In case you were curious, or had a friend trying to make a silly argument, the Chiefs will not be resting their starters or otherwise playing this week against the Colts any differently with the high probability that theyll be playing the Colts again in the first round of the playoffs two weeks later.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
For one, its not how football people typically operate, to concede any point now with the hope of gaining two points later.
For two, the Chiefs still have a chance to win the AFC West. They will need to win out, and hope the Broncos lose or tie either this week against the Texans or next week against the Raiders, but, well, crazier things have happened.
And for three, there is a feeling around the team that they have some momentum going here, and that momentum is particularly important for this group (9-0 start, 0-3 skid, and now 101 points during a 2-0 rebound) and so why would they willingly give any of that up?
Theyre going to play hard, play to win, for better or worse.
And if its worth anything, the official stance here at DKTM is that its for the better.
As always, thanks for your help and for reading.
@mellinger Thank's!— Kent Babb (@kentbabb) December 16, 2013
tough crowd. In my defense, I had a toddler in my left arm as I typed this.
OK, well, when its there on the screen it doesnt sound like much of a defense.
Lets just move on.
@mellinger How 'bout them Chiefs.— Jordan Atchison (@J_MA23) December 16, 2013
One of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history.
From effectively pushing fans away to pulling them back in, from unlikable to noise records, from what was basically a mutual hatred between fans and the front office to more of a synergy.
Like the Chiefs president told Vahe, "Kansas City is a better place to be when were successful."
And the Chiefs are better when they remember the relationship goes both ways.
This is a distinct possibility and, I lost track, but also something like the 4,278,382nd good argument about why a Pro Bowl spot means less than a wireless hotspot.
Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are locks. Eric Berry should, perhaps, be in that category as well. Justin Houston has played well enough, but Im curious if the injury clouds things. And Dontari Poe will be in the discussion, but its a loaded year for interior defensive linemen (a little less loaded with Geno Atkins injury).
Throw in Dustin Colquitt, and at least the way I see it, you have seven possibilities. My guess is that five of them make it.
Lamars is an institution, but I gotta be honest here: I had Donut King for the first time a few weeks ago and, well, Im going to do some more investigative journalism before making a final decision here.
@mellinger What is the greatest Christmas gift The Smokeshow has ever given you? Obviously, not a good pair of scissors or hair clippers...— Ben McGuire (@MrBenMcGuire) December 16, 2013
At the risk of bringing back the Dear Sammy stuff from a few weeks ago, here is some free advice:
Make your Christmas gifts about both of you. Make them something you do together, and give each other. Otherwise, the necklace you buy wont be shiny enough or the dress you get will be the wrong size^.
^ And no matter which way you go, too big or too small, thats a bad move.
Go in on something together, though, and you both put thought into it and come out with something youre stoked. Thats what we do, anyway, and its revolutionized the Christmas experience for me.
Like, a few years ago, we went to Costa Rica. Best Christmas gift ever.
@mellinger Should fans be more excited at scoring 56 or distraught that the Raiders scored 30? Or both?— Cody K. (@KirschnerCK) December 16, 2013
Both, really. I touched on this a bit in the Insta-reaction, but its a strange thing that the defense is now whats concerning. I guess you can look at it however you want, but if you get seven turnovers, you shouldnt be giving up 31 points to a team that hasnt scored that many all season.
Not if you consider yourself a team built on defense, anyway.
Some of this is Justin Houstons absence, obviously, but the thing shouldnt be this fragile. Mostly and I realize this is an oversimplification teams are figuring out how to beat the Chiefs with quick passes and the secondary is getting exposed when it has to cover for more than 2 ½ seconds or so. At the beginning of the year, their aggressiveness was working in beautiful, destructive harmony with the pass rush, but as teams adjusted theyve found ways to expose all three cornerbacks.
Im not saying its broken.
But it does need some maintenance.
@mellinger I see your point on KC being a Charles injury away from irrelevance. Isn't same true w/ DEN/Peyton, GB/Rodgers, NE/Brady though?— Alex Manners (@CornoObbligato) December 16, 2013
Yes, absolutely, and this is an important point.
I see what you did there.
Nobody asked about the Jack Harry drama last week, and I didnt care enough to bring it up on my own.
But there are a couple takeaways here:
- The noise that came out of his mouth sure sounded like "Gayhawks."
- I dont believe Jack meant to say it. If you watch the video, Frank Boal doesnt react. It looks like a heat-of-the-TV-lights thing that nobody notices. It looks, to me, anyway, like he misspoke on live TV in an incredibly unfortunate way.
- He made it worse by pretending it was 1956 and people couldnt pull up the video on their phones. Im not sure why he didnt just say, "I stumbled my words, I meant to say Jayhawks. The words just caught in my mouth and I misspoke. I would never use a slur like that and I apologize."
- The backlash against him was made worse by Jacks track record. Hes built a sort of character with #hotsportstakes meant to gratuitously get the message boards going so, hey, its not that as much of a stretch as it should be when something like this happens.
- I said this on Twitter, but the reaction from local media person A when local media person B has drama is almost always about how A feels about B, not the drama. Jack goes on one of the local radio stations, for instance, so without listening to any of it I can be fairly certain how each station treated the drama.
- I know your question was a joke, but Ill answer it anyway. One of the great parts of my job is that I have a delete button and copy editors. Ive never written a slur, but I did once file a story about someone who I described as having a "self-defecating sense of humor." Copy editors are the best people on earth.
Well, sure. Absolutely it is. The reminders of how far theyve come are everywhere, including that last year, the Chiefs played in Oakland about the same time of year and I remember it as the first time Jamaal Charles spoke to reporters after the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide that hit Charles harder than any other Chief.
This time, Charles is smiling in front of TV cameras and talking about what he called "probably my best game of my career."
All that said, these feelings are fleeting. If the Chiefs lose in the first round of the playoffs, I will bet you a years supply of Tank 7 that questions for this here Twitter Tuesday will be filled with Why cant the Chiefs ever win a playoff game? and Isnt it time the Chiefs and Royals stop being satisfied with being just good enough to not be embarrassing?
One last point: barring something dramatic, this will be the Chiefs best chance of winning a playoff game in a decade.
I wouldnt, really. Maybe Im supposed to feel like the Chiefs are getting hosed here, but why shouldnt there be a reward for winning the division?
I guess you could rework it so that a team in the Chiefs position would at least get the playoff game at home, if not the bye, but I like that winning the division means something.
The Chiefs had two chances at the Broncos, and didnt get it done. The Broncos should get credit for that.
@mellinger where does Jamaal's game on Sunday rank among best single game performances by a Chief?— Reed Koutelas (@KoutelasReed) December 16, 2013
I didnt realize this before Sunday, but the NFL record for receiving yards by a running back is 271 held by former Chief Curtis McClinton.
If were just talking about offense because Derrick Thomas seven sacks will be tough to top Charles goes right to the top of the list with McClinton, Stephone Paiges 309 yards receiving against the Chargers in 1985, or anything that Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Barry Word or Christian Okoye ever did.
Or, think of it like this: Charles will probably have his name included in the Chiefs Ring of Honor, and he thinks this was the best game of his career.
@mellinger Is there any doubt Andy Reid doesn't receive Coach of the Year and Dorsey as Executive of the Year?? Truly remarkable year.— Kyle Coffey (@kylecoffey11) December 16, 2013
Strong cases, both of them. Ron Rivera, Bruce Arians, Sean Payton, and Pete Carroll will be among those who get some love for the coach award. Id have to look a little harder at executive of the year, but I cant think of anyone whod have a stronger case than Dorsey.
Actually, I dont think owners are eligible. But Clark Hunt has a good argument here.
Both the coach and executive of the year will be really interesting, because Reids and Dorseys cases are fairly simple and straightforward: they took over a dysfunctional organization that was actively disliked by fans, bad enough to pick first in the draft, and are now 11-3, a playoff spot clinched, and currently tied for the second-best record in the NFL.
Now, the interesting part is whether voters take into account why everything was so dysfunctional last year. All that talk about how the Chiefs were the most talented 2-14 team in NFL history last year, well, the flip side of that is that the football world recognized that there was talent here. Six Pro Bowlers, a consensus for a quick turnaround candidate, all of those things are real.
Im not arguing against Reid and Dorsey Id need to hear a really good case for someone else but its inaccurate if someone says they built something here out of nothing.
Charles has a lot less help than Manning, especially when you look at the offensive line^ Chiefs are a -13.8 run blocking). But this is an incomplete argument.
^ Pro Football Focus has the Chiefs at -13.8 run blocking, and the Broncos at +40.7 pass blocking.
Manning is having, perhaps, the best year a quarterback has ever had. Some of that is undoubtedly the way the game is officiated, and some fantastic receivers. But Manning is the one that makes that team go, and the Broncos will probably win the division and certainly beat the Chiefs twice.
Take Charles off the Chiefs, and theyre fairly screwed on offense. But take Manning off the Broncos, and the same thing happens to them.
Manning will win the MVP award, and unless something crazy happens these last two weeks, itll be well-deserved.
But Charles has a great argument for the offensive player of the year award.
I doubt it. The payroll is over $90 million now, and even if David Glass could extend it a bit more and be covered financially, hes shown sufficient commitment that hes not the problem.
Id also ask you who the pitcher is?
Ervin Santana is the obvious answer, but hes going to be overpaid, in years or dollars or both. Ive said this before, but: I love watching Santana pitch. I liked watching him last year more than any pitcher the Royals have had in two decades, save Zack Greinke and, perhaps, Joakim Soria at the heights of their respective powers.
But hes 31 years old, with a history of elbow problems and wildly inconsistent seasons. If you could be sure that Santana in 2014 (32 years old), 2015 (33 years old) and 2016 (34 years old) will be as good as this past season, sure, hes worth it.
But every bit of logic says you should be sure that wont happen.
He might be, and this is something thats been coming for a while. But I also think the Embiid-over-Wiggins stuff has a little hype backlash in it.
Embiid is the new thing, Wiggins old news, as dumb as that sounds when theyre both freshmen whove played a total of 10 college games.
Embiid is a legitimate 7-feet tall, with a soccer forwards feet, a somewhat soft touch and a relentless energy and ambition. Hes averaging 9.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks while hitting 66 percent of his shots.
But Wiggins is still an otherworldly athlete, with a good handle, improving skills, and unfair ability in the open floor. Hes averaging 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 48 percent (54 percent on two-pointers). He hasnt been a combination of Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Johnny Damn Unitas yet, but hes also scored 159 points on 108 shots.
I guess Id put it like this: Wiggins would still be my bet, if it was even money. But for people who havent seen Embiid, its a lot closer than they would think.
Bullpen catcher is a vastly underrated job, but right now, Im thinking about Jimmy Nielsen turning into the center of a wild celebration for, lets be honest, not really making that last save.
Thats a good gig.
I mean, Id be shocked if that happened, but if Wright said that, well, he knows Meyer a lot better than I do.
Youre not insane, is what Im saying. But
@mellinger I know everyone is down on Hochevar as a starter, but...I think he could fill Santanas spot and be dominant. Bullpen will be fine— Darrin Christian (@christiandr85) December 16, 2013
Darrin here, well, we disagree.
@mellinger How weird is it that the biggest hole on the Royals is arguably the beat writer position for the Star?— Dane (@fightwookies4) December 16, 2013
OK, thats not bad.
@mellinger What's the most Kansas City way possible to blow a $656 million lottery jackpot?— Clinton Thomas (@ClintT13) December 16, 2013
One million dollars on barbecue sauce, $500,000 on Christmas lights, another $500,000 on fireworks, and then whatever it takes to play some elaborate practical joke on St. Louis.
Like, supplying all the Italian places with Ragu.
Or paying Skip Schumaker to say he prefers Peoria.
Then, with whatevers left a fountain, of barbecue sauce.
Well, everything about the fan engagement is in this column.
But about the winning, I dont believe that Sporting wants to win more than the Chiefs or Royals. Theyre just better at it, at least right now. Somehow, even in a league where player salaries are virtual tip money compared to the NFL or MLB, and playing in a gorgeous stadium paid for in large part with public money, there are many fans and some media who seem to think Sportings owners are bankrolling themselves to victories.
Actually, the team is very much in the bottom half in MLS payroll, and the owners spend FAR less of their own personal money on their team than David Glass or Clark Hunt.
I adore most everything Sporting does with their team.
But lets be realistic here.
Their genius is in the way they communication and empower their fans.
This question makes me feel more get-off-my-lawn than Im comfortable with, but no. I dont know who Lorde is, other than I suspect this is the group^ that came out with that "Royals" song a while back that turned out to be maybe, kinda, pseudo inspired by George Brett?
^ Or singer? Whatever.
Am I close?
But, no. I will not go. Ill stay home, and talk about when concert tickets used to be a nickel.
Also: I think they planted that George-Brett-inspired-our-song thing to generate ticket sales. Dont fall into the trap, kids.
@mellinger How likely is it now that the Kansas City area professional teams make the playoffs in a 12 month time period? 2/3 thus far.— KC Loyal (@KCLoyal) December 16, 2013
Let me answer it this way: my unborn children may be grown the next time the chances are this high again.
Or, let me answer it another way
@mellinger if the Royals make no other major moves this offseason, what's your way-too-early prediction for their record?— Grant In KC (@GrantsRants3) December 16, 2013
the Royals, for a lot of reasons, really need to make this count. James Shields will be a free agent after the season, and hell be a better long-term investment than Ervin Santana is at the moment, but if Santanas price is too high for the Royals^ then Shields price will likely be WAY too high for the Royals.
^ Santana remains unsigned. He made noises about a $100 million contract at the start of the offseason. I wrote here that the Royals would be wise to offer around three years and $45 million and unwise to go higher. I still think its an enormous longshot, but the chances are slightly higher than I wouldve expected before the season. Lloyd Christmas has it about right here:
Anyway, the team that signs Santana will lose a first-round pick, and Kyle Lohse went through a similar ordeal last year before getting three years and $33 million. Santana will certainly beat that number, but the rule will diminish what hed otherwise get.
So, anyway, lets answer the questions: my prediction on Dec. 17 is for 90 wins, and a 40 percent chance at the playoffs.
I really like what theyve done. People will continue to be hung up on losing Santana and the Royals will be hard-pressed to replace what he did last year while forgetting that Santana will be hard-pressed to duplicate what he did last year.
The offense should be much, much better. The bullpen should be as good. If anything, the defense should be better. If the rotation can be even close to what it was last year 80 percent this should be a better team.
@mellinger I once scored 5 touchdowns in grade school flag football. Am I a flag football legend?— T.J. Huettenmueller (@Thuettenmueller) December 16, 2013
If they threw beer at you, and afterward you wore leather pants with black sneakers that had gold chains for shoelaces, then yes.