Fine, Jamaal Charles is out of the picture. But the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense — remember, the one that was supposed to pull the sled, the one purported to be the best in the division? — has been out of the frame for most of the stinking month.
When you’re 1-4 and trying to right the ship in Minneapolis, there’s plenty of mud to go around. But what’s interesting is how the most telling decline from two years ago in AndyLand, statistically, continues fall at the feet of coordinator Bob Sutton’s unit. SportingCharts.com tracks, among dozens of team stats, NFL clubs’ points per drive on offense (scored) and defense (allowed), a barometer of relative scoring efficiency. And here’s how the Andy Gang has progressed — or, rather regressed — in both departments:
Off PPD: 2.18 (10th in the league)
Def PPD: 1.5 (4th)
Off PPD: 2.04 (13th)
Def PPD: 1.58 (5th)
Off PPD: 1.89 (17th)
Def PPD: 2.38 (27th)
So: Good offense, elite defense; ‘Meh’ offense, elite defense; Average offense, terrible defense.
Offense: Steady decline. Defense: Falls off the freaking table.
Bash on Alex Smith until your knuckles bleed, but this particular tank wasn’t really built to lead with a point-a-minute passing attack first, was it? The Chiefs’ offensive efficiency is down 0.29 points per drive — or 13.3 percent off its pace two years earlier.
Defensively? Chiefs opponents are up 0.88 points per drive — almost an entire point, for a jump of 59 percent off the 2013 pace.
(And yes, overall special teams contributions are down, too: FootballOutsiders.com rates the units as just 2.7 percent better than the NFL median in terms of Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, or DVOA, good for ninth in the circuit. Dave Toub’s men ranked third in the NFL last fall and first in ’13.)
Enter Sunday’s dance partner, the Minnesota Vikings:
Off PPD: 1.86 (20th)
Def PPD: 1.74 (9th)
Conclusion: Roll with the under. Probably.
Plus,the numbers cut to the meat of why the visitors are 3.5-point ‘dogs at TCF Bank Stadium — and heck, even that line seems a tad conservative given that the Chiefs amble up I-35 without Charles, their best offensive weapon, and a defense with millions of dollars of talent and about a quarter’s worth of mojo and self-trust. Young Ramik Wilson and almost-as-young Dee Ford figure to see a lot of snaps at inside linebacker and outside linebacker, respectively, but the jury’s still out to whether the latter circumstance (Ford’s ProFootballFocus.com grade was -3.4 on 86 snaps going into Week 6; Tamba Hali’s was +4.8 on 294 snaps) is a good thing, short-term.
And yet who starts for Sutton on Sunday might not be as important as which defenders actually finish. Or attempt to. Because of all the what-the-expletive-is-going-on-here statistics blighting what was supposed to be the Chiefs’ bread and butter, this set of numbers might be the worst:
Opponents’ 4th Quarter Points Per Game
Chiefs, 2014: 3.2 (1st in the NFL)
Chiefs, 2015: 10.2 (tied for 29th)
Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the second coming Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning yet — YET — and the law of averages dictates that Sutton’s defense might actually be due for a little bit of redemption. Or correction, given that there’s too many studs in the fold to look this much like a collective turnstile. Then again, if Jay Cutler taught us anything, it’s that we’ve been fooled before. And trust, like leads, can be fleeting.