Friday, August 31, 2018

Is Defense Really Important For The Chiefs To Make The Super Bowl?

There has been a lot to question about the Chiefs defense lately and I have been hearing a lot of discussion about it. I think most rational minds would agree that it is to early to make clear cut assumptions about the regular season defense. But all this talk got me to thinking about whether the defense really is that important to the Chiefs end game of winning a Super Bowl. I honestly already had some assumptions that defense wasn’t as important to winning a Super Bowl as the offense over the last decade. It just seemed to make sense to me with all the high powered, record breaking offenses to go along with all the rule changes that help the offense. So I decided to make a chart showing where teams from the last ten Super Bowls ranked in points scored and points allowed.



It looks like my assumptions were wrong! The last ten Super Bowl winners had on average, a better defensive points allowed ranking than offensive points scored ranking. The Super Bowl losers on the other hand were higher ranked offensively than defensively, but still the average defensive ranking for all the teams at 9.65 puts the average super bowl contender as a top ten points allowed defense.
Out of the twenty Super Bowl contenders, seven of them had defenses outside of the top twelve in total points allowed and their Super Bowl record between them was 3-4. Five of those seven teams had at least a top three rated offense, so they were offense dominated football teams. The other two teams were a little different, the 2011 New York Giants got hot on defense going into the playoffs and didn’t allow more than 20 points in any of their four playoff games. The 2012 Ravens defense allowed basically the same number of points in the regular season and playoffs. But their offense got hot going into the playoffs and scored over six points a game more in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.

There were also seven of the twenty Super Bowl contenders that were not in the top nine in offensive points scored. But six out of those seven were in the top four in defensive points allowed and the seventh team was the 2012 Ravens that just seem to be an anomaly being the only team not in the single digits in offensive scoring or defensive points allowed rankings. There were also 7 teams that finished in the top nine in both the offensive ranking and the defensive ranking. These teams seem to be the most well rounded and had a combined 4-3 record in the Super Bowl.

So if the trends from the last 10 years continue, it looks like the Chiefs could make the Super Bowl in four ways. The first being that the 2018 Chiefs could have a good offense, but at least a top four points allowed defense, which kind of seems to be what they had been looking like the past few years previous to 2017. The second scenario would be having a top three scoring offense and scoring so many points the defense doesn’t matter as much. The third way is being well rounded on both sides of the ball and being in the top nine both in offensive scoring and defensive points allowed. The fourth way is like the 2011 Giants, where the Chiefs would just get red hot on one side of the ball right before the playoffs and let that carry them to a title.

After typing these four scenarios out, the second one seems like the most plausible one for the Chiefs. Their offense definitely has a chance to be so good that the defense doesn’t matter that much to their winning and losing, but that is a lot to put on the shoulders of a first year starting quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are both considered great quarterbacks. In both of Big Ben’s Super Bowl appearances in the last decade he had the number one scoring defense in the league both years. In Aaron Rodgers one Super Bowl season he had the second best scoring defense in football. Both of these quarterbacks are considered great but neither one of them was able to win a Super Bowl with offense alone. Actually neither Roethlisberger or Rodgers had a top nine scoring offense in their three combined Super Bowl seasons over the last decade. I could also see the fourth scenario working out for the Chiefs where their offense is good all year and the young guys on defense come along later in the year helping the defense improve a lot going into the playoffs.

It does seem like defense is still very important to whether a team will make the Super Bowl. The last ten Super Bowl winners have on average ranked ninth in points scored and eighth in defensive points allowed. The Chiefs have actually met that criteria twice in the Andy Reid era in 2013 and 2015. It seems like the Chiefs have been a team on the cusp ever since Andy Reid got here, but I hope Patrick Mahomes is the difference maker Reid has needed ever since he began as a head coach. Big football games often seem to come down to one play and the Chiefs have always seemed to be the team watching their opponent make that play. With Patrick Mahomes I don’t see that being the case anymore. In my opinion, if the defense can find a way to be in the top third of the league this year in points allowed, the Chiefs have a real shot at the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Travis Kelce Compared To The Best

As a Chiefs’ fan, I know Travis Kelce is a great player and a blast to watch play on Sundays. What I don’t really have is perspective on how Kelce really compares to past tight ends and his modern contemporaries. This post is going to be a look at where Travis Kelce stands stat wise, after 2017 his age 28 season, compared to other tight ends through their age 28 seasons. The one caveat being Zach Ertz, who is just entering his age 28 season in 2018.

Tight End Totals Through Age 28 Season
Rk Player From To G
Rec Yds TD Y/R Lng
1Travis Kelce201320176430739002212.780
2Zach Ertz201320177532136642111.460
3Rob Gronkowski2010201710247471797615.176
4Greg Olsen2007201311038141803611.052
5Jason Witten2003201012761769673611.369
6Tony Gonzalez1997200412757069055412.173
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2018.
Tight End Totals Through Age 28 Season
Rk Player From To G
Rec Yds TD Y/R Lng
1Jimmy Graham201020147838647525112.359
2Antonio Gates200320089340050665112.772
3Jeremy Shockey200220089542147112711.259
4Kyle Rudolph20112017963223153379.847
5Shannon Sharpe*1990199610739348843112.463
6Jared Cook2009201510727335031612.880
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2018.

The first thing that really stands out is that Kelce has by far played the fewest games out of any of the players listed. The closest was the previously mentioned Ertz, who has played 11 more games than Kelce even though he is a year younger than him. The main reasons for this are that Kelce wasn’t drafted until he was 24 and then he missed his entire first season with injury, so he was 25 before he really started his career. That is why players who were drafted younger like both Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten had played almost double the amount of games Kelce had by the end of their 28 age season. The only reason this bothers me is because it really hurts Kelce’s chances of ever getting to the Hall of Fame. The total stats Kelce has compiled to this point in his career just don’t stand out except for being so low compared to some of these players. The next group of charts tell a better story about how Kelce has actually played to this point in his career.

Tight Ends Per Game Stats Through Age 28
Rk Player From To Rec Yds TD
1Zach Ertz201320174.348.90.3
2Tony Gonzalez199720044.554.40.4
3Rob Gronkowski201020174.670.40.7
4Travis Kelce201320174.860.90.3
5Greg Olsen200720133.538.00.3
6Jason Witten200320104.954.90.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2018.
Tight Ends Per Game Stats Through Age 28
Rk Player From To Rec Yds TD
1Jared Cook200920152.632.70.1
2Antonio Gates200320084.354.50.5
3Jimmy Graham201020144.960.90.7
4Kyle Rudolph201120173.432.80.4
5Shannon Sharpe*199019963.745.60.3
6Jeremy Shockey200220084.449.60.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2018.

Kelce’s per game stats look so much better! He is 3rd out of the 12 in receptions per game and tied for 2nd in receiving yards per game. The touchdowns per game are in the lower half, but I think that might rise a little with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback. Kelce’s receptions and yards per game are insanely close to Jimmy Graham’s. All of Graham’s stats through his age 28 season were with the New Orleans Saints, when he was widely considered one of the two best tight ends in the game, and had Drew Brees a future Hall of Famer throwing him passes.

Through Age 28
Catch %
Travis Kelce
Ron Gronkowski
Jared Cook
Zach Ertz
Tony Gonzalez
Antonio Gates
Kyle Rudolph
Jeremy Shockey
Jimmy Graham
Greg Olsen
Shannon Sharpe
Jason Witten

The 12 tight ends I chose to compare Kelce with had careers that spread out over a large time period and the tight end position has changed over that time. The top tight ends today are becoming a bigger part of the passing game and a smaller part of the run blocking game every year. I could even make the case that Kelce is more a slot receiver than a tight end, but that is just how the game is played today. I believe that on a per game basis Kelce stacks up with the best tight ends ever. As the chart above shows that Kelce has caught a higher percentage of his targets through age 28 than all the other tight ends except Shannon Sharpe. I don’t think I have ever appreciated just how good Kelce’s hands really are.

Travis Kelce

This chart is what Kelce’s career numbers would look like if he had the number of targets Tony Gonzalez had through his age 28 season. I just used Kelce’s catch percentage, yards per reception, and touchdown percentage to calculate the stats over 881 targets. Kelce’s career has followed a different path than Gonzalez’s, with tons of different variables, but I can still use wishful thinking to wish Kelce had 881 targets!

I just hope that Kelce can stay healthy and play long enough to compile the stats needed to be considered one of the best tight ends ever when he retires. I don’t want him to be like Jaamal Charles, who because of injuries and lack of Super Bowls, has no real shot at the Hall of Fame. But we Chiefs’ fans know in our hearts Jamaal Charles was one of the greatest to ever run the ball. I want Kelce to win two Super Bowls, play great until he is 35, and then retire as a life long Chief, thanking all us Chiefs’ fans a few years later in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Chiefs' Receivers Projections

I decided to use my earlier Patrick Mahomes projections to help project how the Chiefs’ receivers stats might look in 2018. I basically got my receiver projections by breaking down the Chiefs’ Receivers stats per target in 2017 and then reverse engineering them to Mahomes numbers. I did adjust a few small things by how I see 2018 targets shaking out and I did adjust for the offense to average two more passes per game in 2018. I am going to my Patrick Mahomes projections from an earlier post with a few more stats thrown in first and then the receiver projections.

Att Comp Comp % Yards TD
Patrick Mahomes 575 368 64.00% 4334 26

2018 Tgt Rec Yds/Rec Yards Tds
Travis Kelce 120 79 13 1027 7
Tyreek Hill 127 94 15 1410 8
Sammy Watkins 89 50 12 600 4
Chris Conley 54 32 11 352 2
Demarcus Robinson 26 13 10 130 0
Demetrius Harris 26 12 12 144 1
Kareem Hunt 61 45 8.5 382.5 4
Ware/Williams 41 28 6.3 176.4 0
Other 31 15 7.5 112.5 0

575 368
4334.4 26

To get Kelce and Hill’s stats, I basically switched the number of targets they had last year. I feel like Hill gets so open so fast that he has a good chance to be Mahomes #1 target. I still have Kelce getting over a hundred targets and Watkins getting almost 100. I have Hill’s yards per reception a little lower than last year, just because I see him getting more volume. Hill still comes out with over 1400 yards which would easily set the Chiefs single season receiving yards record. I also had to make sure that Kelce got his third straight season with 1,000 yards receiving. Watkins under performs, but I can’t project anything different without projecting more total passing volume for the Chiefs.

I have Conley getting most of the 3rd receiver targets, just because is so reliable and catches a much higher percentage of his targets. Conley has caught a little over 62% of his career targets, while Robinson has only caught a little under 54% of his career targets. For a little more comparison Kelce has caught just under 72% of his career targets, while Hill has caught just over 72% and Sammy Watkins has caught just over 55% of his targets. I really hope Watkins percentage is so low, because he has had poor quarterback play and usually ran lower percentage deep routes. I just don’t see the 2nd and 3rd tight ends getting many targets, with the Chiefs running more 3 wide receiver sets and possibly two running back sets.

I also have the running backs combining for 102 targets. I wanted to give Hunt a higher percentage of the targets, but with two or maybe even three capable backups to Hunt, it made sense to spread the wealth. Here is a chart showing just how good the trio of receiving backs are.

Career Yds/Rec Catch%
Kareem Hunt 8.6 84.1
Spencer Ware 11.6 81.25
Damien Williams 8.6 73.9

There just were not many extra targets to go around to the 5th and 6th receivers or the back up tight ends. The projections are based on the starters playing all 16 games and not sitting out week 17. If that happens then all the starters projections will go down including Mahomes, but the back ups would have more targets. On the touchdown projections I just went with my gut. I’m thinking Hill and Watkins will both catch some deep touchdowns. Then at the goal line Kelce and Hunt will make an impact. I hope this was an interesting read and at least gave some perspective on the amount of targets to go around however you may think they will get spread out.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Chiefs Preseason Week 3 Thoughts/Worries

It would be really easy to start by bashing the defense, but I’m going to start with the offense. Patrick Mahomes looks good! I always believed that Mahomes could do things that Alex Smith couldn’t do, but I wasn’t entirely sure he could do the things Alex does, at least right away. I now feel pretty comfortable that Mahomes will not be loosing the Chiefs games this season. I believed before the preseason started that Travis Kelce was going to be Mahomes safety valve early in the season. But after watching Mahomes and Tyreek Hill play together, it feels like they have a special connection. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill is the one player that Mahomes relies on the most this season. It makes sense, because Hill gets so open and Mahomes has the arm to take advantage of the separation.

The biggest worry for me is the offensive line and the running game. The offensive line seems to be giving up pressure quickly, especially against a blitz, and they are opening zero holes for the running backs. Through three preseason games the Chiefs don’t have a single running back averaging at least 3.0 yards per carry. Kareem Hunt has 47 yards receiving on 4 receptions, but only 23 yards on 11 carries. I don’t feel after watching the games that it is any of the running backs fault. It looks more like there just isn’t a hole for them to get through. It could just be that the preseason run calls are just very bland, but I would still expect to see more than 118 yards on 48 carries. Anyone who watches a lot of Andy Reid offense realizes that sometimes the running game falls to the wayside, but I thought with Eric Bieniemy as the offensive coordinator the Chiefs might emphasis the run a little more or at least efficiently.

The only other thing I have to say about the offense is that, as much as it pains me to say, De’Anthony Thomas looks like the best return option besides Hill that the Chiefs have. I like Tremon Smith in that roll, but Thomas really brought his A-game against the Bear,s averaging 16.5 yards on two punt returns and he gained 36 yards on his one kickoff return. I feel like Thomas is probably safe on the 53 man roster, I just hope it doesn’t keep Marcus Kemp off the 53 man, because I really want to see him get a chance with Mahomes.

The defense made me feel sick to my stomach. The worst part of the whole thing was seeing Tanoh Kpassagnon make a perfect sack and get called for roughing the passer. The NFL needs to get this fixed. I understand protecting players, but that was bs. Calls like that take the fun out of the game for me and if they continue I will probably not watch NFL football anymore. It just won’t be worth it to me anymore. When I love something as much as Chiefs football, I can’t take seeing the game distorted and ruined.

The second worst part was watching David Amerson get roasted in man coverage. Amerson just doesn’t have any make up speed and he isn’t fluid enough in his hips not to get a step behind. I honestly don’t see how he can fix this quickly, unless the pass rush becomes relentless. Even then I’m scared of a defensive player touching the quarterback. If the NFL is so worried about quarterbacks, they just need to institute a rule that once they are touched the play is dead. Did anyone else notice that Chase Daniels fumbled the football, yes he recovered it, but it was out his hands for a while. Does that not change how that play is called? Can you not fall on a player who is recovering the ball? Kpass can turn his body weight into helium, hit Daniels, and float away afterwards. Sorry, Sorry, I’m in a full rant. I waited hours after the game so I wouldn’t do that but what can I say?

Other than that, the defense just looked out of sync to me. A lot of players were just a step slow or a little bit out of position. There were a lot of poor angles taken and even more just piss poor tackling. I like the effort Breeland Speaks brings on every play, but he ran himself out of quite a few plays. He also fell down a few times, which just seems weird because he wasn’t knocked down, he just fell on his own. Tamba Hali played with reckless abandon, but there was always a method to it. I just feel that Speaks isn’t that far along yet, but for some reason I believe he can get there. I’m not naive enough to believe that I know more than Bob Sutton a long time defensive coach. I have to believe that his play calls would work with more capable players. I’m just not sure that Sutton can adjust his defense enough to work with the talent he has. I’m probably just pissed off about the game but there are serious issues on the defense. It really makes me wonder why the Chiefs haven’t brought in more secondary talent, unless it is there and the players are just to young, so I’m not seeing it yet.

I’m going to climb down off the ledge and try to get some perspective. The Chiefs 3rd preseason game last year was also a disaster. The Chiefs lost 26-13 to the Seahawks and were out gained 225 yards to 390 in the game. I know what the 2017 Chiefs were able to accomplish and there is still plenty of hope on the horizon for the 2018 team. My hope is that as the season goes along we can actually see week to week improvement on defense and the young players in the secondary come along quickly. I still can’t wait for week one, where I can start to see what the 2018 Chiefs are really going to be about!