The Chiefs came into the 2014 with the 7th hardest strength of schedule in the NFL, so although they had a playoff season last year, prognosticators predicted trouble for the Chiefs this year. It seems the general consensus ran about 8-8 (7-9) for me with some outliers. After three games, many are wondering if the Chiefs schedule is as tough as it looked before the season. Many had the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots in some combination in the Super Bowl. After week 3, those teams are a combined 7-5.
Obviously not a terrible record, but not quite where most people might have had them by now. The other issue is that even in their wins, they have not always lit the world on fire. Denver had to fight tooth and nail with the Chiefs in Denver and started slowly against Seattle before making a late surge. San Francisco started the season with a win, but has lost two in a row, Seattle was stunned by San Diego and almost blew a large lead to Denver, and the Patriots struggled against Oakland and, more importantly, Tom Brady hasn’t quite looked like himself averaging 5.5 yards per pass and less than 200 yards per game.
The problem with this way of thinking is that these teams strength of schedules are 2, 4, 6, and 10 respectively (although New England’s first 3 games have been relatively easy). On top of that, it’s the beginning of the season. It is not unusual for there to be some bugs worked out as the season starts. For instance, the 49ers started last season 1-2 against very stiff competition and still ended up a playoff team. Even with their early season struggles, these teams will likely still be in the playoffs again come January.
The other problem could be that some teams on their schedule have surprised early on. For example, the Arizona Cardinals have started out the season as one of only two teams that are 3-0. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not just 2-1, but have scored 67 points in those two victories. The Bills and Chargers are also both 2-1 and have managed these records against pretty stiff competition as well. Therefore, even if the other 4 aforementioned teams don’t turn it around, these teams are better than we expected.
So although the juggernauts do not look as strong as we expected, there are other teams that could possibly make things more difficult along the way. Not to mention, the Chiefs have already had many injury issues and it is entirely possible they will see more attrition along the way as players who are not used to seeing as much time on the field have become starters. Hopefully the teams that were expected to do well that are now struggling continue to do so and the teams that have surprised are just early season flukes, but it still appears that an 8-8 finish might be about right. Unless Alex Smith does something…