Dec 18, 2018
Dec 18, 2018

NFL Week 16 preview: Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks

Where will the Chiefs finish this season?

Seahawks’ route to the play-offs

Utilising home field advantage

Analysing the Seattle Seahawks

NFL Week 16 preview: Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks

The Kansas City Chiefs take on the Seattle Seahawks in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Looking for value in the NFL Week 16 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 16 predictions.

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Where will the Chiefs finish this season?

Kansas City have held a tight grip on the AFC West title race throughout most of the regular season. They raced to a 5-0 start before a narrow three-point defeat in New England halted their perfect start.

They arrived at week 15’s divisional showdown with the LA Chargers having lost just once more, another narrow defeat in a 105 total points extravaganza against the Rams.

But a last second defeat at the hands of Philip Rivers’ Chargers has seen their chances of lifting the AFC West fall below 75% for the first time since the beginning of October and with just two games remaining, the Chiefs have no room for further losses.

Defeat to the Chargers by a single point also illustrates the influence that an analytically driven approach may be having in the modern NFL.

In electing to attempt a two-point conversion with only seconds left on the clock, rather than taking the game to overtime by kicking the more common one-point conversion, the Chargers were taking the route that marginally gave them a better chance of victory.

Although two pointers are only converted around 48% of the time compared to 94% for one pointers, the Chargers would have needed to be considered marginal favourites beat the home town Chiefs if the game had progressed to overtime before the single point attempt became the preferred option.

In sport, as in betting, a long-term approach is needed when weighing up risk and reward.

It is not only mere AFC West bragging rights that are up for grabs in the final two matches.

The AFC West runner up will fall from likely number one seed to fifth seed, involving an extra post season game possibly in either New England or Pittsburgh.

Kansas City ends the regular season by entertaining Oakland, where they will be favoured by around two touchdowns, so this week’s trip to Seattle is easily the most difficult of their two remaining matches.

Seahawks’ route to the play-offs

Seattle is in a much more straightforward post season scenario.

Divisional rivals the LA Rams have already secured the NFC West title, leaving Seattle with just the wildcard route to post season football.

The Seahawks are currently seeded 5th and have a greater than 90% chance of retaining a post season slot.

Defeat to the Chargers by a single point also illustrates the influence that an analytically driven approach may be having in the modern NFL.

A win over Kansas City wouldn’t guarantee their chances became a certainty, they require losses elsewhere to lock in a playoff spot ahead of the final week. But it would take a lot of improbable outcomes for them to miss out entirely.

Even two losses to end the season would still give the Seahawks a slightly better than even chance of playing football in January.

Utilising home field advantage

What does seem assured is that Seattle won’t be able to rely on their famous 12th man home field advantage in the playoffs, the only scenario allowing them a home playoff game would be if they secured 5th seeding and the 6th seed then faced off against them in the Championship game.

However, their home field advantage appears to have waned in recent years. After going 34-6 at home in the regular season between 2012 and 2016, Seattle are a more modest 8-6 since.

I’ve previously written about the immediate rewards Kansas City has reaped by elevating Patrick Mahomes above Alex Smith at the quarterback position.

They have developed from post season regulars, who perhaps lacked the explosive offensive threat to prosper in the playoffs to a side that are to be feared in January and February.

Mahomes has impressed all season. He is throwing an average of almost two yards per attempt further than opposing defences are allowing in 2018 and this is very nearly uncharted territory over an entire season.

He’s the number one passer, but the Chiefs are far from being just a one-dimensional offence. The running game is also above average, culminating in a scoring rate that has out-stripped the par concession rate of their opponents by a massive 12 points per game.

Unsurprisingly, they don’t excel on the defensive side of the ball. The running defence is amongst the worst in the league, allowing half a yard more per carry than the opposing offences typically gain.

They do break even in how efficiently they defend the pass, which makes it extremely difficult to keep up with the Chiefs on the scoreboard.

Analysing the Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is a very good offence in comparison to the rest of the league. They are comfortably above average both through the air and on the ground, scoring two points per game more than opposing defences have allowed on average.

But they are still only a top ten offence taking on the best.

Defensively, Seattle aren’t very impressive in efficiency terms. They drop below par restricting yardage both on the ground and in the air, but they have managed to keep points off the scoreboard.

Although, the latter may be unsustainable if the former persists.

The defence performs better by almost a field goal compared to the average points scored by the sides they have faced.

Overall, for all of Kansas’ offensive dominance, the game day match ups gradually whittle away that advantage.

In sport, as in betting, a long-term approach is needed when weighing up risk and reward.

The Chiefs’ positive 12 points per game offensive advantage is reduced by three by Seattle’s, bend but don’t break defence.

Seattle’s offensive matchup with Kansas’ defence adds another net five points to the host’s ledger. And finally, a generic home field advantage of three points makes KC just a slender one point favourite on the road.

Mixed motivations may further muddy the waters, but Seattle, with an anticipated start of around three points is the marginally preferred call…just as the Chargers two-point conversion was in week 15.

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