Since my computer blew up and the replacement has yet to come in, this article comes to you by way of a public library computer. That means slow connections and time limits. And a shorter version of my Got Numbers? weekly preview. It also means I won't be able to comment on this DBN until Monday and cannot edit this story, like I usually do. (I can read DBN from my phone, but I haven't successfully posted from it). So, sorry for any typos, spelling mistakes or blatant errors or omissions.
Not that anyone will mind. This week's game features two terrible teams with a combined record of 5-21 this season and 6-26 last year. And very, very few people will even know it is going on. It is blacked out in Kansas City. And it won't be shown in most of Ohio. These two proud franchises and fan bases now have little to cheer for and struggle to make their way to the games.
The Browns are coming off their second win of the season and have played, generally, better football since the bye week. But, let's see just how ugly we can expect this game to be.
As always, all DVOA, DYAR and sack rate numbers are thanks to Football Outsiders.
When the Chiefs have the ball:
Kansas City's offense is bad. They rank 32nd (yes, that's last) in the league in weighted DVOA for offensive efficiency (-28.4%). That means they don't pass well (28th, -23.5%), don't run well (32nd, -14.9%) and have been even worse lately because the weighted stats weight the most recent games more than earlier games in the year. The Browns defense has had borderline great games (Steelers II, Ravens II, Bengals I, Bengals II, Bills) and flat out disgustingly bad games (San Diego, Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay). Some of that is due to injuries, but some is just plain confusing. After dominating the Steelers in the wind and cold last week, the Browns rank 30th in weighted DVOA (up from 32nd). The Browns are 31st against the pass and 27th against the run in DVOA.
Kansas City's passing game is "lead" by Matt Cassel. Cassel has had an awful season. He has been less valuable overall this season than every quarterback with at least 100 passes, except Jamarcus Russel. That's right. Cassel has less total value than Derek Anderson in DYAR this season (-639 for Cassell, -406 for DA). On a per play basis, it is a little better, he is 39th of 44 qualifying QBs (-34.4% DVOA). Still, that's really, really, really bad. And while they haven't played the whole season (because they were midseason acquistions or injured) the Chiefs are not without decent receivers. Both Chris Chambers (-3.7%) and Dwayne Bowe(-3.0%) are right around league average on a per play basis. Though their "other" WRs kind of stink (Mark Bradley -38.8% DVOA and just a 40% catch rate; Bobby Wade, -26.8% DVOA). And they dearly miss Tony Gonzalez. Their best TEs, Leonard Pope and Sean Ryan have been non-factors. This is good news for the Browns because they remain the worst team in the league at defending passes to TEs. Part of the Chiefs problem is protecting the QB. They rank near the bottom of the league, allowing 40 sacks, about 9% of all their drop backs. And if the Browns can build on success in rushing the passer from last Thursday, this could be a big part of the game. The Browns ranked 17th in the league in getting to the quarterback on a per-dropback basis, but that has not been updated by Football Outsiders for last week's games. I'm sure the Browns are now near the top ten.
The Chiefs rushing game is an interesting story. While they rank last in the league in DVOA (mainly due to Larry Johnson's ineffectiveness- but he isn't on the team anymore), Jamaal Charles has broken out as a force on the ground. Despite not being a starting back until week 10, Charles has the 21st most value of all RBs and is 13th on a per play basis (7.7% DVOA). That's largely based on his really good 5.2 YPC. He is also coming off a career game against the Bills, where he rushed for 143 yards on 20 carries (7.2 YPC) and a TD. (Not to mention 7 catches for another 38 yards).
When the Browns have the Ball
The Chiefs are average against the pass, 17th in the league. Particularly, they are good against #1 WRs (8th in the league. As Brady Quinn plays more and more games, he is settling in around just below-league average. He is at -18% DVOA currently.
The Browns rushing game is also confusing to figure out. No current RB on the Browns qualifies for the league leaders on Football Outsiders. Jamal Lewis still leads the team in carries and he was horrible, dragging down the stats. Now that he is on IR, it is tough to gage how good or bad the run game really is. We just don't have much data on Chris Jennings (who has been pretty league average on a per play basis, -4% DVOA) or Jerome Harrison (who has been decidedly worse-20%DVOA). But the real X factor is Josh Cribbs. Football Outisiders classifies him as a QB. His runs come by the way of end-arounds, wild-cat formations, reverses. The creativity has lead to some good-to-great results. He has 305 yards on 42 carries, good for 7.3 YPC. The Browns ground game is key because KC is bad against the run. 29th in the league (8.0% DVOA).
Josh Cribbs is awesome. KC has good coverage teams, so don't expect too much.
Conclusions and Questions
There are some rising starts and interesting things to watch, maybe not as ugly as I thought.
Three questions that will determine the outcome:
1.) Can the Browns get to Cassel like they got to Roethlisberger? And if so, will we take the next step and start forcing turnovers?
2.) Will the Browns play with a level of passion and intensity that is anywhere near the level they had for the Steelers at home at night?
3.) Will Jamaal Charles take another step to becomming the next NFL star runningback for the Chiefs?
For the first time since doing this column, I actually like the matchup. I think our strengths and their weaknesses are in the right areas (namely, our pass rush vs. their pass protection; their run game vs. our run defense).