New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. "The Week in Overreactions" focuses on the latter. Those items that offer a cursory "How do you do?" as they blow past reality straight for THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! We're here to keep everything in perspective. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.
'The Chiefs can win the division!'
The argument we're about to make is all about expectations.
A year ago, the Chiefs were 1-5, headed due south on their way to 2-14. On Sunday, this team won its sixth straight, a dominating effort over an outmanned Raiders team, and that old cliché about a change of scenery helping to jump-start a stagnant career continues to hold true for coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. Both were run out of their respective towns and arrived in Kansas City looking to prove their doubters wrong. So far, so good.
And unlike those Andy Reid teams we remember during his tenure in Philly, the Chiefs are built around a dominating defense and a solid running game. The former is the best in the league, according to Football Outsiders, the latter ranks sixth. (By comparison, the 2012 Chiefs' defense ranked 30th, the offense 31st. So, yeah, progress.)
So what does this white-hot start over the first month and a half of the season mean for the next 10 weeks?
Take a look at whom the Chiefs have beaten and you reflexively temper the long-term expectations. The Jaguars, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Titans and Raiders are a combined 11-25. Yes, we know, six of those 25 losses were at the hands of the Chiefs. Discounting those Kansas City wins, the collective record is 11-19 and the winning percentage rises from .306 to .367. That's still awful.
Either way, there are inherent biases with just looking at game played and making grand proclamations about their underlying meaning (the guys at Arrowhead Pride address some of them here). But there's also something instructive from looking at where a team's been and where it's going. Don't forget, the 2010 Chiefs went 10-6 and won the division, and did it largely thanks to the NFL's third-easiest schedule.
This isn't us taking downplaying what the Chiefs have accomplished, just an acknowledgement that sometimes luck plays a non-trivial role in success. Good teams capitalize, bad teams don't. The 2013 Chiefs are a good team.
But how good?
Honestly, we may not really know until Nov. 17, when they travel to Denver to face the Broncos. Their next three opponents: vs. Houston, vs. Cleveland and at Buffalo. It's realistic to think that Kansas City will head into their Week 10 bye at 9-0.
(That said, this week's Texans' game is screaming "TRAP GAME!" We know, we know, leaning on the "trap game" crutch is the laziest form of journalism, and we hesitate to do it for just that reason. But we're convinced the Texans finally hit rock bottom Sunday after two weeks of thinking they had already arrived. There's nowhere to go but up, and they'll likely take the field without quarterback Matt Schaub, who has been opposing teams' best offensive weapon all season. There's also the "Who knows what the hell will happen?" factor should Texans coach Gary Kubiak decide to start Case Keenum, the fan favorite, primarily because they have yet to see him play.)
All this means that the Chiefs will have two weeks to prepare for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Then it's San Diego, Denver again, at Washington, at Oakland, Indianapolis before they finish at San Diego.
Even if you concede that Kansas City has had a cakewalk to this point, there's no denying that things get substantially tougher from here on out. To put numbers to gut feelings, Football Outsiders ranks the Chiefs' schedule to date as the easiest in the league. The next 10 games? The schedule ranks sixth.
But here's the other side of the argument, the one you rarely hear when the goal (perceived or otherwise) is to show that the upstarts don't yet to deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the established winners. Consider these numbers: 30th, 28th, 29th and 24th. Those are the strength of schedules through six games for the Broncos, Seahawks, Colts and Saints. The Chiefs aren't the only good team to benefit from facing lackluster opponents early.
The difference: The rest-of-season schedule ranks for those same teams: 25th, 32nd, 24th and third.
Looking ahead, only the Saints, at least on paper, have the a harder schedule than the Chiefs. Those four teams are also the heavy favorites to win their respective divisions.
Which brings us back to the Chiefs.
Can they unseat the Broncos, one of the most explosive offenses in recent NFL history, a team that also gets back this week its best defender, linebacker Von Miller?
Unlike the 2010 Chiefs, which truly did benefit from a soft schedule, this team is legit (by the time it was over, the '10 team ranked 17th in team efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, just ahead of a 6-10 Lions team). Not only is the defense the best in the league, it also ranks first against the pass. This should come in handy against Peyton Manning, whom you may have heard has a fondness for throwing the ball.
Two more reasons for optimism:
Just how good is Justin Houston playing right now? I compare his skill set and overall play to Lamarr Woodley when he was at his best— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) October 14, 2013
And it's not just the Chiefs' front seven. The secondary has been dominant, too.
Give the Chiefs secondary credit...every single one of Terelle Pryor's 10 sacks came with more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) October 14, 2013
First-year defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who arrived in KC from the Jets, deserves a ton of credit. He has virtually the same players that constituted one of the worst defenses a year ago and turned them into a tenacious, sack-happy, ball-hawking unit.
Whether this, and the rejuvenated careers of Andy Reid and Alex Smith, means the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the NFL is another question. We remain convinced that the Broncos are the team to beat in the AFC West because of Manning and his merry band of playmakers, and also because Miller can be a disruptive force on defense.
But, hey, like Bill Parcells says: You are what your record says you are. And heading into Week 7, the Chiefs are 6-0, one of only two teams that can say that. It just so happens that the other team is in their division.
'Yep, this Saints' D looks familiar'
It is wholly unfair to judge the fantastic job Rob Ryan has done as the Saints' defensive coordinator based on the most Tom Brady play ever, the last second "There's no way he makes that throw -- HE JUST MADE THAT THROW!" game-winning touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins.
Coming into the game, the Patriots' offense had looked ... well, like crap, which had everything to do with Brady playing pitch and catch with a bunch of young, inexperienced players and none of his top five receivers from last season, including Rob Gronkowski. The Saints, meanwhile, came to Foxboro ranked fourth in pass defense, a year after they ranked 28th. Put another way: Once you get past the bluster, Ryan knows what he's doing.
Even on that last, fateful play Brady had to make a perfect throw. NBC NFL analyst Tony Dungy complained Sunday after the game that the Saints' cornerbacks were playing off-coverage at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Patriots receivers free releases. Despite the four defensive backs in zone coverage at the goal line, it effectively meant Jabari Greer was in single coverage against Thompkins (which you can see below, on the left side of the screen shot).
Even still, look at the catch Thompkins had to make. It's absurd.
Maybe press coverage would've made a difference. Maybe it would have allowed another player to come open. Either way, the Patriots could run that play until the sun runs out of hydrogen and Brady might never again complete that throw to Thompkins.
Still not convinced? Via AdvancedNFLStats.com's win probability calculator, the Patriots trailed by one point with 2:50 to go, and faced a fourth-and-6 from their own 24-yard line. The chance of converting the first down: 3 percent. The chance of winning: 15 percent.
Brady ended up throwing an incompletion, but the Saints' offense went uncharacteristically conservative, the Pats' defense stiffened, and New England got the ball back. By the time Brady had driven the Pats to the 17-yard line with 10 seconds to go, their win probability had sky-rocketed to 92 percent. Put differently: This isn't on Ryan.
Jets coach Rex Ryan, Rob's twin brother, said as much Monday, pointing out that the armchair coaches second-guessing Rob are the same doofuses who were panning Brady right up till the moment Thompkins hauled in the throw.
"[It] is the only insight you're going to get from the so-called experts that I've seen get crushed by [Brady]," Rex said Monday. "Now they're going to make that call? Yeah, right. I'd put my chances with a Ryan over somebody else."
Maybe the bigger story is how the Pats' defense shut down Drew Brees, who finished 17 of 36 for 236 yards, with 2 touchdowns and an interception. New England pressed everybody, stuck their most physical cornerback, Aqib Talib, on tight end Jimmy Graham, and Brees looked as indecisive as we've ever seen him.
The good news is that he's Drew Brees. It'll take more than a week's worth of wrinkles to throw him off his game. The other good news is that Rob Ryan's defense, unlike the recent Saints' defenses, isn't a liability. As Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau likes to say, "Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you."
On Sunday, on the most important play of the game, the bear shredded the Saints' D. It happens.
Silver lining: Turns out, Rob Ryan is Kenny Powers. So there's that.
OK fine. Correction: Rob Ryan was Kenny Powers when he was the linebackers coach in New England. pic.twitter.com/GNSBM2CB61— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) October 13, 2013