This year, I wanted to check in on how the Kansas City Chiefs stacked up in various team statistical categories. I decided that it would be instructive to update those rankings weekly and see if a clear picture develops as to where the strengths and weaknesses on the team are coming from.
As always, if you want to hear my observations about the team in more detail, please tune in to It's Always Sunny in Chiefs Kingdom to hear our detailed breakdowns of the previous and upcoming Chiefs games.
I'm tracking the Chiefs' team rankings weekly in the following five categories: points, yards per play, turnovers, penalties, and third-down conversion rate. That should give a good idea of their overall progress as the season moves forward. I'm going to compare their NFL rank this week with their NFL rank last week and their NFL rank last season for each category.
The Chiefs are ninth in the NFL in points scored, with 117 through four weeks. That's a drop from last week when they were ranked fourth, and behind their 2019 rank where they finished fifth. It's amazing how scoring 26 points dropped them five ranks, but strangely enough, 26 points was the 16th-highest scoring output of the week.
The Chiefs are third in points allowed with 70, which is an improvement on their ranking of sixth through three weeks. They finished 2019 ranked seventh, so they are actually out-performing their 2019 defense in points so far. Only the Indianapolis Colts are allowing fewer points per game so far than Kansas City's 17.5 points per game.
Yards Per Play
The Chiefs are currently fifth in the NFL in total yards and ninth in total plays run on offense, which ranks them sixth in the NFL in yards per play at 6.12. Last week they were down to seventh, and in 2019, the Chiefs' offense finished with 6.22 yards per play, good for second in the NFL. Average yards per play across the entire NFL is up a bit through the first four weeks of the year compared to last season's total (5.67 this season, 5.48 last year, and 5.42 combined in the ten seasons prior) so that could normalize a bit as the season progresses.
Defensively, the Chiefs allow the 15th-fewest yards on the 21st-fewest plays, giving the defense the 12th-lowest ranking in opponent yards per play at 5.39. That's an improvement over last week's 16th ranking and right in line with 2019's 13th-ranked defense which allowed 5.36 yards per play. More games against Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, please.
The Chiefs turned the ball over again in Week 4 on a Sammy Watkins fumble, but still rank second in the NFL in total giveaways with two fumbles, which aligns them closely with last season's offensive rank of third. They continue to be incredibly effective at limiting their turnovers so far in 2020.
The defense made massive strides in the takeaway department in Week 4 with three interceptions and a fumble recovery against the New England Patriots, ranking them fifth in the NFL with seven takeaways. They were 18th through last week but had a standout performance on Fake Monday Night Football. They finished last season as the tenth-best team in that department, and it's anyone's guess how teams are supposed to hang with the high-flying Chiefs offense if the defense continues to be able to take the ball away at a top-five clip.
The Chiefs are currently right in the middle of the pack with their number of penalties, ranking 15th with 22 penalties through four weeks. They were ranked 16th last week and finished 2019 in the middle as well, with the 15th-fewest penalties, so they aren't committing any more fouls per game than they were last season.
The 2020 Chiefs have continued their run of avoiding back-breaking penalties in the yardage department, where their 171 yards of penalties through four weeks ranks as the 15th-fewest in the NFL. Last season, the Chiefs tended to commit more of the high-yardage penalties, ranking 26th in total penalty yards. They were up as high as 12th through last week, but in general, this has been an area of improvement for the team so far this season.
The Chiefs maintained their top ranking on third-down conversions despite going only 4-for-11 against New England, still ranking first in the NFL with a 53.8% conversion rate on the year. They finished last season in first place with a 47.6% conversion rate. Clearly, Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid have as good of a grip on third-down play-calling as anyone in football.
The defense has been no slouch on third-down rate either, ranking 11th-best in the league with a 40.4% conversion rate so far in 2020, up from 13th through three weeks. Last year saw the Chiefs finish 11th in that category as well with 37.1%, so they have kept that momentum going so far through three weeks.
The Chiefs continue to be the most consistent team in the NFL compared to last season's rankings in these categories. Of these 10 metrics (points for, points against, yards per play, yards per play allowed, giveaways, takeaways, penalties, penalty yards, third-down conversion percentage, and defensive third-down conversion percentage) the Chiefs are only different than their 2019 counterparts by 30 total ranking spots, the best mark in the NFL by 15. Consistency doesn't always lead to success, as the second-most-consistent Detroit Lions and their 1-3 record would attest to, and inconsistency doesn't always lead to failure, as the least-consistent Indianapolis Colts and their 3-1 record reflects. But when a team won the Super Bowl and then starts the next season as the most consistent team in football, consistency is a welcomed sign.