The Kansas City Chiefs are halfway through the season and can rest up during their bye week. Midseason bye weeks are nice for everyone. It gives players time to rest while also giving fans a nice breather to prepare for the rest of the schedule.
With no opponent to focus on this week, let’s examine the Chiefs' remaining schedule and how they will fare as they continue their attempt to "run it back."
A lot of looking ahead will be using a metric that examines what’s happened so far by using Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. DVOA is one of my personal favorite barometer metrics and it is a good way to see how teams have stacked up so far in a season. The ratings are more representative of how teams are playing this year than your traditional statistics. The in-depth methodology of DVOA and how it’s calculated is here, for those who are curious.
So, how does the Chiefs' schedule look from here on out? Well, according to Football Outsiders, the remaining schedule for the Chiefs is actually the ninth-hardest schedule in the league.
Let’s look at why it’s so difficult.
Week 11: at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Offensive DVOA: 12th, Defensive DVOA: 30th, Special Teams DVOA: 17th
After the bye week, the Chiefs travel to Las Vegas to play their first-ever game against the Raiders in their new city and new stadium. The Raiders are the only team to beat the Chiefs in the last 365 days (and counting), and the Chiefs will be looking to avenge that loss. The Raiders are a solid team this year with the additions of Henry Ruggs and Nelson Agholor, who Derek Carr has utilized with surprising efficiency down the field. The concern with the Raiders is their defense, which has already cost them in a few games so far. If the Chiefs can capitalize on this weakness better than they did in the previous matchup, this should be a win for the Chiefs off their bye week.
Prediction: Chiefs 41, Raiders 31
Week 12: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Offensive DVOA: 13th, Defensive DVOA: 1st, Special Teams DVOA: 16th
This game was the scariest game on the schedule until the New Orleans Saints de-pantsed the Bucs and Tom Brady on national television in Week 9. It’s hard to nail down the Bucs and how good they are as, at their best, they might be the most complete team in the league. The Bucs have rarely played a complete game, however, and sometimes just look downright awful. On offense, this inconsistency seems to occur when Chris Godwin is out, as he was last week, but by Week 12, Godwin should be back in the lineup. On defense, the Bucs have been one of the best units in the league this year and were particularly impressive in their win over the Green Bay Packers. However, the Bucs' pass rush sometimes disappears, and Mahomes and company could pick on Tampa Bay's defense a bit if Mahomes is protected.
Prediction: Chiefs 30, Buccaneers 27
Week 13: vs. Denver Broncos (3-5)
Offensive DVOA: 29th, Defensive DVOA: 9th, Special Teams DVOA: 26th
Probably the easiest game of the last half of the schedule is in Week 13, at home against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos aren’t in the same realm of terrible as the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars, but they are definitely a team in the bottom quarter of the league. Back in Week 7, the Chiefs easily dismantled the Broncos in the snow, and it’s hard to imagine this game will go any differently. The Broncos have too much to overcome with injuries plaguing their team and Drew Lock playing, at best, inconsistently.
Prediction: Chiefs 34, Broncos 13
Week 14: at Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Offensive DVOA: 18th, Defensive DVOA: 14th, Special Teams DVOA: 2nd
The Miami Dolphins are probably the surprise of the NFL through the halfway mark of the season as they have outperformed even the highest expectations set for them before the year. There is a very real chance the Dolphins go into this game 9-3 as their next four opponents are Chargers, Broncos, Bengals, and Jets. The Dolphins are led by a much-improved defense with two great cornerbacks in Xavian Howard and Byron Jones. Emmanuel Ogbah, who was a Chief in 2019, also anchors the defensive line and is having a fantastic year in his own right. While the Dolphins have been impressive, it’s really hard to imagine that they have risen to the level of the Chiefs yet, as it still feels like the Dolphins and rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are still a year away from truly competing. Head coach Brian Flores should be proud of where he’s gotten this team in less than two years, though.
Prediction: Chiefs 30, Dolphins 21
Week 15: at New Orleans Saints (7-2)Offensive DVOA: 6th, Defensive DVOA: 7th, Special Teams DVOA: 5th
After their primetime beatdown of the Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints jumped up to No. 1 in overall DVOA this week. It’s a bit hard to believe the Saints are at that level after a really shaky start for the team at the beginning of the year, headlined by how poorly quarterback Drew Brees seemed to be playing. Well, it looks like that was just knocking off the rust, as the Saints have played much better the last few weeks and Brees looks much more like his old self. With Michael Thomas and Cam Jordan returning from their injuries, the Saints are the scariest opponent the Chiefs have left on their schedule. Their overall power, coupled with this contest being on the road, might actually have Vegas and the media slightly favoring the Saints in this one. I’m inclined to agree, as of now, that the Saints can match the Chiefs blow-for-blow at their best and the Saints defense is turning a corner in the latter half of the year. Imagining Daniel Sorensen covering Alvin Kamera is nightmare-fuel for any Chiefs fan.
Prediction: Saints 31, Chiefs 28
Week 16: vs. Atlanta Falcons (3-6)Offensive DVOA: 20th, Defensive DVOA: 20th, Special Teams DVOA: 19th
If it weren’t for Todd Gurley falling into the end zone the Atlanta Falcons would be 3-0 after firing Dan Quinn. The thing about the Falcons and their heartbreaking losses is that in order for the loss to be heartbreaking, they have to actually create a good chance of winning. The Falcons are not a bad team, but the Chiefs are an elite one. We will see who is healthy by the time the Chiefs head down to Atlanta as Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones seem to constantly rotate stints on the injury report. However, a healthy Falcons team is definitely scary, as it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs cornerbacks covering either player at their best. Even so, the Chiefs should still take care of business as they have plenty of offensive firepower of their own.
Prediction: Chiefs 38, Falcons 27
Week 17: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (2-6)Offensive DVOA: 11th, Defensive DVOA: 16th, Special Teams DVOA: 32nd
When Justin Herbert surprisingly started for Tyrod Taylor in Week 2 against the Chiefs, I’m sure many watching the game expected to see a raw rookie who would make many mistakes en route to an easy win for the Chiefs. Instead, Herbert gave the Chiefs all they could handle. Only late-game heroics by Patrick Mahomes and Harrison Butker saved the Chiefs from a shocking loss early in the year. Since Week 2, Herbert has proven that his surprise start was not a flash in the pan, but a sign of things to come. Unfortunately for Herbert, he’s still the quarterback of the Chargers, a team that excels at Charger-ing. Advanced models and stats really like the Chargers, but at some point, you have to win games for it to really matter. The Chargers probably won’t get there under Anthony Lynn.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 23
Final Record: 14-2
There really aren’t many breaks in the next seven games for the Chiefs. They will have to bring their A-game consistently if they want to keep pace with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Chiefs have any hope of catching Pittsburgh and claiming the top seed and first-round bye in the AFC, then 14-2 is the absolute worst record they can finish with, as the Steelers have the seventh-easiest remaining schedule in the league according to Football Outsiders.
What are the Steelers' toughest games remaining? Another game against the Baltimore Ravens and a trip northeast to face the Buffalo Bills. This leaves the Chiefs with little room for error going forward. However, it seems abundantly clear this year that the Chiefs, at their best, are probably the best team in the league. They have the ability to finish the season 15-1, now it’s just a question of if they'll be able to rise to the occasion on their quest to run it back.