With a victory at Denver in two weeks, the Chiefs should gain enough favor with the voters and computer polls to make a big move in the … oh, wait a sec. Wrong game, as quarterback Alex Smith reminded.
“There is a system in place in the NFL to find out who is the best, and it is the 16-game season and then it is the playoffs,” Smith said.
And not the Bowl Championship Series, although Smith is a bit familiar with college football’s inner workings, having led Urban Meyer’s Utah team to an undefeated regular season in 2004 and having no shot of playing for the national championship because three higher-profile teams — Southern California, Oklahoma and Auburn — also rolled through the season with perfect records.
But in the NFL, things get settled on the field, which is why Smith and other Chiefs players and coaches don’t see much use in getting worked up in public by the perception that their 9-0 record is house-of-cards thin, built on a steady stream of weaker opponents and backup quarterbacks.
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Worst 9-0 team in NFL history, heard that one?
If Smith has, he looks the other way.
“You keep your nose down and you keep doing what you’ve been doing and you don’t listen to any of the stuff,” Smith said.
Besides, statistically there’s nothing to it. Adding the final major offensive and defensive statistics for the 19 teams in the Super Bowl era that started 9-0, the Chiefs’ average ranking in those categories is 10.2, bolstered by an NFL-best scoring defense.
Four teams that went on to records of 12-4 or better, including the 2003 Chiefs, had a worse average rating in the same categories.
Again, so what?
“It doesn’t matter who it is or what anybody is saying,” defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. “There are always going to be people who doubt you.”
The skepticism is rooted largely in an offense that ranks 25th in yards per game, and only one victory against a team that currently owns a winning record: Dallas, which is 5-4.
The Broncos are 7-1 and have defeated one team with a winning record. Yup, the Cowboys. Denver’s loss came at 6-2 Indianapolis. And that won’t change no matter what happens Sunday when the Broncos visit 4-4 San Diego.
Denver came into the season highly regarded with quarterback Peyton Manning; the Chiefs were billed as an improved team under Andy Reid and Smith. But nobody envisioned this start, which may make it challenging to accept the Chiefs as a power team when held up against the Broncos or Seahawks, who lead the NFC at 8-1.
But it’s beyond the obvious where the Chiefs have thrived, leading the NFL in turnover margin at plus-15 and ranking among the NFL’s best in total special teams, which leads to such advantages as the league’s best average starting field position on defense, the 23-yard line.
That’s why Reid made sure to mention kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt early after the Chiefs beat the Bills 23-13 on Sunday despite being outgained 470-210.
“The kickers allow us to have great field position, to start on defense,” Reid said. “They’ve doing a nice job making teams drive a long field.”
There have also been six defensive touchdowns. Sean Smith had a 100-yard interception return, and Tamba Hali returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Bills.
And the Chiefs are performing exceptionally well in the fourth quarter, outscoring teams 70-17.
It adds up to winning football, the best record in the league — even if some think they are football’s worst 9-0 team.
“All the talk is just talk,” Smith said. “It’s pointless in my mind.”