Notebook: 2018 Chiefs schedule may be more difficult than it appears

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s 2018 schedule ranks as either the 14th easiest or the 10th most difficult based on last season’s results, depending upon on the choice of measurement.

Opponents on the Chiefs’ 2018 schedule compiled a .492 winning percentage during the 2017 season. That ranks as the 19th most difficult in the league.

But the number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight.com point out that pure winning percentage often fares as a poor indicator of outcomes for the following season. Instead, “expected wins” based on points scored and points allowed fares as a much better measure of a schedule’s strength.

The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens both ranked among the top five teams in the league in 2017 calculating their expected wins based on scoring margins versus their actual win totals. (Photo courtesy ClevelandBrowns.com)

The difficulty of the Chiefs’ schedule climbs using that formula. Opponents on the 2018 schedule have an adjusted winning percentage of .510. That raises the Chiefs to the 10th most difficult schedule.

Part of that increased difficulty owes to the fact that the Chiefs play three of the five teams with the greatest increase in expected wins from their actual win totals. Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Baltimore all expected at least 1.4 more wins based on their scoring margins.

The Chiefs also play two of the four teams whose expected wins dropped the most from their actual wins. Pittsburgh ranked second in that group with Arizona fourth.

Time to rest

Last year’s Chiefs schedule proved noteworthy for its irregularities and short weeks. But the 2018 schedule appears much more conventional with time for rest, despite five primetime games scheduled.

The Chiefs play just twice on a short week. The first comes in Week 5, when the Chiefs host Jacksonville six days after their Monday night trip to Denver. The second occurs in Week 15 when the Chiefs host the Chargers four days after meeting Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Week 12 bye comes at a fortuitous time for the Chiefs. The bye follows their Week 11 trip to Mexico against the Los Angeles Rams. That gives the Chiefs a full 12 days of rest before their Week 13 road trip to Oakland.

Thanks to the Week 15 Thursday night contest against the Chargers, the Chiefs have nine full days of rest before traveling to Seattle in Week 16.

The Week 12 bye means the Chiefs have the Thanksgiving holiday off for a change. But it also gives the Chiefs a respite before finishing up with three of their last five games at home. The only drawback is that the two road games are trips to the West Coast. But the late season bye, particularly before a Week 13 road trip to Oakland, should prove beneficial for the Chiefs.

Flex scheduling

The NFL expanded flex scheduling this season to include Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16, albeit with a twist. The league predetermined four games for scheduling on Saturday in Week 16, with two played on Saturday and the other two on Sunday. Kickoff times will be determined in Week 8, but the Chiefs are not included in the group of games selected.

The Chiefs could find themselves subject to flex scheduling on Sundays, however. The league can switch start times for two Sunday games between Weeks 5 to 10 to spotlight more competitive games. Sunday games during Weeks 11-17 can also flex. The league won’t choose a Sunday night game for Week 17 until one week before the game.

The Chiefs Week 6 games at New England could flex, but that seems doubtful unless one of the teams stubs its toe badly in the first month of the season. But Kansas City’s Week 16 game at Seattle could find itself flexed from the Sunday night kickoff if the game doesn’t have playoff implications for either team.

The likelihood of Kansas City picking up a sixth primetime game late in the season appear remote. Only three of the team’s Sunday afternoon kickoffs stand eligible to flex to Sunday night. Those games include the Week 13 trip to Oakland, Week 14 against Baltimore and Week 17 against the Raiders. However, the Raiders host the Steelers on Sunday night in Week 14, which makes Oakland appearing in back-to-back weeks unlikely. Chiefs-Raiders in Week 17 on Sunday night would only happen if the AFC West title hang in the balance between the two teams. The Week 14 contest against Baltimore appears the most likely to move, but other divisional matchups that week sseem more likely if the Steelers-Raiders game loses its luster.

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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