In this weekend’s Chargers-Chiefs game, the Chargers had the ball deep in Chiefs’ territory and made what seemed a fatal error: they scored. That feels crazy to say, right; scoring with only 30 seconds left feels dangerous. But that is the legend of Patrick Mahomes; you don’t feel like you’ve won till the clock hits 00:00.
The Chargers missed the point after taking a 30-24 lead, and the stage felt set for a miraculous comeback. If the Chiefs won this game, it would be a new addition to the pantheon of Mahomes, part of a reel that would play when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
But the clock hit 00:00, and the Chiefs had not scored; the Chargers had won at Arrowhead, dropping the Chiefs to 1-2 and last in the AFC West. This turn of events, however shocking, should not be a cause for alarm for Chiefs fans, and here’s why.
In the first place of the AFC West are the Las Vegas Raiders, sitting at 3-0. So far through the season, the Raiders have looked solid, boasting wins over the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Miami Dolphins. However, I think that the Raiders are worse than their record indicates.
They needed overtime in their games against the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins, overcoming 14 point deficits each time. In both games, the Raiders gave the opposing team a chance to win by allowing them a chance at a game-winning touchdown.
In a parallel universe, their record could legitimately be 1-2 or 2-1 instead of 3-0. But we don’t live in a parallel universe; we live in this one. So how do the Raiders proceed as we advance?
According to 538’s QB Elo model, the Raiders will likely go 10-7 this season with a 63% chance of making the playoffs. That is almost precisely where the Chiefs are, 10-7 and a 62% chance of making the playoffs with one noticeable exception. Vegas is expected to have a point margin of +26, while the Chiefs should have one around +68.
I think that this is a good sign for Chiefs fans. 538 anticipates the Chiefs still having the better squad and being able to dig themselves out of the hole they have dug themselves into.
Currently sitting at second place are the Denver Broncos, who are also 3-0 (they lose the tiebreaker by having fewer conference wins than the Raiders). To me, the Broncos seem like the easier team for the Chiefs to pass.
Though the Broncos boast a +50 point differential, it is essential to look at their opponents to see how they acquired it. They defeated the two New York squads, a combined 53-14 and the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-13. Those three teams have a combined record of 0-9.
The Broncos will continue to have a good defense, but as they play better teams, you will see Denver allow more points and score fewer points.
The Broncos’ next four opponents are the Ravens, the Steelers, the Raiders, and the Browns. If they are still undefeated and have maintained a point differential of +50, then the Chiefs should be worried (as should the rest of the league).
In third are the Chargers, with a 2-1 record and the head-to-head advantage over the Chiefs. Discarding the Broncos (as I said before, they are inflated due to their ease of schedule thus far), the Chargers have the best defense in the AFC West, according to Lineups.com. And, after the Chiefs, the Chargers rank second offensively, according to Lineups.com.
I think that the Chargers are going to be the most challenging team for the Chiefs to surpass. The Chargers have the head-to-head win, and they got it on the road. That means the Chiefs will have to beat them on the road or fall behind by two whole games.
But, as I’ll get to in the next part, that isn’t a huge problem either.
Breaking down the Ravens and the Chargers
The fact that the Chiefs are down 1-2 seems terrible at first, but looking closer isn’t that bad.
For one, the Ravens game against the Chiefs could have easily been a win for the Chiefs. Had CEH simply not fumbled the ball, the Chiefs can easily kick a game-winning field goal.
In the Chargers game, I think you find the same thing; there was an outlier that kept the game much closer than it would have otherwise been. Much like the Cowboys Buccaneers game, there was an incredible turnover disparity that kept the game close. I think the same thing happened here.
Mahomes threw a no-look interception early on in the game that cost the Chiefs a touchdown. It wasn’t even a bad throw; it just bounced off the receiver and into the hands of a defender.
The Chiefs also had two fumbles, one on the Chargers 29 and one on the Chargers 14. A worst-case scenario is that those two drives turn into 6 points, but I think that it is more likely they turn into 10 points.
The final Chiefs turnover was an interception on 3rd and eight that chalks up to an arm punt.
Counting that game against the Chargers, Mahomes has only had five games where he has thrown 2+ interceptions. So I don’t see that kind of turnover disparity being something that happens again. So in both cases, I think the Chiefs could have easily won the game.
I am not at all worried, and neither should Chiefs fans.
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