Can the Chiefs Continue to Be the Best Team in the NFL?

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Can the Chiefs Continue to Be the Best Team in the NFL?
US Presswire

As the NFL schedule hits the midway point, the Kansas City Chiefs sit alone atop the standings. The Chiefs are an amazing 8-0 after being the worst team in football last season.

Some people like to argue the point, but the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL right now. Until the Chiefs lose, there is no debate because no other team is undefeated. Teams are judged by wins and losses and always have been, so if the season ended today, the Chiefs would be the No. 1 seed.

But the season also isn't over. The Chiefs are the best team through eight games, but the regular season is 16 games long. To be crowned the best team in the NFL this season, the Chiefs will also have to win at least three playoff games. 

The question isn't if the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL right now, because that doesn't matter. Can the Chiefs continue to be the best team in the league? That's really the question, isn't it?

The NFL doesn't give out trophies after eight games.

Can a team with an average offense continue to win? Can the Chiefs win with a suffocating defense? Can the defense keep playing so well? The answer is yes. 

That doesn't mean the Chiefs will, it means they can. The team has the talent and capability to compete with the best teams in the league. 

A lot of people will point to the Chiefs schedule as a reason they aren't as good as their record indicates. Regardless of what you think about that approach, it doesn't matter. The past is the past and the Chiefs have won all of those games.

If the opponents were weak, the Chiefs took care of business and that's all they can do. There is no bonus for winning by 50 versus winning by one. A win is a win, as the cliche goes. 

We're also really not interested in how good the Chiefs have been, we're interested in how good they can be. The past gives us a piece of the puzzle, but it doesn't tell the future otherwise we'd be able to predict it a lot better than this

 

The Historical Perspective

Despite what some people would have you believe, the Chiefs aren't the worst 8-0 team in the history of the NFL. Based on point differential, there have been five worse—two of those teams won the Super Bowl and one lost the Super Bowl. 

The Chiefs have scored the second-fewest points of any 8-0 team since the merger, but they have also allowed the fourth-fewest points. Two-thirds of the 8-0 teams since the merger have finished with the best record in football and only one team finished worse than the second-best record in the NFL by record.

/Getty Images
The Chiefs will have to go through Peyton Manning, who lead the 2006 Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory after starting 8-0.

That team was the 2006 Indianapolis Colts and they had the worst point differential of any of the 8-0 teams and was also the only team to lose more than three games through 16 games. Of course, that Colts team also won the Super Bowl. 

Compared to all the previous 8-0 teams, the Chiefs compare closely with three of them. The 1972 Miami Dolphins, the 1990 New York Giants and the 2008 Tennessee Titans

Like the 2013 Chiefs, the 2008 Titans didn't play a tough first-half schedule and played five of their first eight at home. The Titans played just one team that was above .500 and two .500 teams. The Chiefs have played seven teams below .500 and one team that is .500.

The Titans also finished the season with the best record in football at 13-3, with one loss coming in Week 17 with the No. 1 seed already locked up. One of the two other losses was a one-point road loss.

Kerry Collins was the Titans signal-caller, and much like Alex Smith, he was considered an elite quarterback. Collins had a 2.9 percent touchdown rate and a 1.7 percent interception rate, which isn't far off of Smith's 3.1 percent touchdown rate and 1.4 percent interception rate.

The Titans are a great comparison because it was just five years ago and the rules were also similar at the time. Tennessee's offense never really improved and they finished the season averaging 23.4 points per game. Tennessee's defense finished the year allowing 14.6 points per game.

Year Team Points For Points Against Point Differential W/L Record Rank Result
2013 Kansas City Chiefs 192 98 94 ? ? ?
2008 Tennessee Titans 199 103 96 13-3 1 Lost Division Round
1972 Miami Dolphins 198 103 95 14-0 ? Won Super Bowl
1990 New York Giants 195 103 92 13-3 2 Won Super Bowl

pro-football-reference.com

The 1990 Giants had four wins against division rivals in their first eight, three total against winning teams, but their toughest road game was a 24-20 win against Washington coming off their bye week. Like the 2013 Chiefs, five of their first eight were at home.

The perfect 1972 Dolphins played five of their first eight on the road, including wins against good teams and wins against bad teams. The NFL was very different at that time and it's a stretch to even compare the Chiefs with the 1991 Giants.

Allowing for a 14-point swing in either direction in points scored and points allowed through eight games compared to the 2013 Chiefs will yield just 22 teams since 1970. Of those 22 teams, four were 8-0, seven were 7-1, six were 6-2 and six were 5-3.

The 22 comparable teams finished with a winning percentage of about 75 percent, which compares to a 12-4 record in a 16-game regular season. That would seemingly be the worst-case scenario for the Chiefs at this point.

Bottom line is that history is on the Chiefs' side. Of the 20 teams to start 8-0 since 1970, 40 percent won the Super Bowl, 60 percent went to the Super Bowl and 70 percent won a playoff game or finished with the best record in football. 

 

The Alex Smith Comparison

Both the 2011 and 2012 San Francisco 49ers were also eerily similar to the 2013 Chiefs. The 49ers were 7-1 in 2011 and 6-2 in 2012, but both teams had an elite defense, a run-centric offense and Smith was the quarterback.

The only thing that separates the 2012 49ers and 2013 Chiefs through eight games is eight points in differential (just one point per game). The 2012 49ers scored three fewer points through eight games and allowed five more.

/Getty Images
Alex Smith's teams always seem to perform, even when he isn't.

Considering Smith was the quarterback of that team, it's tough not to make a direct comparison. It's as if the Chiefs just copied the model the 49ers used to win with Smith.

Like the 2011 49ers, the Chiefs have been a huge surprise. Both teams played just one division opponent at home through eight games with a turnover margin of plus-12.

The 2011 49ers had a better offense by 14 points and a worse defense by 20 points compared to the 2013 Chiefs. That might seem like a lot, but it translates to a point differential difference of just six points through eight games—less than one point per game.

Alex Smith's Team Comparison
Year Team First 8 Season Points For Points Against Point Differential Turnover Margin
2011 San Francisco 49ers 7—1 13—3 206 118 88 12
2012 San Francisco 49ers 6—2 11—4 189 103 86 3
2013 Kansas City Chiefs 8—0 ? 192 98 94 12

pro-football-reference.com

The 2011 49ers lost in the NFC Championship game because Kyle Williams fumbled a punt in overtime, giving the New York Giants great field position. The Giants would win on a 31-yard field goal.

In 2012, Smith was replaced by Colin Kaepernick who took the team to the Super Bowl where they lost by a field goal. We'll never know if Smith could have done the same or better.

 

Conclusion

No matter what comparison is chosen, the Chiefs are in great position. History is on the Chiefs' side and they have a very good chance to finish the regular season with the best record in football.

Will the Chiefs finish the season with the best record in football?

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Obviously, the Chiefs will need at least one win against the Denver Broncos to be the undisputed top team in the league headed into the playoffs. Despite this probability, even two losses against the Broncos wouldn't be the worst thing as long as the Chiefs otherwise keep winning.

It's no longer a question if the Chiefs can continue to win—they can. There is also nothing unsustainable about the Chiefs' performance so far, but the quality of the opponents they have faced in the first half is a still a mild concern.

Either the schedule makes the Chiefs an exception or—like every other year—things change in the second half. Below average teams the Chiefs have faced may get better, killing the narrative about the Chiefs having played a soft schedule. 

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