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Playoff Teams That Will Regress in 2014: Kansas City

Turnover is a fact of life in the NFL Playoffs. We seek to figure out who will struggle to duplicate their 2013 success.

Rob Carr

One of the more common fallacies in NFL predictions is the assumption that most playoff teams will perform approximately the same as the previous year. It's an easy stance to take, as one will be usually right on at least 50% of the playoff field and the surprises can be chalked up to hollow platitudes like "they just knew how to win!"

In actuality, there is often a legitimate explanation for that turnaround or sudden collapse.  One need only look at the disaster that became of the 2013 Texans or Falcons to know that the one's fortunes in the NFL can change swiftly and suddenly.  Regression does not always take the form of a complete collapse to 2-14 but it does mean that the team may not achieve its level of success from the year prior.

The reasons for such sudden changes in fortune are usually one or more of the following:

  • Easy schedule
  • Record in close games (i.e. one score games)
  • Injury Luck
  • Roster Turnover
  • Disastrous Offseasons

Thankfully, we have some tools at our disposal to make educated guesses on what teams those will be.

When we look at strength of schedule, there is one team that stands clearly above the rest as one who benefitted from a fortuitious slate of opponents.

Easy Schedule - Kansas City Chiefs

One of the more insidious predictions in NFL media surrounds the use of team performance from last year to predict the strength of schedule this year.  This is bogus logic as it assumes all teams will be just as good or as bad as they were the year prior.  In fact, we cannot know true schedule strength until after the season.  For instance, a team slated to play the Texans and Falcons in 2013 would have been forecasted to have a harder schedule.  In actuality, those teams were awful so they wound up having it easier.  We need the results to know true schedule strength.

The Kansas City Chiefs ultimately had the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2013 with an average opponent DVOA of -7.0%.  In other words, the average Chiefs opponent played like a bottom eight NFL team.  They won 11 games but contrast that with New Orleans who played the fifth hardest schedule and also won 11 games.  Who do you think was a more likely contender?

The Chiefs started 9-0 but their competition was consistent with a fourth place schedule:  Jaguars, Raiders, Browns, and Bills among others.  One of the fastest ways to turn a previously bad team around is to upgrade at head coach and quarterback.  The Chiefs obviously did that, firing the perennial Belichick-tree retread Romeo Crennel and hiring Andy Reid in his stead.  Alex Smith, only relevant since 2011, wound up representing an enormous upgrade over the likes of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn.

However, once the competition increased, the Chiefs fell to 2-5 down the stretch, losing convincingly twice to Denver. Still, they were putting on a beatdown of the similarly overrated Colts until injuries during the game finally did them in.

Kansas City actually provided a template for this dynamic back in 2010.  Coming off a 4-12 season, the Chiefs played a very easy fourth place schedule en route to a 10-6 record in one of the league's worst divisions.  They were promptly exposed by Baltimore in the Wild Card game.

The 2013 Chiefs were still a good team but, like their 2010 incarnation, it is simply not likely that they will get the 32nd most difficult schedule in 2014.  Even without the added complications of losing top cornerback Brandon Flowers and playing a second place schedule instead of a fourth place schedule, expect them to regress now that they have the mighty NFC West on their slate.

Prediction for the Chiefs: 8-8 and no playoff berth as San Diego takes over the #2 spot in the AFC West.

How Do the Ravens Fare in this Statistic?

Even though many of us are interested in everything about the NFL, some are only here for the Ravens.  We've got you covered.

Baltimore played the 20th most difficult schedule in 2013, which was slightly more difficult than Cincinnati (25th) and Pittsburgh (30th).  Although Baltimore has a 3rd place division schedule due to the division-record tiebreakers, they will likely play a more difficult schedule than Pittsburgh in 2014 since Miami and San Diego stand to be better teams than the Jets and Chiefs on the Steelers' second place schedule.  Cincinnati, with games against New England and Denver, should have it harder than the other teams in the division.

Still, with the NFL's worst division AFC South on tap as the common divisional opponent, the AFC North should see a rebound in 2014 to playoff form with two playoff teams coming from the division. After all, the last time the AFC North played the entire AFC South in 2011, each of the three AFC North playoff teams saw a very favorable final schedule difficulty by season's end.