Well, that didn’t take long. We’re just one week into the 2017 NFL season, and there’s already a new team atop FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings. The Kansas City Chiefs rose to the top slot after beating the preseason No. 1 New England Patriots 42-27 in last Thursday’s season opener, and now Elo gives them a league-best 14 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
OK, so maybe you shouldn’t bet the farm on that Chiefs championship just yet. (The Vegas books still list K.C. in a tie for the seventh-best Super Bowl odds of any team, alongside the Atlanta Falcons.) But Kansas City occupying first place in an NFL power ranking is a pretty rare sight nonetheless. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, the Chiefs have only held the No. 1 slot for eight total weeks, the same as the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Compare that with the team the Chiefs beat — the Pats, who lead all post-merger franchises with 137 total weeks at No. 1 — and you start to get a sense for just how unusual a top-ranked K.C. squad is.
The last time the Chiefs ranked first in Elo? Week 11 of the 2003 season, when Kansas City had just crushed the Cleveland Browns to move to 9-0 on the year. It was K.C.’s fourth consecutive week at No. 1, but the celebration wouldn’t last: Dick Vermeil’s Chiefs were upset by Cincinnati on the road the following week, part of a 4-3 stretch to close the regular season. And in the playoffs, they lost an epic shootout with Peyton Manning and the Colts in which neither team punted. K.C. fell to 7-9 the next season, and the offensive firepower briefly captured with Trent Green and Priest Holmes was…
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