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Thursday, September 19, 2013
Stat your case: Chiefs/Dolphins, playoffs?

By John Carr & Jeff Yusem, ESPN Stats & Info

Each week, the Stats & Information Group will look at a noteworthy discussion topic and debate the possibilities that come from it, using data to back up their points.

This week’s topic is “Which surprise 2-0 AFC team is more likely to make the playoffs: The Chiefs or Dolphins?”

The case for the Chiefs
The last time the Chiefs started a season 2-0, they finished with a 10-6 record and playoff berth.

That was in 2010 and through two weeks that season the Chiefs scored 37 points and allowed 29. So far this season, the Chiefs have fared better. They’ve scored 45 and allowed 18.

Their 27-point scoring margin is currently the third-highest in the league (trailing only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks) and is the team’s highest through the first two weeks of a season since 2003, the last time they made it as far as the AFC Divisional playoffs.

The Chiefs defense has been a big part of that. Through two games, they've contributed the most Expected Points Added of any defense in the NFL. They ranked second-to-last in that stat last season.

In addition, Kansas City is holding opponents to 248.0 yards per game this season, the third-fewest in the league.

They are also holding opposing quarterbacks to a league-best 20.7 QBR through two games.

Last season, opposing quarterbacks had a 68.9 QBR against the Chiefs, which ranked them 30th in the league.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Alex Smith has been a valuable addition.

Kansas City is one of two teams, along with Houston, that has a perfect red zone efficiency through two games.

Smith has helped the Chiefs score a touchdown on all five of their red zone drives this season. Last season, the Chiefs scored a touchdown on a league-worst 27 percent of their red zone drives.

Also of note on Smith is that he currently has more rushing yards (82) than the Dolphins’ leading rusher, Lamar Miller (72).
--John Carr

The case for the Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of a squad that knows how to win. The offense, led by second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is scoring touchdowns rather than settling for field goals, and the defense has been getting after opposing quarterbacks, forcing turnovers and making timely stops.

Tannehill has outdueled fellow 2012 first-round picks Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck in the first two games. He’s made good decisions and distributed the ball efficiently (three players with 10-plus receptions).

Tannehill has completed 71 percent of his throws against standard pressure so far this season, something he did at a 58 percent rate in 2012.

His 63.5 Total QBR since the start of Week 15 last season rates second-best in the NFL in that span, trailing only Russell Wilson.

New additions Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson have teamed with Brian Hartline to form a formidable receiving corp. Wallace had a career-high nine catches against the Colts, Gibson has converted third downs on six of his eight grabs and Hartline already has as many touchdowns (one) as he did all of last season.

The defense has accounted for nine sacks (22 quarterback hits) and four interceptions, and has not allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver through two games.

Miami stymied Luck’s late-game comeback attempt with an interception in the end zone and a game-ending fourth-down sack. Miami, which has not allowed a second-half touchdown, limited Luck to 79 yards in the second half.

Both the Chiefs and Dolphins could claim Wild Card berths; however, Miami is better poised to take the AFC East from the weakened New England Patriots, while the Chiefs must contend with Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
--Jeff Yusem