Two of the more surprising teams to make the playoffs this season are the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, who don’t play the most exciting offensive football on the planet, but their formula to success has been extremely efficient in something of a weird NFL season that’s about to come to an end.
The Chiefs are the big story, winning nine games in a row to clinch a playoff spot (10-5 right now) and possibly even win their division if things happen the right way in the final week (plus the Monday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals), with even a chance of getting a bye week slot somehow possible. We, and everyone else, buried their hopes after six weeks and especially when Jamaal Charles left the field after tearing his ACL.
But the Chiefs simply went to what works for them: An incredible defense that is fourth in the NFL in sacks and is tied for the lead in defensive touchdowns. They’re second in the league in holding teams from scoring (allowing 18 points per game), and even the criticized and even ridiculed offense, built on Alex Smith having no trustworthy wide receivers, is a top 10 offense with 25.5 points per game. Yes, their schedule has been rather soft, and their Strength of Victory is a lot weaker than the Broncos for example, but considering how bad things were for them before the midway point of the season, they’re forgiven for beating up on the weaklings (and the Steelers and Broncos in the game that possibly sends Peyton Manning into retirement).
Alex Smith keeps thing short and simple, looking for his tight end (Travis Kelce) or for Jeremy Maclin (1034 yards, 7 touchdowns this season), or simply runs himself for a first down. Smith is second on the team’s rushing list with 437 yards (5.8 per carry) and two touchdowns. Charcandrick West is the team’s leading rusher with 600 yards and four touchdowns, but they also turn to Spencer Ware with 327 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Simple.
The Vikings can say the same thing. Their offense isn’t exactly rolling, and it seems that the less Teddy Bridgewater throws the ball the better it is for them, but when you’re 10-5, no one is going to complain about not being exciting, with a an opportunity to even win the division, something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Their defense is sixth in the NFL in points against, and the rest is based on Adrian Peterson running and Bridgewater trying not to make mistakes and work with the opportunities he gets.
Both teams don’t look like they can make it too far in the playoffs. The Vikings have lost in almost every big game they’ve had this season, and their defense is good against a very certain type of teams (like the New York Giants). The Chiefs? Well, based on the Alex Smith history and the kind of teams they’ve faced this season, they might be slightly overwhelmed when the quality of opposition is raised a little bit. But their 2015 seasons, while not inspirational, do hold some of those ‘feel good story’ qualities, especially when you consider the expectations when this all began.