An epic collapse in the Wild Card Round of the 2013 playoffs should lead to a highly motivated team when the Kansas City Chiefs open up their season at Arrowhead Stadium against the Titans. The legitimacy and stability brought to the organization with the hiring of Andy Reid paid immediate dividends. Reid, coupled with the acquisition of former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, orchestrated one of the most dramatic offensive turnarounds in NFL history. The Chiefs went from dead last in points scored (211) to sixth in points scored (430).
The Chiefs were rolling along through the season at 9-0 prior to their bye week. Everything was going right as the Chiefs had the offense going in the right direction and one of the league’s top defenses. Injuries dealt a big blow to the Chiefs right around the bye week and after allowing just 111 points in their first nine games, the Chiefs allowed 103 points in losses to Denver, San Diego, and Denver again. The two losses to Denver ended any hopes of winning the AFC West and the Chiefs wound up the top wild card.
One of the hallmarks of Alex Smith’s career has been taking care of the football and he did that as the Chiefs were second in turnover margin at +18. Their bend but don’t break defense was fifth in points allowed but 24th in yards allowed. Jamaal Charles became Kansas City’s LeSean McCoy under Andy Reid, racking up 1,980 yards from scrimmage. That was just 39 yards away from being three times more than any other Chiefs player. Dwayne Bowe was second with 673.
Some regression has to be coming for the Chiefs. A +18 turnover margin is unlikely to be repeated and the team benefitted from a rather weak schedule. Oddsmakers believe that regression to be coming as the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas posted a win total of 8 for the Chiefs. Bettors immediately pounced to push it up to 8.5. Sportsbook.ag opened the Chiefs win total at 8.5 with the over at even money.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|4||New England (Mon)||-1|
|5||@ San Francisco||+7|
|7||@ San Diego||+2|
|9||New York Jets||-6|
|12||@ Oakland (Thu)||-4|
The Chiefs played only four of the 10 playoff teams last season and two of them shared the same division. This season, the Chiefs play just five of the 10; however, they draw the NFC West and AFC East as non-divisional opponents. Tennessee and Pittsburgh are the other two games. Cole Ryan rates the Chiefs schedule as the seventh-toughest among the 32 teams.
Based on the spreads, it’s a very balanced schedule for the Chiefs. In the five weeks prior to the bye, the Chiefs are favored twice, an underdog twice, and a pick ‘em once. Following the bye, over the last 10 lined games, the Chiefs are favored five times and an underdog five times. In looking ahead to Week 17, depending on the situation, the Chiefs should be favored there as well.
There are a couple difficult schedule spots with a short week to prepare for the 49ers and a short week to travel to Oakland in a Thursday night game sandwiched between Seattle and Denver. There’s only one set of back-to-back games and the bye week, though early, comes at a decent time.
Why bet the over?
We saw a glimpse of what a healthy Kansas City Chiefs team can do under Andy Reid. They ran out to a 9-0 record before injuries and a step up in class derailed the season. Over the final seven games, the Chiefs faced the Broncos twice, San Diego twice, and Indianapolis. With Alex Smith managing the game and stability on the coaching staff, the Chiefs went from 211 points (13 per game) to 430 points (27 per game). That was a jump from 32nd to sixth in the rankings.
Just like he did with LeSean McCoy, Andy Reid used Jamaal Charles as a focal point of the offense. The reward was 19 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 rushing/receiving yards. Without many deep threats, the Chiefs used Charles and short throws as an extension of the running game and it worked extremely well. All in all, it was a balanced offensive attack for the Chiefs and the inclusion of DeAnthony Thomas in the fourth round could create for a very interesting offense and fill the void created by the loss of Dexter McCluster.
The defense was a strength until about midseason. Tamba Hali missed a game and was hurt. Justin Houston started 11 games before being lost to injury. Hali and Houston tied for the team lead in sacks with 11, even though Hali played four more games. The secondary, which returns in tact minus the loss of Quentin Demps, was third in opponents’ completion percentage at just below 57 percent. The defense also forced 36 turnovers. Age is also on Kansas City’s side defensively as all of last season’s defensive players were 31 years old or younger.
This was a great situation for Reid to fall into. He has the ideal quarterback for his system and has the skill players to make it work. All the Chiefs needed was stability on the sidelines and we saw what happened.
Why bet the under?
The Chiefs were +18 in turnover margin. That number will go down in all likelihood, especially because the Chiefs led the league in fumbles recovered. The most likely number for regression, however, is the team’s point differential. The Chiefs were outgained by nearly 500 yards, but were +105 in point differential. The Chiefs gave up over 20 points seven times. They lost six of those games.
Offseason losses included Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, and Geoff Schwartz. Each of those three offensive linemen started at least seven games. Dexter McCluster was the team’s punt returner and third-leading receiver. He’s also gone. The defense lost starting safety Quintin Demps, defensive end Tyson Jackson, and starting linebacker Akeem Jordan. That’s a lot of roster turnover for an NFL offseason.
Another offseason has gone by the wayside and the Chiefs have failed to give Dwayne Bowe any help. There is no vertical threat on the Chiefs. Teams will certainly adjust to this, especially if DeAnthony Thomas can’t fill the McCluster role that keeps defenses honest.
The Chiefs step up in class this season with games against five playoff teams and the NFC West. The tricky AFC East is also included in their schedule. There are some tricky scheduling spots like a short week to prepare for San Francisco, a game at Oakland crammed between home games against Seattle and Denver, and a trip to Arizona after playing Denver.
Pick: Under 8.5 (-130)
Even though the initial move on the Chiefs was strong enough to push this line up half a win, the schedule is a bear and the threat of regression is very, very real. The Chiefs have a lot of personnel losses to endure and losses on the offensive line are always a threat. The Chiefs were 0-4 against the Broncos and Chargers last season and have eight tough games outside of the division with the NFC West and AFC East.
A lot of things went right for the Chiefs during their nine-game win streak and the tent folded quickly when things went wrong. There still have to be questions about the offense that was so centered on Jamaal Charles. Charles was responsible for nearly three times more yardage than any other skill player. It’s hard to back a team that’s so dependent on one player.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.