Something new this week. I do not know how this will turn out. Maybe some of you know the answer, but I don’t, and at least for now that’s the point here.
The Chiefs are 27th in team defense and 22nd in offense. That’s in yardage, which is the shorthand the football world has agreed to use. The Chiefs have far outperformed those yardage rankings, and for a lot of reasons, including turnover margin and non-offensive touchdowns.
I was talking with some friends the other day about the Chiefs, and they were expressing doubt that this could continue, so I wanted to run a quick little study here to see what similar teams had done in the past.
So, right here, as I’m typing this, there is blank space on my computer screen where there will soon be information about how the NFL’s best teams in turnover margin and non-offensive touchdowns have done in the playoffs.
Maybe the Chiefs are building a fraud’s resume, and maybe this is exactly the kind of thing teams need to get ahead in a league built for parity.
Let’s find out!
Right now, the Chiefs are plus-11 in turnovers. That ranks third in the league, behind the Raiders and Vikings. The Falcons and Bills are tied for fourth at plus-8. So let’s look at the last five years, and the teams in the top three in turnovers:
Panthers: lost in the Super Bowl.
Chiefs: lost in the division round.
Bengals: melted down in the wild-card round.
Packers: lost the NFC Championship Game.
Patriots: won the Super Bowl.
Texans: finished 9-7, out of the playoffs.
Seahawks: won the Super Bowl.
Chiefs: you don’t want to hear.
Eagles: lost in the wild-card round.
Patriots: lost the AFC Championship Game.
Bears: finished 10-6, out of the playoffs.
Washington: lost in the wild-card round.
49ers: lost the NFC Championship Game.
Packers: lost in the division round.
Patriots: lost the Super Bowl.
▪ If the Chiefs hold pace, this will be the fourth time in six years that Alex Smith’s team has finished in the top three in turnover margin.
▪ All but two of 15 teams made the playoffs, and seven of the 13 made it to at least the conference championship.
▪ In four of the five years, one of the top three teams in turnovers played in the Super Bowl, and I believe the Chiefs are better than the Vikings and Raiders.
OK, now let’s look at non-offensive touchdowns.
This year, the Chiefs lead the NFL with seven. The Vikings are second, with six. The Falcons are third, with five. Let’s stick with the top three, and look at the last five years.
2015 (includes a four-way tie for third)
Cardinals: lost the NFC Championship Game.
Eagles: finished 7-9, did not make the playoffs.
Broncos: won the Super Bowl.
Chiefs: lost in the division round.
Vikings: lost in the wild card round.
Giants: finished 6-10, did not make the playoffs.
2014 (includes a tie for third)
Eagles: finished 10-6, did not make the playoffs.
Texans: finished 9-7, did not make the playoffs.
Vikings: finished 7-9, did not make the playoffs.
Patriots: won the Super Bowl.
2013 (includes a three-way tie for third)
Chiefs: you don’t want to hear.
Bears: finished 8-8, did not make the playoffs.
Bengals: lost in the wild card round.
Cowboys: finished 8-8, did not make the playoffs.
Rams: finished 7-9, did not make the playoffs, and played in St. Louis.
Bears: finished 10-6, did not make the playoffs.
Titans: finished 6-10, did not make the playoffs.
Chargers: finished 7-9, did not make the playoffs.
2011 (includes a three-way tie for second)
Bears: finished 8-8, did not make the playoffs.
Bills: finished 6-10, did not make the playoffs.
Lions: lost in the wild-card round.
Packers: lost in the division round.
▪ Whoa, 13 of the 22 didn’t even make the playoffs.
▪ I would’ve figured this would be less indicative of success than turnover margin, just because it’s a smaller sample size, and more luck is involved in returning a fumble or interception for a touchdown than is required to force a fumble or interception.
▪ But that 13-of-22 number is essentially the same ratio as the 12-of-32 that make the playoffs league wide. I would’ve thought it would be of some help.
▪ Though the last two Super Bowl champs are on this list.
▪ Six teams made both lists, including each of the last two Chiefs playoff teams. The Chiefs are the only team to make the list twice, and if current trends hold, they would be on the list three times, with no other team on more than once, except the Vikings, who would be on twice if current trends hold.
▪ Of those six already on both lists, it’s fairly random: one Super Bowl championship, three other playoff teams and two that didn’t make it.
So, in conclusion:
▪ The Chiefs are more consistent at winning the turnover game, and making it count, than any franchise in football over the last four seasons.
▪ Five years is still a bit of a small sample size, but turnovers appear to be indicative of success, while non-offensive touchdowns appear to be like finding $20 in your jeans pocket.
▪ No matter what this list says, the Chiefs are still going to need play exceptionally well to win a potential playoff game at New England.
▪ I need a life.
This week’s reading recommendation is Lee Jenkins on Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year LeBron James, which is the absolute best combination of writer and subject in sports journalism today. The eating recommendation is the ribeye at Extra Virgin.
You know the answer, and you don’t want me to say it out loud, because saying it out loud would mean posting videos of Lin Elliott and Elvis Grbac and a fumble bouncing off a helmet for a Colts touchdown.
The last few years, basically starting with Clark Hunt’s humiliating firing of Scott Pioli, in which Hunt dragged Pioli around the country interviewing people who everyone understood would fire him, have been some of the best in Kansas City history.
The Chiefs are the strongest they’ve been since the 1990s, at least, in both the short- and long-term. The Royals went from that Our Time disaster of 2012 to a parade down Grand. Sporting won three trophies, including the 2013 MLS Cup. Missouri played in two SEC championship games, K-State basketball won its first share of a conference championship in 30 years, and Kansas has continued its dominance in basketball.
No matter who you root for, your favorite local team has given you some terrific moments over these past four years.
But this is still Kansas City. That doesn’t go away. If your house is broken into, you can install the best alarm in the world but it will probably take more than four years of safety to get over it.
The Chiefs have, still, a long way to go here to make their fans feel safe. They won a wild-card playoff game last season, avoided being blown out in New England, and that constitutes their greatest success since Joe Montana.
An embarrassing and heart-stomping playoff loss that gets its own name* is absolutely possible, and because of the franchise’s and city’s history of disappointment would probably hurt more here than a lot of places.
* Though I’m not sure we ever decided on a name for blown lead in Indianapolis two years ago?
I believe this is a very good team. I believe it’s the best Chiefs team of the 21st century. I believe it’s impressive that they consistently win the close games, and have pushed to 10-3 without ever playing their best.
This team can still get better, even without Derrick Johnson. They have a collection of game-changers at every level of the defense. I know they tend to give up a lot of yards, but they also tend to prevent a lot of points, which is the most important thing. The argument can be made the defense won games against the Jets, Raiders, Colts, Jags, Panthers, Falcons and Raiders again. No defense in the league has scored more touchdowns.
The offense has some room to improve, too, with Travis Kelce playing the best of his career, Tyreek Hill giving the Chiefs a dynamic they haven’t had in years, and Jeremy Maclin working his way back to health. If they can find a way to get Spencer Ware going again — I put this on the line and coaching more than Ware, for whatever it’s worth — then the Chiefs have a lot going for them.
Now, none of this guarantees a thing. The same way the AFC’s lack of a dominant team leaves it open for the Chiefs, the Chiefs certainly aren’t good enough to eliminate the risk of another gut kick.
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but I’ll never tell anyone how to be a fan. Some of us are protective of our hearts, some embrace any sliver of hope. But if you can’t be excited about this team, even while acknowledging the possibility of disappointment, I’m just not sure how much fun sports can be.
If we limit it to the Andy Reid/John Dorsey years, the other contenders might be the 56-31 Jamaal Charles Cheat Code win in Oakland in 2013, and the 29-13 Peyton Manning Is Benched win in Denver last year.
The Charles game solidified the Chiefs’ playoff standing, one year after the nightmare of 2012, which backed up the thought from a lot of us that the Chiefs had much better talent than their record under the previous regime.
And the win in Denver was the one, more than any other last year, that made that win streak believable and real. The locker room after that game is still one of the happiest I can remember with the Chiefs.
But there’s a good case for Thursday, too. Prime time, rivalry game, first place in the division on the line. Seeding doesn’t matter as much as matchups and performance, but I do think it would benefit the Chiefs to have a first-round playoff bye and at least one home game.
You can go on the road and win at Tennessee or Baltimore, but those are losable games, and if your expectation is the Super Bowl you don’t want to have to play three straight road games to do it.
Right now, yeah, the win last week feels like the biggest in the regular season under Reid and Dorsey. But so much of that depends on what they do from here out. Lose that first playoff game and it doesn’t feel so important.
This is a real dilemma for the Chiefs.
Waiting a year on Houston cost the Chiefs millions. Berry’s situation was a little more complicated, but that deal still should have been done, and both sides know it.
But I’m not sure it becomes any simpler after this season. Berry effectively priced himself over what the Chiefs were willing to spend, but if anything, that gap may grow this season. Berry is having his most impactful season, and he still plays a position that Dorsey and Reid have been successful in finding low-cost production.
The marketing pitch says that football is family, and the Chiefs have been better than most teams at promoting that utopia, but I think we all understand that football is business.
The Chiefs are going to have to put a price, then, on Berry’s leadership. On a team full of alphas, and a defense full of the right kind of teammates, Berry stands alone. He’s the one Marcus Peters most respects and listens to, for instance. Berry is a rare intersection of talent, preparation and example.
If it means a choice between Berry and Dontari Poe, who is next in line to negotiate, I believe the Chiefs should choose Berry. I’m going away from principal here a bit, because Poe is younger and plays a position that is harder to replace, but I believe Berry is a unique case and requires that the rules change.
The other thing the Chiefs will have to consider is what letting him go would tell the rest of the locker room. Berry has done every blasted thing that should be expected of an NFL player to earn a long-term deal. The Chiefs know these contracts are as much about the other 52 as the player who signs them, because they all pay attention to who’s rewarded and who isn’t.
Particularly with Derrick Johnson injured and likely to miss at least the beginning of next season, the Chiefs are going to need Berry’s presence. Letting him walk would be an awful message to the rest of the locker room, one that goes against what this current administration has said it’s about.
I understand the argument for Mauga and March-Lillard. Mauga would bring some semblance of stability, or at least experience, and I’m intrigued by March-Lillard’s future. The Chiefs have struggled to stop the run, and Derrick Johnson was their best run defender. The argument to add an inside linebacker is sound.
But Charles is the best player of the three, by far, and would make the biggest difference. With Mauga or March, you’re still going to have to scheme differently against the run. With Charles, you are playing offense, pardon the pun, making it more difficult for the other side to scheme against you.
The Chiefs have struggled to run the ball this season, and part of it is their offensive line is much better horizontally than vertically. It’s an athletic group that’s strong in space, and weaker in the trenches. Charles can do more by himself between the tackles, and is terrific on those screens and outside runs that Reid likes to call.
One more point: if this is all about beating the Patriots, Charles would be more valuable in that game than another linebacker.
The Patriots don’t run the ball particularly well, and you would assume the Chiefs would need to score into the 20s or even more to win that game. Charles would help.
Now, all that said: I don’t expect Charles to be available.
Well, if the Chiefs lose out, they’re 10-6. The Patriots, Raiders, Broncos, Steelers, Ravens and Dolphins each have five or fewer losses.
Houston is 7-6, and would have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs if each finished 10-6. The Steelers would also have the tiebreaker on the Chiefs, as would the Titans if they were to win out, and the Chiefs lose out, and both teams are 10-6.
So, yeah. It’s possible. But highly unlikely. The Chiefs have a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs, and 83 percent chance of winning the division, according to 538.
The Chiefs have a favorable remaining schedule, hosting the Titans and Broncos before finishing at San Diego. The Broncos have two games to make up, and finish with the Patriots, at Chiefs, and against the Raiders. The Raiders are effectively a half-game behind the Chiefs, and finish at the Chargers, Colts at home, and at Broncos.
The Chiefs can win the division by finishing with the same record as the Raiders, against a somewhat easier schedule. They can make the playoffs by, basically, avoiding what would have to be an epic collapse.
Heck, there’s even a scenario where the Chiefs can go into the last week of the season with everything from the No. 1 seed to out of the playoffs still possible.
So, yeah. They haven’t clinched yet. But will likely clinch soon.
This is a well-executed tweet.
To be perfectly fair, the business side makes the decision on the Gary Glitter song, and the football side makes the decision on Tyreek Hill.
But the answer, of course, is that Gary Glitter does not run a 4.3.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim famously said “if Hannibal Lecter ran a 4.3, we’d probably diagnose it as an eating disorder.”
There is a lot of truth to this. A sliding scale of morality absolutely exists.
I think we all hope Tyreek Hill has been in trouble for the last time. My opinion on this hasn’t changed. I believe domestic violence is severely mishandled and under punished by our judicial system, and I believe the franchise of Jovan Belcher should not be the one giving a second chance to a man who pleaded guilty to punching a pregnant woman. But I also believe the justice system has dealt with him and he should be free to find work, particularly since the victim and their child benefit.
But I also believe there is a fascinating football story here, about a guy the Chiefs thought they were drafting as a return man becoming their best or second-best (behind Kelce) offensive weapon as a rookie in a system that is notoriously tough on rookies.
He has changed the team, made them more dynamic, given them more ways to score points and move the ball. He had 52 touches at West Alabama, and now has 70 with three games left in the NFL. The Chiefs didn’t expect this.
But, yeah. It’s probably OK to play the song.
We talked a little about this on the Border Patrol, but yes, absolutely, barring a stunning return, a trade of Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura should be seen as a white flag.
The (second) Wade Davis trade makes sense. The Royals can cover the ninth with Kelvin Herrera — I will say one more time I think Herrera is better than Davis going forward — and the Royals think they have enough arms to cover the middle innings in front of him.
Jorge Soler plays a position of need, gives them the kind of power they can’t afford on the free-agent market, comes with club control, and still allows them the flexibility to work in the other outfielders and float the DH.
But the Royals need more starting pitching, not less, and assuming they can sign Duffy to a long-term deal these are their two talented and club-controlled starters.
Now, I want to say two things about the trade interest. First, I haven’t talked with anyone with the Royals specifically about this. Second, I would be surprised if they would do a deal for anything less than a stunning return.
If you read the story this rumor is based on, it’s from the Astros’ perspective and does not claim reciprocal interest from the Royals.
I believe the Royals should listen to any trade offer, for any player. I’ve always thought that. But this would surprise me, and if it ever happened, would be an indication the team is resetting.
Now, all of this said ...
... yes, I do agree with this.
We tend to talk a lot about the guys the Royals are likely to lose after 2017, but how about the guys who are under the Royals’ control through at least 2018:
A bunch of prospects, led by Raul Mondesi, Matt Strahm, Hunter Dozier, Kevin McCarthy, Josh Staumont, and others.
You can build around that, and that list does not include Danny Duffy and anyone else the Royals may be able to sign long-term.
Glass and the Royals front office have been clear about wanting stability. They don’t want to be the Marlins. I happen to believe there is value in bottoming out. Maybe not as much value as there used to be, but still, bigger draft pools and higher picks can jump-start the next wave.
But I respect their desire to at least be competitive every year, and the ambition to constantly multitask between building and winning. It’s interesting that the Royals have $72 million committed to seven players for 2018, which means the payroll could be at least $90 million or more.
A lot of that is paying backloaded contracts to Alex Gordon ($20 million in 2018) and Ian Kennedy ($16 million in 2018), but with revenue sharing and that rotten TV deal set to expire after the 2019 season, David Glass will not need a bake sale to make payroll.
I believe he’s frustrated. I know he’s heard from people who think he should be frustrated, or are frustrated for him. But I also know he’s been unfailingly loyal to David Glass, and understood when he took the job that there would be limitations.
I’m glad you mentioned Glass not taking salary back on trades. To me, if I were Moore, this would be among my biggest frustrations. Because that stuff matters. With the Cueto trade, for instance, if they were able to take on the salary they may have been able to keep either John Lamb or Cody Reed.
Now, neither has found his big-league sea legs so far — Lamb had a 6.43 ERA last season in 14 starts, Reed a 7.36 ERA in 10 starts — but they’re both young and still have potential. Pitching depth is one of the most important things in building a roster.
All that said, Moore will swear he’s not frustrated with Glass and he will believe it. I mentioned last week that someone in the organization said, “It can be frustrating but we can’t complain about it because all knew what we were getting when we came here.”
It wasn’t Moore who told me that, but I’d bet that’s fairly representative of how a lot of people in the front office feel.
One other point worth making here. Moore and the men he’s hired in baseball operations have already worked their miracle.
Moore is ridiculously competitive, and wants to win every game, almost to the point of being counterproductive. Even years later, after David Price had become a Cy Young winner, and Mike Moustakas’ development was taking longer, Moore was still proud that his team swept the Tigers at the end of the 2006 season, even though it meant the Rays got Price No. 1 overall.
Glass calls the shots, but the push to be consistent winners instead of the Marlins model is absolutely in Moore’s personality. He’s not built for last place seasons.
But I do believe any level of frustration would be much greater if Moore and his assistants could feel as if they weren’t given enough time, or if they hadn’t already thrown a parade.
There are a lot of ways to answer this, and I’m not sure I’m the one. I don’t think K-State fans under appreciate their teams.
I think what you might be getting at is a sense of being overlooked, and compared to Kansas and Mizzou, I empathize with that. Kansas has more alumni in the Kansas City area than the other schools, a dominant basketball program, and a spectacularly bad football program to talk about.
Mizzou has had big successes and failures over the years — leaving the Big 12, making the SEC championship game twice, a basketball program that went 30-5 and 9-23 three seasons apart.
K-State has been, well, steadier than either.
Bill Snyder is unfailingly polite and vague in news conferences. Bruce Weber had the share of the Big 12 title in 2012, but for a few reasons we could get into, it never was appreciated as much as perhaps it should’ve been. Four and a half years later, he’s essentially coaching for his job.
If you’re politely telling me we at The Star should do more with K-State, this is also something I empathize with. I can’t speak for other media outlets, but led by Kellis in Manhattan covering them every day, I don’t think anyone in Kansas City devotes more resources to the Wildcats.
I always wish we had time to do more. I wish I did more high school stories, for instance, specifically highlighting the kids who best excel on and especially off the field. I wish I did more Chiefs and Royals, too, and I do more Chiefs and Royals than anything else.
But I can tell you I’m working on something with K-State this year that I think will be particularly interesting, and that I’m always looking to do more.
So I must admit that my list here is going to be a little dated, but I haven’t been able to make time to read books in this new two-kid world I live in.
But, an incomplete list of great sports books:
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. Not really a sports book, but maybe the best book I’ve ever read. The tale, the reporting, the writing, it’s all absolutely stunning.
Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer. Again, this is only a sports book in the sense that Pat Tillman spent some of his life as a football player, but another incredible story. My memory of reading this book is muttering to myself, “I am not a man,” each time I flipped the page. Pretty much anything by Krakauer is great.
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. Such a well-told story, a full life of an American icon.
Dream Team, by Jack McCallum. Maybe the funnest read on this list.
The Soul of Baseball, by Joe Posnanski. OK, this one is damn fun, too.
Sweetness, by Jeff Pearlman. Pearlman has a new book on Brett Favre out that I haven’t been able to read yet, and he’s done a lot of really good sports books. Sweetness was my favorite, at least in part because those Bears teams were part of my childhood.
The Arm, by Jeff Passan. Passan reported the dog out of this thing, and it’s the best look in existence of an issue that in many ways determines which baseball teams win.
Not a Game, by Kent Babb. Allen Iverson’s life has had so much, already. Struggle, triumph, tragedy. Some of the anecdotes in here are hilarious, others sad, many will stick with you.
The Grind, by Barry Svrluga. You have to be around baseball every day to appreciate just how grueling the season is for the people involved. Or, you can read Barry’s book. When I saw this book, I let it sit on my desk for a week, because I was mad I didn’t come up with the idea. Then I read it, and realized I couldn’t have done it as well as Barry did, anyway.
This is a takeoff of the “could Kentucky beat the 76ers?” talk of the last few years, or “could Alabama beat the Browns?” stuff this fall.
The answer, always, is no.
I’m saying Kansas would be a 30-point favorite, and that might be short-changing them, and let me explain why.
Kansas stinks at football. KU stinks at football for a list of reasons we don’t need to rehash here. But KU still beat Texas, for crying out loud, and we can make all the Texas jokes we want but Texas’ talent would beat Northwest Missouri State by many, many points.
Northwest Missouri State plays Division II football, and is a legitimate powerhouse. The Bearcats have won the Mid-America four years running, going a ridiculous 59-2 over that stretch.
Division II football is a level below FCS, which is a level below FBS, where Kansas plays. Kansas played one FCS team this year, Rhode Island, and won 55-6. Rhode Island is one of if not the worst programs in FCS, and I would absolutely expect Northwest Missouri State to beat Rhode Island.
I understand I’m taking your question too literally. This always happens when this gets brought up. They will never happen, obviously, but I would love to see these types of games. In part so we could stop talking about them.
This is one of the great questions of our time.
Perhaps there’s a restaurant manager or someone else who could explain this. Maybe there’s a logistical issue. Maybe the wings tend to break apart anyway in shipping. Maybe it’s more expensive to ship the whole wing, because they’re harder to pack, or something.
Let me present another theory. My wife, who I love more than life, and who I wake up everyday grateful to team up with in life, has at least one major flaw that I’ve discovered in more than 20 years of knowing her: she does not like the Peanut’s wings.
/pause, silent curse/
Seriously, I know.
/pause, looks around, feels judged/
Guys, STOP. I KNOW.
She likes wings. She just doesn’t like the Peanut’s wings, and it’s not the taste, but the presentation. It’s too much for her. “Flintstone wings,” she calls them*.
* So Wings Cafe is our compromise, on the occasion that we get wings, and I have to say: it’s not much of a compromise. That place is delicious, and the guys who run it are terrific. If you haven’t tried it, you should.
Now, we live in a world of choices, and nothing is for everyone. It’s quite possible that the Peanut has made a decision here, that their wing is for the true wing connoisseur, and that everyone else can go to Applebee’s.
I also want to acknowledge that it’s not just the presentation that makes the Peanut’s wings so awesome. They could chop ’em and they’d still be delicious. Heck, I’d even eat them boneless.
But there is a deeply satisfying caveman feeling about waiting until they’re not so hot they’ll burn your skin, and then ripping them apart, destroying every crumb of meat, even the weird third part that nobody really knows the name for, and then doing it again. It also lets you pretend you’ve only had six wings, when you’ve really had 12.
Or, let’s be honest, that you’ve only had 12 wings, when you’ve really had 24.
Guys, I’m typing these words at 5:26 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, because I started to think about when we can take the toddler to see Santa Claus without waiting in line for an hour — trust me, I’m even more annoyed by that than you are — so now I’m down in my office drinking coffee and typing this nonsense with my dog next to me.
And now I’m legitimately hungry for wings — at what is now 5:27 in the morning.