It’s no secret that the Chiefs, once firmly in control of the AFC West, have been on a downward trend lately. But according to this article by fivethirtyeight.com, Kansas City’s collapse has been the worst in the history of the league.
538 uses a rating system called the Elo rating to determine team rankings and win probabilities. The Elo system doesn’t just look at the current season, but goes back several years and looks at a large sample size of team performance. This makes it more reliable and less likely to have knee-jerk reactions to the bumps in the road teams normally go through, or to sudden success after long periods of being awful (think 2016 Raiders).
But the Chiefs this year are a special case. After their 4-0 start, they had an Elo rating of 1701. That’s really good. And then they lost to the Steelers. And then they lost to the Giants. And then they lost to the Bills. And now the Chiefs have an Elo rating of 1584, which is not very good. That’s the worst short-term drop in history, and the worst since the 1986 Bears.
The Chiefs’ M.O. has been, in recent years, to have a stifling defense and an offense that is good enough to score more than the defense allows. But this year, K.C. came out with their hair on fire. Kareem Hunt was looking like Barry Sanders and Alex Smith was a more mobile Joe Montana.
It was a mirage. Hunt has turned back into a pumpkin, going from 6.3 yards per carry in his first five games to a mere 3.2 yards per carry since then. Smith has been woeful as well, and has reverted to the Captain Checkdown mentality which hamstrung him in San Francisco and in his initial time with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs’ ability to finish drives on offense has come to a screeching halt. They were scoring on 52.8% of their drives in their first five games, but only 33.3% since then. That’s leaving their defense out there for far too long, and without Eric Berry they simply can’t get the job done. The Chiefs’ offense has reached levels of ineptitude normally reserved for the Broncos- the only team KC has beaten during their current run of futility.
While the Chiefs still have a good shot at the playoffs because there are no other teams in their division who are over .500, they have plenty of divisional games coming up. They have five games remaining- at the Jets, hosting the Raiders, hosting the Chargers, hosting the Dolphins, and at the Broncos. They are very capable of losing each one of those games, and I assure you that the Broncos we saw in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in Oakland would spank these Chiefs worse than the Bills did.
The Raiders, if they win that game in Kansas City, will hold a tiebreaker over the Chiefs. The Raiders’ remaining schedule shapes up favorably- Giants, at Chiefs, Cowboys, at the Eagles, and “at” the Chargers. Of those games, the only one the Raiders seem really unlikely to win is the Eagles game on Christmas Eve. However, it’s also possible that Philly will have locked up home field by that point, and may not give it 100% against the Silver and Black.
The Raiders have put themselves in a bit of a bind with their early season woes and that ugly four-game losing streak. But, they find themselves at long last benefiting from the misfortune of others, particularly the Chiefs. It’s entirely possible that the Week 17 tilt with the Chargers will be for the division crown, and the Raiders could be looking at a 4 seed with a record of 9-7.