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Quietly, Alex Smith is having his best season

Alex Smith is arguably having the best season of his career. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Alex Smith has seven seasons in his career in which he has played in more than 10 games. This season looks like his best work to date.

Smith’s completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio and Total QBR are all higher this season than they have been in any of his other seasons in which he played more than 10 games.

Smith is getting the job done with his usual low-risk approach.

Smith’s average pass this season travels 6.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. That’s nearly half a yard shorter on average than any other player this season and the third-lowest rate by a qualified quarterback in the past 10 seasons. Only Smith’s 2014 season (5.6 air yards per attempt) and David Carr’s 2006 season (5.9) featured shorter passes on average than Smith’s 2015 season.

The short passes have led to an extremely low interception percentage. Smith has been picked off on 0.9 percent of his pass attempts this season, which is on pace to be the second-lowest rate by a quarterback in the past 15 seasons with a minimum of 400 pass attempts (Tom Brady is No. 1 with 0.8 percent in 2010).

Smith ranks among the top three in the NFL in completions (64), attempts (76) and passing touchdowns (five) on screen plays this season. All of those numbers are at least tied for career highs.

Jeremy Maclin has played a big role in stretching the field when Smith has taken chances downfield. Maclin has caught 56 percent of targets at least 15 yards downfield. The last Kansas City Chiefs receiver with a reception percentage that high on deep passes was Tony Gonzalez, who caught 56 percent of targets thrown at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage in 2007.

Smith has completed half of his passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield on the season, which is on pace to be his best season throwing deep with a minimum of 40 attempts.

Winning the turnover battle

Turnovers have played a big part in Kansas City’s win streak. Smith and the offense have limited them while the defense has made the most of their opportunities.

The Chiefs have committed four turnovers since the start of Week 7, two fewer than any other team. They have forced 21 turnovers during that span, second behind the undefeated Carolina Panthers.

After intercepting an NFL-low six passes last season, the Chiefs rank second with 20 interceptions in 2015. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters has seven of those interceptions, which is tied for third by a first-year player in the past 15 seasons.

Peters has scored two defensive touchdowns this season. The only rookie with more over the past 15 years is Janoris Jenkins, who had four defensive scores for the St. Louis Rams in 2012.

The Chiefs’ five interception return touchdowns this season trail only the 2012 Chicago Bears for most in the past five seasons. That Bears team had eight pick-sixes.

Where they stand

The Chiefs are a top-10 team in the NFL, according to the latest ESPN NFL Power Rankings and Football Power Index. They rank ninth in the Week 16 Power Rankings and sixth in Tuesday’s FPI update.

That’s a far cry from back in Week 7, when the Chiefs were an NFL-worst 1-5 and ranked 29th in the Power Rankings. At that point in the season, FPI simulations had Kansas City making the playoffs 5 percent of the time. Those playoff odds are up to 95 percent after an eight-game winning streak.

The Chiefs can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win at home against the Cleveland Browns and a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers or New York Jets.