Given that the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the league’s most-difficult schedules in 2021, it would be reasonable for fans to ask, “When does it end?”
Unfortunately, it won’t be any time soon. And on Monday, we got another indicator that the Chiefs will face a very tough schedule in 2022, when a tweet by NFL analytics coder @mrcaseb began making the rounds.
I used the Vegas win totals by @DKSportsbook as well as an estimated 9.5 win total for the Browns to compute the 2022 strength of schedule for each team based on the projected wins of their opponents as of today. pic.twitter.com/k3N9JRGjFv— Sebastian (@mrcaseb) April 4, 2022
As we laid out in these pages during January, we already knew that based on their opponents’ 2021 won-loss records, Kansas City’s 2022 schedule would be the league’s sixth-most difficult gauntlet. But this new calculation — which is based on DraftKings Sportsbook’s over/under wins for each NFL team this season — gives the Chiefs the league’s hardest schedule.
And as the saying goes... it’s not even close.
In this calculation, the difference between Kansas City’s opponent winning record over the second-place Los Angeles Rams is more than twice as much as that of the Rams over the third-place Los Vegas Raiders — which is itself larger than the difference between any other two adjacent teams. In more comparative terms, the Chiefs’ strength-of-schedule is almost a full standard deviation higher than that of the Rams (in other words, almost a full letter grade). For a strength-of-schedule calculation in a parity-driven league, that’s a lot.
But why is it so much different than the rankings from January?
It’s because oddsmakers (like DraftKings) aren’t even trying to predict how many wins each team will have. Instead, they are guessing how the public would predict them. By doing so, they have the best chance to get the same amount of money placed on both sides of every bet — which gives them the greatest profit.
We already knew that on the basis of finishing first in their division last season, the Chiefs would play three games against other first-place finishers — along with playing six games against a division that almost put three teams into the 2021 playoffs. But now, all three of those divisional opponents (not to mention several other teams the Chiefs will play) have made big, splashy moves during the opening weeks of the league year — while the Chiefs traded away their biggest, splashiest receiving threat.
All of that leads to the result of this calculation. If you believe that the balance of power between the Chiefs and their divisional rivals (and the rest of the AFC) will significantly shift because some of these other teams “won” free agency, you won’t have trouble finding others who share that view. And it may even turn out that you (and they) will end up being right.
But whether that balance will actually shift is another question. As another saying goes... that’s why they play the games.