Every year Football Outsiders tweaks their DVOA, and it's becoming more accurate. In the second half of the season, it's especially accurate
. DVOA is a way of judging teams based on statistics. Think of ESPN's or SI's "power rankings" as your typical political pundit, and think of DVOA as Nate Silver.
Check it out:
The only teams that I believe are not better than the Chiefs on that list are Carolina and Chicago. Other than that I do think that Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and New Orleans are all Better than the Chiefs.
Denver remains on top of this week's Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, and the Broncos still rank as one of the top ten teams in DVOA history despite a bit of a decline in recent weeks. Seattle remains in second place, although the Seahawks' overall rating drops after last night's narrow win over St. Louis. Indianapolis is third, with Carolina a surprising fourth and Cincinnati climbing from 11th to fifth thanks to their 49-9 drubbing of the New York Jets. Chicago climbs two spots to sixth, even on a bye week, although DVOA of course doesn't take into account the effect of injuries (or McCowns) on a team's future peformance. Close behind the Bears are three other NFC contenders, the Saints, 49ers, and Packers, and...
Wait a minute. Where the hell are the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs?
The shocking answer is tenth place. The Chiefs drop six spots this week from fourth to tenth. Although many power rankings around the Internet will still have Kansas City in first place because they are slaves to ranking teams by win-loss record, it's pretty obvious that the Chiefs are not the best team in the league right now.
The biggest issue is schedule strength. We've pointed this out a few times this year, but the Chiefs' schedule has been phenomenally easy. The Chiefs have played only one opponent this year with an above-average DVOA, the Dallas Cowboys. If we take out the opponent adjustments and look at non-adjusted VOA, the Chiefs actually rank third in the league; the difference between the two ratings is more than 10 percentage points. Each week, as the opponent adjustments in our system become stronger and stronger, the Chiefs see their DVOA rating fall a little bit more. It doesn't help that the Chiefs have been declining a bit, with their three worst games by DVOA coming in the last three weeks. The game against Cleveland comes out as their worst of the year by DVOA, another reason for their big drop this week. In fact, DVOA has Cleveland outplaying the Chiefs this week even if we remove the opponent adjustments. The Browns gained 6.5 yards per play compared to just 4.7 yards per play for Kansas City, but were hurt by third-down efficiency (just 3-for-12) and the fact that they lost their one fumble while the Chiefs recovered theirs. Without opponent adjustments, that comes out to 19.5% DVOA for the Browns and -4.6% DVOA for the Chiefs. With opponent adjustments, it comes out to 28.1% DVOA for the Browns and -23.1% DVOA for the Chiefs.
(By the way, the Chiefs aren't the only team with huge opponent adjustments this season. Denver and San Diego have also had extremely easy schedules this season. Denver's gap between DVOA and VOA is almost as big as Kansas City's, but because the Broncos have been so good, the opponent adjustments don't knock them out of first place in our ratings.)
A couple weeks ago, we looked at where Kansas City stood among the "worst" 6-0 teams of all-time. At that point, the Chiefs weren't particularly low. However, only 13 teams since 1989 have made it to 8-0, and out of those teams, the Chiefs come out near the bottom. (Yes, the one team that ranks below them ended up winning the Super Bowl, but remember that team got its best defensive player back from injury right before the playoffs.)