Especially here in Kansas City, it is easy to look at a playoff matchup against the Texans as something like a gift. The Chiefs already won in Houston, of course, and the Texans have Brian Hoyer at quarterback and a mediocre offense and are in the playoffs largely by virtue of being in the awful AFC South.
It is enough that, to me, it seems as if some around town are looking at this game as a layup. There is a good chance I’m completely wrong about that, and a group of people as large as Chiefs fans cannot be generalized as all feeling one way or the other about anything*.
* Exceptions include Jamaal Charles, Scott Pioli, That Kicker, and the silly CHIEEEEFS thing at the end of the national anthem.
I am not here to tell you the Chiefs are going to lose. I actually think they will win, and that in a game of two terrific defenses, the difference will be the Chiefs have the better quarterback, which is quite a change.
The Chiefs are a three-point favorite on the road, which means I agree with smarter people about which is the better team. But the NFL is nuts, and Chiefs fans don’t need to hear that favorites don’t always win, or that a three-point favorite generally and theoretically equates to about a 40 percent chance of losing.
After the Raiders game, I wrote about how the Chiefs are the steady team in a field full of roller coasters, and that can be an advantage. If nothing else, this has the feel of perhaps the Chiefs’ best chance of advancing in the playoffs since, what, 1997?
There is no prohibitive favorite in the AFC, and even in a competition that is usually won by the team with the highest ceiling, having the highest floor is at least something.
With that in mind, I give you the completely unscientific, mostly nonsensical, why-did-you-click-on-this breakdown of the Chiefs’ postseason possibilities:
Lose the wild card game: 40 percent.
Lose the divisional game: 32 percent.
Lose the AFC championship game: 14 percent.
Lose the Super Bowl: 9 percent.
Win the Super Bowl: 5 percent.
As always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.
Sports make us all crazy, which is one of the best things about sports. It makes us obsess our free time on kids games played by millionaires and run by billionaires. It makes grown men paint their faces.
Also, it makes people wonder if a baseball team winning the World Series can inspire a football team to make the playoffs.
There are a thousand ways that fans and athletes look at and are affected by sports differently, and this may be the starkest. For a fan who cheers both sides of the Truman Sports Complex parking lot, the connection is obvious and unavoidable and perfectly harmonious.
Two franchises that haven’t had a lot to cheer about over the years simultaneously and finally finding their way, and doing so with similarly relentless paths that broke down longer odds than are typical even for teams that achieve big things.
The relationships between the Royals and Chiefs are real, and genuine. There are friendships, some going back to college (Luke Hochevar and Dustin Colquitt), and some starting here (Eric Hosmer and Eric Berry). Mike Moustakas made an appearance at last weekend’s Chiefs game. Many of his teammates have shown up in Chiefs gear. Generally speaking, there is a mutual respect and support between the franchises that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago.
But the idea that the Royals coming back in that eighth inning in Houston, or Lorenzo Cain scoring from first on a single, or Christian Colon finding his inner Dane Iorg ... the idea that any of that is the reason the Chiefs have redirected their season from the garbage can to a wide-open AFC playoff bracket is, if we’re being honest, manufactured nonsense.
The Chiefs saved their season because they got the right combination on the offensive line, figured out how to pick up stunts, and have a rare combination of strong leadership and steady coaching that did not let a 1-5 start turn into a splintered locker room of guys making individual business decisions.
They saved their season because they have good players, because Derrick Johnson got quicker and surer as the season progressed, because Eric Berry made a remarkable comeback after chemotherapy treatments, because Marcus Peters is turning into a star, because Alex Smith is having the best year of his career, because Jeremy Maclin has brought production and swagger, and for a dozen other reasons including a softened schedule.
The connection between the two franchises for fans is real, and it is spectacular. For a generation of sports fans in Kansas City, it is the glorious payoff for so much heartbreak and jokes about bad All-Stars and kickers who shall not be named. It is, almost without question, the best time to be a sports fan in the history of this city.
That’s enough. We don’t need to make stuff up about how Ned Yost inspired Dontari Poe.
The last Chiefs playoff win came against a team that no longer exists, in a building that no longer hosts games, and in a game that O.J. Simpson broadcast. I’m actually working this week on a story about that game from January 1994, and I’m particularly excited about this one. There are so many great stories. I hope you read it. Should be up Thursday or Friday.
The Chiefs’ playoff losses have come against three quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame*, twice against one more who will be inducted on the first ballot**, the head coach at Michigan, and then Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck.
* Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, John Elway.
** Peyton Manning.
The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game, George Brett had been retired for three months, Clark Hunt was six years out of college — I think he was at Goldman Sachs, back when that was a good thing — Andy Reid was a grunt assistant with the Packers, and Marcus Peters was, literally, in diapers.
But, maybe this is good, an incomplete list of quarterbacks who have won playoff games more recently than the Chiefs: Matt Schaub, Tim Tebow, T.J. Yates, Kellen Clemens, David Gerrard, Chad Pennington, Kordell Stewart, Aaron Brooks, Jay Fiedler, Shaun King, and, ahem, Elvis Grbac.
Meh. I don’t think so. I’m actually not convinced he’s the MVP of the Chiefs. He could be, and he’s had a very good year, but there’s also a case to be made for Jeremy Maclin.
He’s had the best season for a Chiefs receiver since Dwayne Bowe led the NFL in touchdowns with Matt Cassel as his quarterback, and it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs fully absorbing Jamaal Charles’ injury without a player of Maclin’s talents on the outside.
Smith probably remains underrated nationally, though that’s beginning to change, and will continue to transform if he wins a playoff game (or two). He’s been critical to the Chiefs’ turnaround, obviously, but if you’re thinking about league MVPs, even down the ballot, he’s not even close.
I’m on Team Kelce. He makes mistakes, and he’s getting to the point in his career where the lapses of focus or awareness or becoming less and less acceptable, but I believe he’s shown his sort of no-safety-net style produces more good plays than bad. He is a dynamic playmaker, and there is no overstating how important it is for Alex Smith to have a tight end who can make plays. Parker made a nice interception in the end zone against the Raiders, too.
I believe if you’re going to worry, I think you should worry about three things in particular. The first, and most obvious, is that J.J. Watt is likely going against Donald Stephenson. Even with regular help from backs or tight ends, that’s a gameplan changer.
Second, special teams have been very unreliable. I don’t trust Frankie Hammond returning punts, particularly in the playoffs, and there have been too many other bizarre mistakes — like the miscommunication on what was supposed to be a pooch punt against Oakland — to feel comfortable.
Third, the Chiefs have seven turnovers in their last five games, none against teams that are particularly adept at causing turnovers. Even if you believe Smith’s back-to-back interceptions are an anomaly — uncharacteristically sloppy, lazy, and bad decisions — the Texans have one of the league’s best defenses and have caused 10 turnovers in their last three games.
This will almost certainly be a low-scoring game — the over-under is 40 1/2 which, if anything, seems low* — so points created by the defense could be even more influential than usual.
* I am a terrible gambler.
But if the question is about Kelce and Parker, the Texans have more reason to be worried about them than the Chiefs.
Love this question. The Broncos’ energy, focus and, most obviously, blocking all improved noticeably when Manning entered in the seventh inning of their game against the Chargers. He did a nice job audible-ing into the right plays, but I would respectfully request we pump the breaks on thoughts that he’s back. He was 5 of 9 for 69 yards, and his arm strength looked improved from that nightmare against the Chiefs, but still not up to typical NFL standards.
It would figure that his best performance would be in the divisional game, since he’d be as rested as possible after a week off. Some of the answer here depends on the opponent.
A Steelers win over Cincinnati would send a mess of a secondary to Denver. If the Bengals win, one of the league’s best defenses — either the Chiefs or Texans — would be the opponent.
I’d like to sort of cop out and say he’ll do well if it’s the Steelers, and struggle if it’s the Chiefs or Texans, but if you’ll only give me one guess regardless of opponent I’ll say he struggles.
I just don’t think he has it anymore. Or, at least, not at the moment.
I suck at seeing movies. I’ve always sucked at seeing movies, but now I suck even more with a kid at home. I guess I’m the only person in an otherwise pleasant society without a strong desire to see Star Wars. I’d love to see Creed, or Straight Outta Compton, or Bridge of Spies, or Spotlight, or Trainwreck, but, like I said: I suck.
Now that I think about it, the only two movies I saw in a theater in 2015 were Entourage and Concussion. And the latter was for work.
Which reminds me of something: I need your help with movies, and with TV shows. I’m going to start Making a Murderer at some point, but what else am I missing? Please respond.
Your Local Out Of Touch Sportswriter
I’ve actually been pretty good at this as an adult, mostly because I don’t make many. One year it was to read 10 books and workout more, and I did both. One year it was to run a half-marathon, and I did two.
The last three years, I’ve promised myself to make a better work-life balance, and that’s a little more of a struggle, but I think I’m doing better each year — despite getting NO help from the Royals or, this year, the Chiefs.
This year, it is to continue with the work-life balance thing, and to get in better shape. I’m optimistic, perhaps naively so, particularly on the latter.
I grew up a staunch supporter of Walgreens, I assume because my grandparents lived in Chicago, and we used to visit them all the time, and walk down the block to the Walgreens where my grandma would buy me gum.
I actually worked at Walgreens the summer between high school and college, and that mostly stunk, though I think everyone should have to do a job where people assume you’re a moron, so that you live a life in which you don’t treat others like they’re morons.
I think my breaking point came when a really snobby lady came in to buy groceries, and for some reason the machine was ringing up packages of string cheese as something like $30 each. She thought that was ridiculous, which of course it was, but I was tired and out of energy and also 18 years old so I told her I could void the purchase. She yelled at me, I shrugged my shoulders, and I think my last day was later that week. Walgreens and I have both been better off.
But now it’s a CVS that’s down the street from our house, and I’m all about convenience, and the pharmacists are nice, so my loyalty has switched. Though, if you are an executive at CVS and reading this, please know that I do not require 48 inches of coupons every time I buy a box of Hot Tamales.
Probably, though I don’t think it would be massive, or immediate. If I was a Rams fan — and I know just reading those words will make some of you roll your eyes, but there are good fans there, who deserve better than the b.s. they’ve had from that team and especially the owner — I think my main reaction would be to lose interest in the NFL. Because screw that.
Think about this. They’ve been given a terrible stadium, and for more than a decade, a mostly awful product, an owner whose absenteeism makes the 2000-2006 David Glass look like Jerry Jones, and who is now doing everything in his greedy and self-interested power to rip a team away from a city that’s doing everything it can to support him and move it to LA, where they don’t much care, but have more people and millionaires. It really is one of those times where the pull of sports sucks.
If that was my team, I just don’t think I’d have it in me to shrug it off and start rooting for the team across the state. The world is a big place.
But we’re all different, we all see sports our own way, so yeah, I’m sure the Chiefs would pick up some Rams fans (as would the Bears, and I assume, annoying bandwagon teams like the Cowboys and Patriots and Broncos and Seahawks).
But, mostly, I think we can all agree: Stan Kroenke is the worst.
I don’t know the specifics of what De’Anthony Thomas is going through, but your eyebrows have to raise when the non-football IR is used. Whatever it is, I hope he comes out of it happy and with peace, and if that includes football, I’m not sure why he wouldn’t have a good NFL career.
That’s where I’d put my bet, because it’s just hard to imagine Omar Infante being a good player again. He was terrible in 2014, and worse in 2015, and if that’s because his body can’t stay strong I see that as more of an indictment than defense. He turned 34 last month, and is now entering the part of the contract the Royals assumed would not be a good value when they signed it.
There is a thought by some that Infante got spooked when he was hit in the face by that pitch, which is entirely understandable, but baseball is a business and if he can’t get past that he’s not going to be a productive player.
The Royals are outwardly optimistic about Infante, though I get the sense they are more realistic internally. Either way, if he improved enough to be even average, he would be a candidate for comeback player of the year.
Yeah, but I’ve always worked under the assumption that they don’t believe their own nonsense. They are protecting relationships with bowls, mostly the Rose Bowl, and the idea that people would rearrange their New Years Eve to watch semifinal football games was delusion or arrogance or stupidity or some combination of the three.
My wife is a proud Michigan State grad, and we would’ve planned our day around that game if it was any other day. Actually, most New Years Eves this would’ve worked out great, because all we usually do is get takeout sushi and make a fire, because New Years is incredibly overrated, but a good friend was getting married.
As it turned out, the wedding saved my wife from probably throwing something and definitely cursing, but it’s just one piece of anecdotal evidence about why those games saw historically low TV ratings.
They’ll figure it out, eventually. I hope.