The Numbers – Game No. 15 Edition

Obviously, the operative number here is 10 wins.

That clinches the AFC West title for the Chiefs and a home playoff game. There has been some tendency on a national – and to some extent local – level to downgrade the Chiefs accomplishment because they played the weaker schedule of a last-place team from 2009. Let’s put that into perspective.

Since the NFL divided into eight divisions, four in each conference, the schedule is more balanced. After the AFC West teams play six games (home and home against each of the other three), they play eight games against identical opponents.

This year that meant the NFC West and AFC South. Thus every AFC West team played San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston.

As the AFC West’s fourth-place finisher last season, the Chiefs drew the fourth-place teams in the other two AFC Divisions. For the Chiefs that was Cleveland and Buffalo. The Chargers played New England and Cincinnati; Oakland got Pittsburgh and Miami and Denver played Baltimore and the Jets.

Clearly the Chiefs got the best of these matchups, and they won games against Cleveland and Buffalo – neither of which had a winning record. No one else in the AFC West won a game against the non-common opponents.

The Chargers had the second easiest road, but they failed to take advantage of the hapless Bengals in their 15th game of the season. The Raiders lost to both Pittsburgh and Miami (though the Dolphins have a losing record). The Broncos drew a pair of playoff opponents and had the toughest route in non-common games.

But you can only play the ones they put on your schedule. Next year, AFC West teams will play the six games against each other, games against the AFC East teams (New England, the Jets, Miami and Buffalo), the NFC North (Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit). In the other two games, as it stands now, the Chiefs will play the winners of the other two AFC conferences (Pittsburgh or Baltimore and Indianapolis or Jacksonville).

Here’s how the schedule played out this year for the non-common games. The “adjusted” record is what those opponents would have been without games against their AFC West opponents.

Chiefs

Chargers

Raiders

Broncos

Cleveland 5-10 

New England 13-2 

Pittsburgh 12-4 

Baltimore 11-4 

Buffalo 4-11 

Cincinnati 4-11 

Miami 7-8 

Jets 10-5 

Total 9-21 

Total 17-13 

Total 19-12 

Total 21-9 

Adjusted 9-19 

Adjusted 15-13 

Adjusted 17-12 

Adjusted 19-9 

Although the playoffs have been decided, the Raiders still play for a significant milestone: they have not lost a game to an AFC West opponent all year. So we’re sure that Tom Cable is trying to push the agenda that they might not have won the West, but they clearly are the best of the West. The Chiefs could play the spoiler, and early in the week Todd Haley said he wasn’t going to rest his guys because he wants to finish up the fourth “quarter” of the season on a strong note.

The Chiefs also have something to play for. New England has locked up the home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. If the Chiefs win, they could nail down the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and wouldn’t face the prospect of playing against New England until the AFC Championship game.

Here’s how the West was won with one game left for all teams to play: Chiefs vs. Raiders and Chargers vs. Broncos.

 

Chiefs

Chargers

Raiders

Broncos

vs. AFC West

2-3

2-3 

5-0 

1-4 

vs. AFC South

2-2

4-0 

0-4 

2-2 

vs. NFC West

4-0

2-2 

2-2 

1-3 

Non-common foes 

2-0

0-2 

0-2 

0-2 

Total 

10-5

8-7 

7-8 

4-11 

The offense

What’s left to say about Matt Cassel that hasn’t been said already?

Perhaps only this: Cassel may be getting shortchanged.

When fans, writers and announcers call his play at quarterback “efficient” or describing his style as effectively “managing” the game and not making mistakes are we giving him short shrift. On Sunday coach Todd Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis clearly put the most important game of the season in his hands. The Chiefs passed on the first play of the game. They called pass plays on five of the first seven plays, including a touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles.

The Chiefs opened the second series with a pass. They called pass plays on seven of the 10 plays of the drive, including another touchdown pass to Charles. Cassel threw nine passes in the first quarter, completing eight of them. He completed 12 of his first 13 on the way to a three-touchdown performance.

So perhaps it’s time to begin saying he is having one of the best seasons in the NFL. His quarterback rating is at 98.816. The only quarterback in Chiefs history with a higher QB rating is Len Dawson in 1966 when he notched a 101.9 QB rating.

Cassel is the fifth-ranked quarterback in the league in quarterback rating behind only Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers. He also is the sixth-ranked fourth-quarter passer in the league trailing only Ben Roethlisberger, David Garrard, Brady, Vick and Rivers

Haley said “winning” and “efficient” were the highest praise he would heap on a quarterback because winning was the most important thing and efficiency and game management (whether it be to limit turnovers or pass for 600 yards a game) were the things that help your team win.

There has been much made of the insertion of Brodie Croyle into the game at the end of the third quarter. Haley describes it as a “strategic” thing they needed to work out with Cassel.

My take is that Haley and Weis had an agenda at that point in the game, and they wanted to make sure Cassel understood it. You may recall the fourth-down play several weeks ago when Cassel hung on to the ball trying to make a play and was sacked. One reason the Chiefs went for it was to leave their opponent 98 or 99 yards away from the goal line. The 13-yard sack didn’t leave them pinned.

My guess – and be assured it is a guess – is that when Cassel was calling an audible he was switching so the Chiefs could “make a play.” It may have been too risky an option for the coaches at that point in the game, and Haley wanted to make his point.

Will Cassel’s run last and will he become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL? That remains to be seen.

My rule of thumb is that a quarterback has to put together several seasons like the one Cassel is having to be called one of the best in the league. (Daunte Culpepper has the fifth highest single-season quarterback rating in history).

But enjoy Cassel for what he has accomplished. Sunday might be the precursor to what he can accomplish in the future.

Cassel

Total

Less than 7 

7-10 yards 

10-plus 

Avg./Att.

vs. Tenn.

24-34-314-3-0

7* 

12 

9.24 

Season 

251-417-3,001-27-5

70 

50 

131 

7.19 

*Including a touchdown pass

The running game

Clearly teams are loading up against the Chiefs running game. Given the choice, it’s obvious why. The duo of Jamaal Charles (1,380 yards) and Thomas Jones (879) is the most prolific in Chiefs history. Sunday they surpassed Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes’ 2,201-yard total of the 2005 season.

Charles continues to be the more effective runner with more runs of 4 or more yards.

Jones continues to be the workhorse with nine of his 23 carries coming in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were attempting to run clock. That’s also a time when a defense loads up more against the run because they know the play-calling will trend toward using clock.

Jones’ ball security was a bit lacking with two fumbles (one lost) on Sunday. But the Chiefs likely will continue stuffing it to him at crunch time.

vs. Tennessee

4 or more

3 or less 

Big runs 

Winning plays 

Charles (13 for 77 yards) 

7

7 of 13 

Season (216-1,380) 

127

89 

42 

118 of 216 

Jones (23 for 51 yard) 

5

18 

5 of 23 

Season (235-879) 

92

143 

20 

100 of 235 

Winning runs are runs that gain 4 or more yards or result in a first down or touchdown.

Haley said WR Dwayne Bowe “played one of his best games of the year in our biggest game.” He was Cassel’s favorite target, and his 75-yard catch-and-run illustrates what the two can accomplish when Cassel hits Bowe in stride with a little bit of separation. As for yards-after-catch, Jamaal Charles has quietly moved into the NFL’s top 20 for yardage after the catch with 388 for the season according to STATS Inc. That’s the value of getting him the ball in space.

Receiver

Tennessee

Season

 

Target

Catches

Target

Catches

Bowe 

9

123

67 

Charles 

5

60

43 

Chambers 

6

40

20 

Moeaki 

7

67

46 

McCluster 

2

32

20 

Castille 

3

12

10 

Pope 

1

18

10 

Copper 

1

28

18 

Jones 

1

18

13 

O’Connell 

1

3

The defense

The Chiefs offense made Tennessee one dimensional by scoring on its first three drives. The defense then held up its part. It limited Chris Johnson to just 58 yards rushing. He came into the game as the league’s fourth-leading runner with 1,267 yards for the season. He was averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The Chiefs held him to 3.8 yards per carry and did a nice job of not allowing him to be a factor in the game.

When Kerry Collins was forced to try and bring the Titans back from a big deficit, he made some plays, but the Chiefs did as well. Eric Berry intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. The Chiefs intercepted Tennessee twice and sacked Collins three times.

Opponent

Runs/Yds

3-less 

4-plus 

Big play 

Def. Success*

Avg. 

Tennessee

16-57

3.56 

Season 

371-1,555

201 

170 

36 

175 

4.19 

* Defensive success does not include short runs for a first down or touchdown or kneel-downs at the end of a half or game.

Opponent first-down plays

Game circumstances had a big impact on how the Titans attacked. In the first half the Titans ran six of the 11 first-down plays they had. In the second half, they ran just twice on first down and called pass plays (one sack) on the other 10 first-down plays.
The Chiefs gave up two first-down touchdowns on pass plays. But they responded with a pair of interceptions on first-down plays as well.

Opponent

Runs

Avg.

Pass

Avg.

Tennessee 

5.75 

15* 

7.6 

* Includes a quarterback sack (two touchdowns and two interceptions on first-down plays)

Chiefs sacks by down for season

Tamba Hali got another sack, and his total stands at 12 for the season now. He is 2.5 sacks away from reaching the top five single-season mark for the Chiefs.

First down

Second down 

Third down 

Total

Passing situation* 

8

11 

16 

35 

23 

*Passing situation defined as second- or third-and-long (more than 6), two-minute drill or second half when down by more than two scores.


4 Responses to “The Numbers – Game No. 15 Edition”

  • December 28, 2010  - Chuck says:

    Not to be negative because I love the Chiefs and they certainly have had a great season thus far, but if you look at it “realistically” we did have a pretty soft schedule this year. Didn’t have to play teams like the Pats, Steelers, Ravens, Jets, Falcons, Saints, Eagles, etc etc


  • December 28, 2010  - Jimbo says:

    Thanks Kent. Great stuff.
    Go Chiefs.


  • December 28, 2010  - Kent Pulliam says:

    Chuck:

    Agreed that they didn’t have to play teams like Pats, Steelers, Ravens, Jets, etc. The point of the chart is that except for two games against Buffalo and Cleveland, the Chargers, Raiders and Broncos had exactly the same soft schedule.
    Thanks for reading.


  • December 28, 2010  - el cid says:

    Do not get to pick your opponents. So you are a good as you schedule allows. No problem. We beat them and the AFC West did not. I am enjoying the end result.

    Next year we face a tougher conference. We will win then, too.




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