Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Evolution of the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs

If you’ve heard me on Amateur Hour, or followed me on Twitter, or frequented my LinkedIn profile -- you’ve probably heard me mention the 2019 Chiefs at least a time or two.

For the un-OG’s, this idea originated roughly 30 months ago, early in the offseason of 2017...

The Kansas City Chiefs are winning the Super Bowl in 2019.

This proclamation, this prediction, this prophecy came to me following yet another Chiefs playoff disappointment, staring down another year of Alex Smith at QB with very little cap room in the coming years to provide the perfect supporting cast that he needed to win a championship.

The premise of the 2019 Chiefs was a 4-way intersection where everybody knows their turn and traffic flows seamlessly:

  1. A rare collection of young talent entering their primes at very little cost, combined with superstars at the tail end of their primes
  2. Veteran contracts coming off the books opening up cap room
  3. The inevitable demise of the powerhouse Patriots
  4. A quarterback entering his second (playing) year under Andy Reid

The actuality of that 2019 Chiefs premise is a 4 way stop where nobody goes, and then two cars start to go, and then both cars stop, and then whoever’s most aggressive slams the gas screaming SHMOHAWK out the window and we are all now 30 seconds later to getting home and sitting on the couch:

  1. That young talent had some … issues while the superstars’ legs stopped working
  2. The cap room got (mostly) Jimmy Gobble’d up
  3. The Patriots just won another Super Bowl (13-3? Are we sure this game happened?)

Lets dive a bit deeper on these, shall we?

1. John Dorsey is a pinball wizard. It was apparent in early 2017 that he had this drafting thing figured out with a nucleus of talent set to carry this franchise through the Andy Reid era -- Marcus Peters, Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill -- later adding Kareem Hunt and some squeaky voiced QB.

What I didn’t anticipate was Peters getting shipped out (he sure seems like the missing piece this season doesn’t he?), Kareem brutalizing his reputation and Tyreek using his 4.24 speed to narrowly avoid trouble. Alas, Tyreek and Jones account for $4M against the cap this year as they await their mega contracts, while Patrick Mahomes remains the best bargain in the NFL sports this year ever.

Meanwhile, the defense was meant to be carried by Eric Berry and Justin Houston entering this flagship season at age 30. Little did we know, one now plays for a top rival while the other is on America’s (Team) Most Wanted List. If either (or, especially, if both) had been at full strength last season, the Chiefs might’ve been a year early on my premonition. 

2. At the time, the only veterans “guaranteed” to be on the Chiefs roster in 2019 were Berry, Travis Kelce, and Eric Fisher. Things change, huh? There were a few contracts to extend between then and now, but the rest of the roster was a blank slate with cheap talent scattered all over the board.

This is where every blogger’s favorite Super Bowl run comes into play: The 2013 Seattle Seahawks!!!

I know, I know, I realize they are an overused analogy. But the only other examples of the modern era are whatever blood magic the Patriots use or paying homage to the Broncos (the Eagles won in very similar fashion to Seattle). When I think back on that team, I always harp on the Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril additions. The Seahawks already had a good defensive line. These two stud pass rushers weren’t needed. But that luxury made scoring on their defense nearly impossible with multiple Hall of Famers roaming their secondary for very little money. It was those cheap contracts that made the Bennett and Avril additions possible. This was the formula for a young team to win the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the 2019 Chiefs won’t be remembered for the way they’ve navigated the salary cap. They have Berry and Houston on the books for $14M to not play football. Four of their top five cap hits are: Sammy Watkins, Fisher, Anthony Hitchens and LDT ($50.6M of cap space). These are (mostly) fine players but not exactly how you want to spend 30% of your team’s salary. Furthermore, KC has $24M in cap room right now, which is A. smart to carry over into next season with all the money already on the books and B. tough to swallow with how close this team is and holes yet to be filled on the roster. 

3. The 13th best Patriots team of the Bill Belichick era trumped the best Chiefs team of the last 50 years in Arrowhead Stadium despite Tom Brady having received 41 open mouth kisses from his dad at his most recent birthday party.

In a vacuum, that loss is hard to fathom. However, from a greater distance, the loss makes perfect sense. As any NBA fan will tell you, a team has to pay its dues before reaching the mountain top. Last year the old guard made its last stand. And it was impressive as fuck. But now the Chiefs have tasted it. They were right there. They know what it takes. They have their eyes on the prize. [enter one more cliche here]

4. Following that playoff loss to the Steelers back in 2017, you could sense the time was right to move on from Alex Smith. While he was certain to remain the team’s QB that upcoming season, it was (finally) time to start planning for his predecessor. And while I thought the team’s roster would be ready to win in 2018, I didn’t think a new QB necessarily would be in his first year of play. Well … chalk up another L in this teardown piece of myself, by myself.

It’s crazy how quickly it can all change and how the ideas behind the 2019 Chiefs have evolved (it’s almost like there’s a Darwin involved). You could easily replace my “2019 Chiefs” premise with a “Chiefs every year Mahomes is their QB” premise and it would probably be more accurate. It’s Mahomes that has picked up the pieces while the young talent has disintegrated, the superstars’ bodies decayed, the cap room disappeared and the Patriots dominated.

Mahomes is the reason my prediction looks smart now. If he were a decent QB going into his second season, say Sam Darnold or Mitch Trubisky, this team ain’t winning a damn thing. But he’s the 4th best player in the NFL. And he was 6 inches from reaching the Super Bowl last year with a team that looks better on paper this year.

So ... am I the man for predicting something I thought would happen, that seems like it could happen, that I still think will happen, but we have no idea if it will actually happen? Yes, no question.

Did it happen the way that I prophesied 30 months ago? Mmm, not exactly.

But I never liked showing my work in math class. I will get you that correct answer though:

The Kansas City Chiefs are winning the Super Bowl in 2019.

His Dirkness

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 NFL Preview: Looking at Improvement vs. Regression


So I was starting my research for the 2017 NFL Over/Under Challenge - Get in on this - only $30! - when somebody on some podcast who's probably smarter than me (proof: I already forgot who) was talking about regression - they said there were two statistics that most often vary from season to season (meaning: hardest to repeat from year to year): Turnover differential and records in close games. I was intrigued.

As American hero, Dr. Steve Brule would say ... Lets check it out!

2015 Turnover Differential:

I went back to 2015's numbers to see if those teams with the best turnover differential did, in fact, regress in 2016. Here are the top 5 teams, with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:

  1. Carolina Panthers: -9 wins
  2. Kansas City Chiefs: +1 win
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: -6 wins
  4. Arizona Cardinals: -6 wins
  5. Tie: Seahawks (Even), Patriots (+2 wins), Giants (+5 wins)
Analysis: Obviously, this set of data is not full proof. However, I see teams like New England and Seattle as the gold standard of the league - the exceptions to the rule - and wouldn't necessarily apply regression theories to either.

Meanwhile, Kansas City ranked 2nd in TO differential in 2015 and T-1st in 2016, which makes sense given their risk averse QB and playmakers like Marcus Peters and Eric Berry on defense. Again, only studying the numbers isn't full proof. Logic still applies.

However, I also see the three most disappointing teams of 2016 on this list - Carolina, Cincinnati and Arizona. Noted. Lets move on...

Here are the bottom 6 teams in 2015, starting with the worst, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Dallas Cowboys: +9 wins
  2. Baltimore Ravens: +3 wins
  3. Tennessee Titans: +6 wins
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: -2 wins
  5. Cleveland Browns: -2 wins
  6. Atlanta Falcons: +3 wins
Analysis: Obviously, I included a 6th team because Atlanta took a giant leap in 2016 - along with Dallas, Tennessee and even Baltimore, I guess. Again, not full proof - sometimes teams stay on top or bottom for a reason (BLAKE BORTLES FLASHING NEON SIGN).

2015 Record in Close Games:

Back to the 2015 numbers to see if teams who won a lot of close games in 2015 regressed the next year. The Top 5 teams in terms of Win % in one score games in 2015, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Carolina Panthers: -9 wins
  2. Arizona Cardinals: -6 wins
  3. Denver Broncos: -3 wins
  4. San Francisco 49ers: -3 wins
  5. Minnesota Vikings: -3 wins
Analysis: This data comes off more conclusively. Many of the disappointing teams from 2016 are on this list - most notably, Carolina and Arizona, who landed on both lists. 

Here are the bottom 5 teams in terms of Win % in one score games in 2015, starting with the worst, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Cleveland Browns: -2 wins
  2. Tennessee Titans: +6 wins
  3. Dallas Cowboys: +9 wins
  4. New York Giants: +5 wins
  5. San Diego Chargers: +1 win
Analysis: Wow. So the regression theory, as it relates to close wins, was correct in 9/10 cases. Once again, the teams you see show up on both lists were the most extreme cases - Dallas and Tennessee here. You also get the Giants somewhat cancelling out their 2015 TO differential numbers with their record in close games.

So now we've studied the numbers, as they applied from 2015 into 2016. All bubble gum and candy beans. Lets now apply it to the 2016 numbers, heading into the 2017 season.

2016 Turnover Differential:

Top 5 teams...
  1. Oakland Raiders
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. Minnesota Vikings
Bottom 5, starting with the worst...
  1. Chicago Bears
  2. New York Jets
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. LA Rams
2016 Record in Close Games:

Maybe you looked at the 2015 numbers and don't trust TO differential, but are intrigued by the record in close games regression theory. Here are the top 5 teams in Win % in close games in 2016:
  1. Oakland Raiders
  2. Houston Texans
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. New England Patriots
  5. Dallas Cowboys
And the bottom 5, starting with the worst...
  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Teams that show up on both lists: Oakland and New England, in terms of regression, and Chicago and Cleveland, in terms of improvement. Now, logic is screaming at me not to bet against New England nor on Cleveland, which means Oakland and Chicago are the prime candidates here to regress and improve, respectively.

2017 Improvement vs. Regression Rankings

I've gone through and assigned numeric values to each team's ranking in both TO differential and record in close games. In theory, the higher the score - the more likely the team improves in 2017, the lower the score - the more likely the team regresses in 2017.
  1. Chicago - 63 - MOST LIKELY TO IMPROVE
  2. Cleveland - 58
  3. Jacksonville - 56
  4. San Francisco - 55
  5. LA Chargers - 54
  6. NY Jets - 51
  7. Carolina - 46
  8. LA Rams - 46
  9. New Orleans - 43
  10.  Arizona - 42
  11.  Indianapolis - 40
  12.  Cincinnati - 40
  13.  Philadelphia - 40
  14.  Denver - 36
  15.  Buffalo - 33
  16.  Detroit - 33
  17.  Washington - 31
  18.  Houston - 29
  19.  Tampa Bay - 29
  20.  NY Giants - 28
  21.  Tennessee - 28
  22.  Minnesota - 27
  23.  Baltimore - 27
  24.  Seattle - 27
  25.  Atlanta - 22
  26.  Pittsburgh - 19
  27.  Miami - 18
  28.  Green Bay - 16
  29.  Dallas - 16
  30.  Kansas City - 9
  31.  New England - 7
  32.  Oakland - 2 - MOST LIKELY TO REGRESS
Analysis: There's a lot of trash up top and a lot of gold at the bottom, which I guess is what you'd expect when looking at teams most likely to improve vs. regress.

Again, I reiterate, I wouldn't necessarily apply this analysis to the stalwarts (the exceptions to the rule) such as New England, Seattle, and Green Bay and on the other end: Cleveland, Jacksonville and the NY Jets. Although, deciding which teams qualify for this can be tricky: Is Chicago a doormat now? San Francisco? Is Pittsburgh officially a powerhouse? Green Bay? etc.

Once you get past those teams, you see the strong candidates emerge. Granted, we've mentioned Oakland and Chicago as the prime candidates for each category.

***The teams who are primed for improvement in 2017: Chicago, LA Chargers, Carolina, LA Rams, New Orleans and Arizona (I'd also throw in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, personally).

***And the teams who look apt to regress in 2017: Oakland, Kansas City, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta (with nods to Houston and the NY Giants).

We'll see.


I'm a nerd. I thoroughly enjoyed gathering all this data. And you should put this article to some damn use and take part in the 2017 NFL Over/Under Challenge - A contest with nearly $1,500 in the pot in its inaugural season and a great way to follow all 32 teams all season long.

His Dorkness

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 NFL Predictions

AFC East
1. New England Patriots 10-6
2. Miami Dolphins 8-8
3. Buffalo Bills 6-10
4. New York Jets 4-12

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
2. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
3. Baltimore Ravens 6-10
4. Cleveland Browns 5-11

AFC South
1. Houston Texans 11-5
2. Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6
3. Indianapolis Colts 10-6
4. Tennessee Titans 6-10

AFC West
1. Oakland Raiders 12-4
2. Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
3. San Diego Chargers 7-9
4. Denver Broncos 6-10

NFC East
1. Dallas Cowboys 10-6
2. Washington Redskins 9-7
3. New York Giants 6-10
4. Philadelphia Eagles 5-11

NFC North
1. Green Bay Packers 10-6
2. Minnesota Vikings 8-8
3. Detroit Lions 7-9
4. Chicago Bears 4-12

NFC South
1. Atlanta Falcons 10-6
2. Carolina Panthers 8-8
3. New Orleans Saints 7-9
4. Tampa Bay Bucs 7-9

NFC West
1. Arizona Cardinals 13-3
2. Seattle Seahawks 11-5
3. San Francisco 49ers 6-10
4. Los Angeles Rams 5-11


Wildcard Round
AFC: Patriots over Jaguars, Texans over Colts
NFC: Seahawks over Falcons, Redskins over Cowboys

Divisional Round
AFC: Steelers over Texans, Raiders over Patriots
NFC: Seahawks over Packers, Cardinals over Redskins

Championship Round
AFC: Raiders over Steelers
NFC: Cardinals over Seahawks

Super Bowl
Arizona Cardinals over Oakland Raiders

NFL MVP: Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Offensive POY: Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive POY: Kahlil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Offensive ROY: Sterling Shephard, NY Giants
Defensive ROY: Su’a Cravens, Washington Redskins