The Kansas City Chiefs started off slow, but things have somewhat turned around for them. But are they actually back to what they were in seasons past?
Before the start of the season, I think it’s more than fair to say that the Chiefs were the favorite to win the AFC. Kansas City brought back most of their roster from the previous season, improved their offensive line through the draft and free agency, and still had all their star players on their roster.
Being that the Chiefs were the favorites to win the AFC and had an improved roster, it’s fair to say that many were surprised with how the Chiefs started off the season.
The Chiefs managed to win their first game of the season with a 33-29 win over the Browns, but things quickly fell apart after that as after five week’s they were 2-3 with losses to the Ravens, Chargers, and Bills. Many people, including myself, were worried about the Chief’s performance. Since week 5, the Chiefs have managed to turn things around as they are now 9-4 and have turned things around, at least in terms of wins and losses.
How has the Kansas City Chiefs defense been playing?
Back in week five, I wrote an article on the Chiefs and looked at the team’s biggest weakness at the time, that being the defense. At the time of the article, The Chiefs had the highest EPA allowed per play in the entire NFL according to rbsdm.com. Since that article, the Chiefs defense has greatly improved in terms of EPA per play allowed as now the Cheifs rank 21st instead of 32nd. While the Chiefs’ defense has improved, there may be a reason for that.
Looking at the Chiefs’ schedule after Week 6, they have played the Titans, the Giants, the Packers, the Raiders, the Cowboys, the Broncos, and the Raiders again. The one common denominator between most of those teams is a lack of offensive quality. For example, the Giants have Daniel Jones as their QB who has most of his receivers injured, the Raiders have been going through massive off-field issues with Henry Ruggs and Jon Gruden, and the Packers were trotting out Jordan Love to play against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have certainly played better on defense, but the only two offenses that the Chiefs have played that have been of any quality have been the Cowboys, which Kansas City did play well against, and the Tennesee Titans, who scored 27 against KC.
While I and other people have beaten the dead horse that is the Chiefs defense to death, it’s time to talk about the KC’s offense. Through the first five weeks of the season, the Chiefs had an EPA per play of .197 according to rbsdm.com, which was the best in the NFL at the time, but now they have fallen to .112, which now marks them 3rd in the NFL. While being 3rd in the NFL in terms of EPA. While Kansas City does have one of the better offenses in the entire NFL, there have been some trends that have emerged with their offense.
How are defenses playing against Kansas City’s Offense?
One thing that has been noticeable this season is how defenses have played against Kansas City this season and how Kansas City has responded in turn. Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense play an exciting form of offense full of deep shots to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and one way that teams have started to combat the Chiefs’ explosive attack this year is by playing a lot more two-high coverage shells.
Teams that have played more two-high coverage shells against the Chiefs have faired far more successful on the defensive side of things compared to those who play more single-high coverage. When they faced off against the Packers in Kansas City, it was one of the games where Kansas City struggled the most, mainly because of how much Green Bay played Cover 2, 4, and 6, despite them missing some key defensive players.
When you look at the Raiders games, the Chiefs stomped Vegas, and it’s somewhat easy to see why. Of course, the Raiders don’t have the greatest defensive personnel in the world, but what compounded the issue is how much Vegas played Cover 3 and Cover 1 against Kansas City.
While I’m not going to say its as simple as having two high safety and you’ll stop the Chiefs, Mahomes and Kansas City somewhat has into those defenses and until Mahomes starts taking the opportunity that is given to him underneath, the best defense by far to play against Kansas City will be schemes that run two high safeties.
So…are the Chiefs actually back?
Before we answer the question of this article, let’s recap what we talked about before. The Kansas City defense deserves credit because almost across the board, they have been playing better. While there has been better play out of the defense in recent weeks, you need to point out the opponents that their defense has played against.
Of course, the Kansas City offense is full of star players from top to bottom, but the Chiefs are playing worse than they should be. Mahomes and this offense have struggled with teams who have forced them to throw it short, and thus far, they haven’t adjusted to it.
To answer the question if the Chiefs are back, I mean, sort of? Ultimately it comes down to what you deem as “back.” If you consider the Chiefs being back by them being a playoff team, then they are back.
If you consider Kansas City being back by them being a Super Bowl contender then no, I don’t think they would be considered back, mainly because this defense would still get crushed by a quality offense and if this offense faces a defense who forces them to throw underneath, they could easily struggle.