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The Kansas City Chiefs enter the 2021 NFL season reeling from their Super Bowl LV loss. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Chiefs also enter the season as the NFL team with the best chance of getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it.
Developed in 2015, FPI is a means to rank teams. But it’s also so much more. Here’s a quick rundown of how it all works:
FPI takes into account a number of different factors like previous team efficiencies, EPA per play, returning starters and injuries in order to predict offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency for a season. All of the different factors are accounted for in single-game projections, before each team’s season is simulated by ESPN a total of 20,000 times. The final simulations provide calculations for win totals, playoff and Super Bowl chances for each NFL team.
So where does FPI rank the Chiefs for the 2021 NFL season?
After simulations from ESPN, the Chiefs rank first by a lot with a 6.6 FPI. The next closest team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 5.3 FPI. Kansas City is projected to finish the season an 11.5-5.5 record, basically meaning they could finish 11-5 or 12-6. That’d be good for the best record in the league according to their simulations. That record gives the Chiefs an 89.4% chance to make the playoffs, a 72.1% chance to win the division, a 71.4% chance to win the divisional round, a 49% chance to win the AFC title game, a 31.2% chance to make the Super Bowl and a 19.2% chance to win it. All of these are the highest possible percentages.
ESPN’s Seth Walder focused solely on simulation No. 13,330, for the purposes of his article on the FPI simulations this season. That outcome isn’t too great for the Chiefs. Kansas City starts out hot with a 5-0 record, but things go downhill as the season progresses. The Chiefs go 9-2 through Week 12, but lose four of their last six games of the season to close out with an 11-6 record in the NFL’s inaugural 17-game season. That record is only good for the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The result of this is the Browns knocking out the Chiefs in Cleveland in the AFC’s divisional round of the playoffs. The Browns get revenge for a Week 1 loss and also exact revenge for their divisional-round loss the year prior.
Now that’s only one result of 20,000 simulations, but it’s also a reminder of how tough it is to make it to the Super Bowl. Perhaps we’ve been a bit spoiled in recent years.
Some other nuggets related to Kansas City from ESPN’s FPI forecast:
The Chiefs face three teams ranked in the top 5 of the FPI forecast in the first five weeks of the regular season (Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills).
The Broncos have the second-best FPI ranking in the AFC West.