The Game Changers

The Buffalo Bills roll into town on Sunday, for the third home AFC Championship in a row. It’s the 4th quarter, the game is on the line, who do you want to have their hands on the ball (apart from Patrick Mahomes!). Before we dive back into the analytics to see who has made the plays that changed games over the course of the season, a quick refresher on terminology .

Success Rate

On 1st down–a gain of 4 or more yards;

On 2nd down–a gain that at least halved the distance to go;

On 3rd down–a conversion for a new set of downs.

Seems reasonable doesn’t it? NFL Stats also has another couple of interesting numbers.

Expected Points Added (EPA) is how many more points you should expect to get after the result of a particular play. If it’s 1st and 10 at your own 25 and you have a 3 yard run, you aren’t that much more likely to add points from this drive so your EPA doesn’t go up much. If it’s 1st and 10 at the opposition 45 and you pass for 40 yards then your chances of scoring go up significantly and your EPA jumps quite a bit.

Win Probability Added (WPA) is how much more or less likely you are to win the game after the result of a particular play.

Rushing

There is a clear leader in success rate, yards per carry and win probability added (WPA) when it comes to the Chiefs rushing the ball. Unfortunately you can’t hand the ball off to Tyreek Hill 20 times a game so let’s just look at the running backs for the purpose of this.

Interestingly there is a clear leader in all three of those categories and it is the current RB1 in Darrell Williams.

Williams has the best Expected Points Added (EPA), Win Probability Added (WPA), Success rate and YPC of all the Chiefs running backs. He’s the only back that had a positive impact on Win Probability. Overall though, while running the ball is helpful for balance, it’s usually not a huge influencing factor on the result of the game.

Recieving

That’s not Travis Kelce in the picture! Tyreek Hill? Nope, not him either. It’s a relatively small sample size by Byron Pringle has quietly been a very effective piece of the Chiefs receiving corps. Could he take Sammy Watkins snaps next season if Watkins leaves in Free Agency? Personally, I hope so. The best catch success rate, WPA and EPA, he has turned into a reliable possession receiver. Just what we’ve had from Watkins (when healthy)

Mecole Hardman makes things happen, manufacturing ways to get him the ball has been a very effective strategy. Hill and Kelce are the workhorses though, I’d find it very hard to say I’d rather have the ball in anyone else’s hands. But please, please, don’t throw to Yelder or Keizer. Bad things happen when TE2 and TE3 get the ball.

Defence

Remember the Super Bowl last year? 4th quarter, Chiefs just scored, 49ers have the ball. Who came up big with a couple of huge passes batted down? Chris Jones. Who frequently destroys plays? Chris Jones. There’s good reason why the Chiefs gave him a massive contract. He changes games for the better.

Eh? I’m sure nobody is surprised about Jones, but who is that at No 2 on the list? Willie Gay! Win Probability takes into account down and distance but also time remaining and score. Willie Gay hasn’t made a huge amount of plays but he’s made them when it matters. The future looks bright there! Frank Clarke at No3? But he’s been anonymous this season hasn’t he? No, he ranks as our 5th best run defender and 6th best pass defender.

Surprising to see Honey Badger down the list that far. He’s made big plays but they’ve usually been too early in the game to have a large bearing on the result. Having an interception at the start of the second half isn’t quite as impactful as having one at the end of it.

Shout out to L’Jarius Sneed as well he’s been a phenomenal 4th round pick for us. Between Sneed and Gay, with Danna and Wharton thrown in the mix, there’s a very good looking young group that can develop together.

Overall, I think we can be confident that the Chiefs have enough playmakers on both sides of the ball, they just have to go out on Sunday and execute.

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