There is reason to be optimistic again regarding the Chiefs making the playoffs, and there’s a computer to prove it.
The website fivethirtyeight.com now gives the 4-5 Kansas City Chiefs a 56% chance of making the post season, based on their computer that runs 20,000 simulations. That may make your head spin a little, but college football has pretty much proven to us that computers are better judges of these things than committees, so I’m going with it.
The same computer simulator lists the Chiefs as the 8th best team in the NFL now out of 32. Amazing what’s happened as the defense has become dominant.
This is something we didn’t think we would be saying a month ago. After Kansas City went into Houston with an impressive week 1 victory, the whole month of September and part of October was derailed with a 4th quarter let down against Denver in the second week of the season. Looking back, it was hard to see how Denver was actually better than the Chiefs that Thursday night, but somehow they stole one from KC. Now, however, the Chiefs definitely look like the better team after knocking off the Broncos for the first time since the short-lived Tim Tebow era in 2011.
If you turn on SportsCenter, you will be watching everyone talk about how bad Peyton Manning is. While that’s true, he has been awful, people seem to be ignoring just how good Kansas City’s defense has been during this 3-game winning streak. They have been pretty solid dating back to the Chicago game, but couldn’t finish strong blowing a lead in the 4th quarter. In the last 5 games, the Kansas City defense is only giving up 14 points per game on average, which is tops in the entire NFL. The Chiefs defense still ranks in the middle of the league, but they are getting better after some not so good performances to start the season on the road against teams like Cincinnati and Green Bay.
It may have gone a little unnoticed during the first three games, but not having Sean Smith hurt this team. The Chiefs are much better when he is on the field. Smith and Marcus Peters are slowly becoming a top duo of corners in the NFL. Each of them picked off Peyton Manning on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at what lies ahead, as the Chiefs sit tied for second with the Raiders at 4-5…
It’s hard to imagine the Broncos blowing their division lead, you would think they could muster up a few more wins to seal the deal. But they way they look, who knows? The next three games are huge for Kansas City, two are on the road at San Diego and Oakland, with a home game against Buffalo sandwiched between. The Chiefs must win two of the three, and if you have to choose which two you would rather win, it’s Buffalo and Oakland. But it’s easy to see how a road win this week sets the Chiefs up for a strong finish with a home heavy schedule and a bunch of lightweights ahead.
The Chiefs could very easily run into a situation where a tiebreaker is the make or break deal getting a wildcard berth. The AFC is wide open at this point, and the Chiefs already hold a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh. There are currently four teams that are 4-5, one of which is the Texans, who Kansas City also holds a tiebreaker over.
With the two tiebreakers, and two games against Oakland, and one against Buffalo, it feels as if the Chiefs control their own destiny. The schedule is entirely favorable with four games left against teams with just two wins. I think most could argue that San Diego is a better team than their record suggests, but they can’t find a way to win close games. The scary part is that the Chiefs traditionally don’t play well against their division down the stretch. And Andy Reid’s teams always seem to find a way to lost two games a year that look like total gimmies. They’ve already gagged away the Bears game. History tells us one more disaster awaits. But, if the Chiefs go 3-1 in their two games against San Diego and Oakland, they will more than likely be a playoff team. That would get them to 7 wins, and then if they take care of business with Baltimore and Cleveland, that gets them to 9 wins, which should sneak them in with a wildcard berth.
And while this is all going on, we can see if the Broncos can recover at all. In reality, Denver should have at least two more losses already and I’ve always believed these things even out. If they do, Denver’s in trouble at Chicago this week. Then they play New England, at San Diego, Oakland, at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Denver doesn’t look like a sure thing in any of those games. Maybe, just maybe, the division becomes a mess and 9-7 or 10-6 could win it for KC. After watching the Royals do the impossible the past two years, anything is in play in Kansas City.