We’ve got quite a game on Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) come to town in a battle of playoff, and perhaps even Super Bowl, contenders. The Chiefs are coming off a big victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Broncos—a game which they had over a 98% chance to lose at one point. The game ended up going to overtime, and the Chiefs pulled out the win.
That’s been a theme for the Chiefs this year. They’ve been down big or in bad spots in several games this season, only to miraculously come away with the victory. KC has wins against Denver, Oakland, and New Orleans, but they’ve been blown out by Pittsburgh and have losses to Houston and Tampa Bay. In short, they’re an enigma.
Maybe the stats can provide us some insight into how they manage to scrape wins out of all these close games. Let’s take a look.
Total Points/game: Falcons 32.5 (1st), Chiefs 22.9 (16th)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 411.5 (3rd), Chiefs 328.3 (27th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 303.1 (3rd), Chiefs 231.7 (23rd)
Passing TDs: Falcons 26 (T-3rd), Chiefs 13 (T-21st)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 108.4 (15th), Chiefs 96.5 (23rd)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 12 (T-5th), Chiefs 7 (T-22nd)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 40% (15th), Chiefs 35% (28th)
Turnover Margin: Falcons +3 (T-9th), Chiefs +14 (1st)
On offense, the Falcons remain at the top of the league in most respects. They’re still #1 in scoring (32.5 ppg) and are top-3 in all passing stats. Atlanta is also above average in rushing and in converting 3rd down opportunities. The Falcons are still positive in turnover margin, which is certainly contributing to their success this season.
Kansas City is, by virtually every stat outside of points, a bottom-tier offense. They’re 27th in total yards, 23rd in passing yards, and 23rd in rushing yards. The Chiefs are among the worst in converting 3rd downs at only 35% (28th). Where the Chiefs excel, however, is in turnover margin: they’re 1st in the league with a whopping +14.
Total Points/game: Falcons 27.5 (29th), Chiefs 19.5 (8th)
Total Yards/game: Falcons 381.0 (27th), Chiefs 381.9 (28th)
Passing Yards/game: Falcons 282.2 (32nd), Chiefs 260.5 (20th)
Passing TDs: Falcons 25 (30th), Chiefs 20 (T-18th)
Rushing Yards/game: Falcons 98.8 (10th), Chiefs 121.4 (29th)
Rushing TDs: Falcons 9 (T-15th), Chiefs 4 (T-1st)
Third Down Efficiency: Falcons 43% (27th), Chiefs 46% (30th)
Sacks: Falcons 24 (T-15th), Chiefs 24 (T-15th)
On defense, the Falcons are also in about the same place they’ve been: below average in most respects. They’re allowing 27.5 points per game (29th) and are worst in the league defending the pass (282.2 yds/game). Atlanta’s only redeeming quality on defense is the rushing D: they’re 10th in rushing yards (98.8 yds/game) and 15th in rushing TDs allowed (9 all season). The pass rush is also slightly above average, as the Falcons have posted 24 sacks on the year.
The Chiefs, at least statistically, are largely a below-average defense. They’re actually worse than the Falcons in total yards/game by .9 yards, and are far worse defending the run (121.4 yds/game, 29th). KC is awful on 3rd down as well: they’ve allowed a whopping 46% conversion rate, 30th in the league. The Chiefs are, however, top-10 in points/game (19.5, 8th) and rushing TDs allowed (4, T-1st).
How are the Chiefs 8-3 with a below-average offense and a below-average defense? Turnovers. They create and ton of them and don’t give the ball away on offense. Kansas City is dependent on turnovers to win games—they need the field position and extra possessions to make up for an uninspiring offense.
Therefore, the secret to beating the Chiefs is not turning the ball over. For that reason, I expect a conservative game plan from Atlanta that emphasizes the run and short, safe passing. The Falcons don’t need to put up 30+ to beat this KC team: they just need to play smart, disciplined football.
Kansas City is also very banged up in the front seven, with DT Dontari Poe, OLB Justin Houston, and OLB Dee Ford all listed on the injury report. If any of those players are unable to go on Sunday, the Chiefs will be in a very difficult spot on defense.
Ultimately, Atlanta has the advantage here and, based on the stats, should be able to take care of business at home. It isn’t often that the Falcons get to play a defense that’s actually worse overall than they are, and there’s certainly a chance that the Falcons post a similar score to the Arizona game.
What do you think about the game? Are you surprised KC has had this much success despite, statistically, poor offense and defense? What are your predictions for the game?