We already know the reasons the Seattle Seahawks will win it all. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks.
- Revitalized run game
- Elite quarterback
- Elite pass rush
- Elite run defense
- The other three NFC defenses are underwhelming-to-lousy
- Experience in big games
- Comparatively healthy if you don’t count Earl (but you gotta count Earl)
Those are good reasons. Damn, I might even change my mind... but no. We already know the Hawks won’t win it all, most likely. We know that, right? Somewhere between the cracks of our confidence, reality seeps in, icy and unforgiving. The insulation of fandom only goes so far. There are eight teams, one of them will hoist the trophy, and the odds say it’s going to be the field and not Seattle.
We can blame it on their point-making inconsistency, especially on the road.
Home points scored: 40, 37, 31, 31, 26, 26, 26, 24, 12
Road points scored: 31, 27, 25, 20, 10, 6, 5, 3
Tomorrow’s game is... not at home.
Since Seattle has no cakehawk (note: aww yeahh) to the Super Bowl, and isn’t even the favorite, who should be?
The Chiefs, that’s who. Six reasons follow.
Started with this one because nobody ever does. It’s always the same routine when some paid analyst assesses a team:
“How good’s the QB?”
“They do anything really well on offense?”
“They do anything really well on defense?”
“How about the coaching, how’s that going for them?”
“Anyone significant hurt?”
/somebody brings up “momentum”
/second somebody laughs at the first somebody
“Hey, how about their special teams?”
In the Chiefs’ case, their special teams are speCial, with a capital C because there is nothing to stop me except good taste.
Footballoutsiders ranks them No. 2 in DVOA, both weighted and overall. We’ll get to Tyreek Hill. But first:
Punter Dustin Colquitt is middle-of-the-road in yards and net yards, but in the areas it matters more, he’s better. No blocks, second in punts inside the 20, and his coverage allows only 5.2 yards per return.
Kicker Cairo Santos is at 89 percent on field goals and 92 percent on extra points. His accuracy does not change the farther the kick goes. He makes approximately 9 out of ten kicks no matter where the ball is placed.
To the fast guy, at long last. You know Tyreek Hill is good. You saw this happen, because everyone saw this happen:
Hill’s return averages are 27.1 and 15.2; fourth and second in the league respectively. It’s no wonder he’s the first-team All-Pro returner. 53 touches on kicks in fourth in the league, so that means he’ll get three or four chances a game to work magic.
Thanks in large part to Hill, the Chiefs enjoy a ten-yard punt return differential. Think about that. Every time they punt and the other team punts too, the field shifts 10 yards in the Chiefs’ favor.
Those aren’t hidden yards -- they’re screw-you yards.
You might believe the Chiefs don’t do anything particularly well. They have Alex Smith at the helm, no stars besides Travis Kelce and Eric Berry and maybe Justin Houston, and their defense has a decent reputation. Well, the counterpoint is that they don’t do anything particularly badly.
They might not scare anyone on offense overall, but Tyreek Hill also has nine offensive touchdowns, six through the air and three on the ground. Travis Kelce is still capable, at any time, of
The KC offensive line is 17th in run blocking and 14th in adjusted sack rate, again according to FO’s stats. They’re league average; the Chiefs won’t lose because of them. (An underrated feeling, right?)
Meanwhile, Alex Smith is a consistent machine of consistency.
His ANYA+ is 102 over the last three years after seasons of 101, 104, 102.
His passer rating+ is 106 over the last three years after seasons of 109, 107 and 102.
His interception %+ is 116 over the last three years. He doesn’t make many mistakes.
In fact, he’s only thrown one interception in five playoff games (against 11 touchdowns!) so he doesn’t get rattled once the stakes rise. Alex Smith was good enough to get the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2011, even if he didn’t actually get them there; not his fault his teammate fumbled two punt returns, gifting the conference title to the Giants.
And if you’re good enough to get to the Super Bowl, you’re good enough to win it.
Overall, it’s not obvious that KC ever plays all that poorly in the “main” phases. The’re 14th in weighted DVOA for defense, 10th in weighted offense.
The thing is, each team enters the playoffs with flaws. In a three-game parlay that hinges on taking advantage of bad matchups, and getting big plays at the right time, and getting bounces at the right time, I see no reason to choose another team over the Chiefs.
KC has proven that their flaws are less easily exploited, their play-making ability is real, and the bounces are just gonna bounce the way they bounce. Why not their way?
Chiefs will be seeing three elite quarterbacks on their way to the Lombardi. Roethlisberger, Brady, and Prescott/Rodgers/Ryan/Wilson. Whereas every quarterback deals with pressure differently, one truism holds: if you get in a QB’s face more often, he’s more likely to make a mistake. If you actually sack him, that prevents him from throwing the ball forward. (I know!)
OLB Dee Ford has ten sacks. Justin Houston has four — in just five games. That’s a 13-sack pace for a full season. And now that Houston is probable for Sunday, the Chiefs can come at you with two elite pass rushers.
Pressure matters! I mean, what if the Seahawks were lucky enough to have two or more disruptive pass rushers? But now I disgress and give away the reason Seattle will reach the NFCCG.
Everyone knows that turnovers are in part dependent on chance. Oblong footballs are going to take unpredictable bounces when they hit the turf, and even interceptions are luck-driven to an extent.
But maybe the Chiefs are swarmers who conjure up interceptions like the 2013 Hawks did, and who pursue fumbles with that extra one percent of effort, which makes all the difference?
KC’s recent turnover stats:
2015: +14, 2nd
2016: +16, t-1st
We saw the Seahawks go on a similar ballhawking run once...
2012: +13, t-5th
2013: +20, 1st
Coaching is good on KC’s sideline. Maybe great. Andy Reid has his foibles, like any leader, but he guided the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games. Four! The Niners only made three consecutive NFCCG this decade under Jim Harbaugh, the Seahawks only two straight under Pete Carroll.
Reid’s Eagles reached the playoffs nine times in 14 years.
Reid’s Chiefs are 43-21 (.672) over the last four years.
He’s a winner.
Lastly, to pivot entirely away from stats, there is sentiment
The Patriots and Steelers have both won too many rings.
The Packers and Cowboys are league bluebloods with titles strewn across the decades.
The Texans and Falcons will be eliminated by Monday.
You can’t count on the Seahawks to win two games in a row, let alone four.
So if you’re looking for a realistic but sentimental choice, it’s the Chiefs. They haven’t celebrated an NFL championship since Super Bowl IV, 47 years and two days ago. And 2016-17 has been the year of the unexpected victory. IN SPORTS I MEAN. The Cavs and Cubs already made it so. Chiefs would make it 3 long-suffering C-titled teams in sequence, across the three major sports. Illuminati confirmed, if you ask me.
/cue X-Files theme
Remember when the 2013 Seahawks were the cuddly yet somehow ferocious underdog, the sentimental upstart favorites, the disestablishmentarians to Peyton’s divine right of Mannings?
The Chiefs can be the new Seahawks. Put aside your lingering AFC West trauma and embrace them, because if it’s not going to be the Hawks, is there a better choice?
NFC Divisional Round
Seattle 35, Atlanta 32 (OT)
Dallas 41, Green Bay 37
AFC Divisional Round
New England 38, Houston 7
Kansas City 33, Pittsburgh 31
Dallas 28, Seattle 19
Kansas City 29, New England 27
Kansas City 30, Dallas 20