they’re traveling, how many defenders/blockers are in space, etc.
- YAC Above Expectation (+/-) A receiver’s actual yards after the catch compared to their Expected yards after the catch.
In order to be accurate, NextGen Stats cuts off players who have less than 15 targets, which is why you don’t see Skyy Moore or Justin Watson.
Digging into the stats, it shows a pretty accurate picture of what this receiving corps is. This group is consistent, deep and is getting better as the weeks go by. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Travis Kelce both don’t get much separation due to the in-breaking and over-the-middle routes they run, but when they get the ball, they do damage with it in their hands. Smith-Schuster specifically has an incredible YAC Above Expectation of 1.9 yards per catch, good for 11th among qualified receivers.
Head coach Andy Reid and company should be looking for creative ways to get Smith-Schuster open so he can showcase this skill more often. Valdes-Scantling — despite his YAC Above Expectation of -0.6 — is playing his position of “X” in Reids' offense extremely well. He’s being targeted down the field with an Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY) of 10.7 and has been making his fair share of plays. I expect his connection with Mahomes to continue to improve.
Where I think this Chiefs team can improve is by getting Hardman more involved down the field and getting Moore involved anywhere on the field. Hardman’s average cushion of seven yards is the highest on the team — and this can be utilized to free him up down the field for big plays (like we saw in his 36-yard gain on fourth-and-15).
When it comes to Moore, I believe you will continue to see him get more involved every week, but the potential for him is unlimited in this Reid offense. Moore hasn’t been given a ton of opportunity, but when he has had a chance, he performs the best of any wide receiver the Chiefs have. He had an unreal 5.11 yards of separation per route run this week.
Expect more from Moore as the season progresses.
For the second straight week Skyy Moore has been open all night long. His average separation per route run was 5.11 yards per @NextGenStats. This is 1st among receivers, just ahead of Devonta Smith and Justin Jefferson. He saw saw only 3 targets on 14 routes ran. pic.twitter.com/aml29mtoUG— ArrowheadConner (@ArrowheadConner) October 11, 2022
Andy Reid and going for it on fourth down
If there's one topic that's been claimed by the football analytics community, it's the decision to go for it on fourth down or not. Ben Baldwin is the founding father of this information, and he shows just how conservative Reid is going for it on fourth down.
How often each team has gone for it on 4th down when they "should" (by my model)— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) October 11, 2022
The Chiefs being so scared of going for it is baffling to me given how good their offense is pic.twitter.com/pixQ889gPZ
With the Chiefs' opponent this week being the most aggressive on fourth down, I assume this will be a talking point if the Chiefs are in a close game come Sunday.
I’m of the belief to go for it more often than not, and one of the biggest plays of the Raider game was made on the decision to punt with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Chiefs 4th-and-3 at Raiders 46— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 11, 2022
WP Go: 78.3%
WP Punt: 69.1%
By kicking the field goal, the Chiefs lost a whopping 9% win probability, according to ESPN’s Seth Walder. The Chiefs were lucky not to give up points to the Raiders on that last drive, needing a questionable sideline catch call and two Raiders receivers running into themselves to avoid a potential game-winning field goal by one of the most accurate kickers in football.
Being more aggressive on fourth down would be a good thing, especially when you have Mahomes at quarterback.