Hey, look, football!
The fall would probably be my favorite time of year, anyway. I dance on the grave of 100-degree days, celebrate with the leaves changing, the random afternoons where you can open every window in your house and the nights when it’s just a little too cold to keep those windows open but you do it anyway because it’s awesome.
I love the first chili of the season, being able to grill or smoke and comfortably sit on the deck waiting. I love the Plaza Art Fair, long sleeve T-shirts, sunroof and windows open as you play your favorite songs a little too loud. I love being able to play with my kids outside, and not worry as much about them overheating.
But then there’s also the football.
In that way, this is the best week of the year, the first one of the NFL season, when there are games that count, and games that we want to see instead of games that we feel like we have to see.
This week, the Panthers and Broncos rematch is on Thursday, Louisville-Syracuse and so many high school games (Rockhurst-Ray-Pec, anyone?) on Friday, a somewhat bland set of college games on Saturday (but still!), the NFL’s first full day on Sunday (Patriots-Cardinals in prime time should be fun), and two games on Monday night.
Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve developed a bit of a love-hate thing with football. I despise much of what the NFL does, and often find a very uncomfortable and hypocritical feeling being so invested in a brutal sport I do not want my sons to play, but right now, I am very much looking forward to all of it.
Sunday, Chargers at home: the Chiefs are a touchdown favorite, and for good reason, because the Chargers stink but this will be a good test for the defense, particularly the edge rush and young corners. But, still: Chiefs win, 1-0.
Sept. 18 at Texans: I just don’t think the Texans — who have improved, and apparently will have a healthy if annoying J.J. Watt — will lose to the same team at home for a third time in a year. Chiefs lose, 1-1.
Sept. 25 vs. Jets: another game that’s tougher than I’m guessing most fans think, but Chiefs win, 2-1.
Oct. 2 at Steelers: prime time game, on the road, and the Steelers are built in a way that exploits everything the Chiefs do defensively. Chiefs lose, 2-2.
Oct. 16 at Raiders: I’d pick this as a loss, except for Andy Reid’s success out of a bye. Chiefs win, 3-2.
Oct. 23 vs. Saints: another team that could exploit the lack of pass rush and experience from the cornerbacks. Chiefs lose, 3-3.
Oct. 30 at Colts: I’m expecting the Colts to be better than a year ago, and they are particularly tough at home. Chiefs lose, 3-4.
Nov. 6 vs. Jaguars: A more difficult game than you might think. The Jags are very talented, and Allen Robinson might be the best receiver in football soon. Still, at home, I’m thinking the Chiefs can find a way. Chiefs win, 4-4.
Nov. 13 at Panthers: With the view of the moment, this is the game I would be most surprised to see the Chiefs win. Chiefs lose, 4-5.
Nov. 20 vs. Bucs: Just a guess, but this could be about the time Justin Houston returns, if he hasn’t already. Chiefs win, 5-5.
Nov. 27 at Broncos: We are going to know so much more about the Broncos by then, particularly their quarterback situation, where they are apparently going with Trevor Siemian, who has not thrown a pass in the NFL and as a senior at Northwestern averaged 5.6 yards per attempt with 11 interceptions and seven touchdowns. If he’s actually good, we should stop joking about it and just all accept that John Elway is an honest-to-God wizard. Chiefs lose, 5-6.
Dec. 4 at Falcons: The fightin’ Piolis! The Falcons have a lot of talent on the outside that could give the Chiefs’ corners some problems. Chiefs lose, 5-7.
Dec. 8 vs. Raiders: Quick turnaround for a Thursday night game, which are always a little crazy. Chiefs win, 6-7.
Dec. 18 vs. Titans: Blah. Chiefs win, 7-7.
Dec. 25 vs. Broncos: The Chiefs should’ve beaten the Broncos twice last year, and the Broncos will likely not be as good this year. Chiefs win, 8-7.
Jan. 1 at Chargers: I just don’t think the Chargers are very good, and the Chiefs could be playing for a playoff spot here. Chiefs win, 9-7.
So, there you go. Save this to mock me within a few months, though, fair warning: there will probably be new material to mock me with by then.
The Chiefs’ Vegas over-under number is 9 1/2 , so I’m on the low side there. I’m on the very low side locally, where predictions seem to start at 10-6 on the pessimistic side and go up to 12-4.
I can see the case for 11-5 or 12-4. The Chiefs have won 11 games in two of the last three seasons, and this roster is more complete than either of those. The offensive line, especially, should be strong and allow Alex Smith to have the best statistical season of his time in Kansas City. The Chiefs have had a generally strong preseason, and I like the aggressiveness in signing Nick Foles.
My hangup centers around the pass rush, and the pass coverage. Dee Ford has shown nothing to make anyone optimistic, and there are subtle red flags from teammates and coaches. This is a significant problem with Justin Houston missing at least the first five games, and likely more.
Also, beyond Eric Berry and Marcus Peters — two stars — the secondary is thin. The trade for Kenneth Acker is a sign that the Chiefs aren’t sure with how Phil Gaines’ knee is progressing, or the depth behind him, or both.
Those two issues combined make me wonder how they’ll defend the pass, and the schedule includes a lot of teams — the Jets, Steelers, Colts, Jags, Falcons, and more — with particularly dangerous receivers or quarterbacks or both.
If you could promise me the pass rush would be average until Houston’s return, and that the corners will rise to the challenge, I could easily get on board with 11-5 or even 12-4.
But I’d like to see it first.
This week’s reading recommendation is a fascinating read by the talented Tim Graham on the disappearance of Bjorn Nittmo, a one-time recurring character on Letterman, and nearly the Chiefs’ kicker the year after Lin Elliott. The eating recommendation is the maple donut from Fluffy Fresh.
I get that Gavin is not being literal, and I think a trap that people like me fall into is overreacting to social media, or thinking that’s what said there is representative and serious. For the most part, I think people are just having fun. It’s sports.
Maybe I’m falling into that trap here. If you think I am, I will not argue. But all of that said, much of the reaction from Mizzou fans seemed out of place.
That was always going to be a tough game to win. Mizzou was more than a touchdown underdog, playing an experienced team that will probably make a bowl this year.
The biggest issue, to me, was the front seven being pushed around, and I do think a possible divide between the offense and defense is at least worth monitoring.
But I also think it’s just one game, and that in a completely fair world Mizzou’s first two games would’ve been flip-flopped, so that Barry Odom’s first game would’ve been as a heavy home favorite against Eastern Michigan.
The point, I suppose, is that there could be real issues here but the whole thing was likely made to look worse than it really is by the timing of the schedule.
Mizzou went 5-7 last year. I’d be surprised if they weren’t at least that good this year.
The Royals are the most interesting team until they’re out of the playoff race, at which point they become the least interesting.
I touched on this in the column, but the Royals have a real opportunity to make a move this week. They play the terrible Twins, and the almost-as-terrible White Sox and A’s 14 straight games. Go 10-4, or even better, and the wild-card deficit should start to crumble.
I know you guys love it when I talk about #math, so here goes, the Royals’ path to the playoffs:
Right now, the Orioles and Tigers are tied for the second wild-card spot, their identical 75-62 records a pace for 88.6 wins. Their remaining schedules are generally difficult*, but especially with so many teams in the mix, I think it’s realistic to expect someone to get hot.
* The Orioles play 16 of their final 25 games against contenders, including their last six, all on the road. The Tigers play 13 of their 25 against contenders, including seven against the Indians and three against the Royals.
So I’ll continue to use 90 as the target here. If the Orioles and Tigers maintain their season pace, that would be one game better, which is a distinction worth making because I don’t think anyone is going to feel like merely making a one-game playoff to get into the second wild card spot is an actual playoff appearance.
Anyway, the Royals are now 71-66. That means a finish of 19-6 to get to 90 wins. The Royals, as streaky as they’ve been this year, do not have a 19-6 stretch. But, whatever, here’s how they could do it:
▪ All but nine of their final 25 games are against the rotten Twins, White Sox and A’s. The Royals are 21-5 against the Twins and White Sox this year. They won’t have the starting pitching advantage tonight — Dillon Gee against Ervin Santana — but let’s say they sweep the next two games anyway. That’s 73-66.
▪ Then come three in Chicago. If we’re looking at the starting pitchers, it’s a draw on Friday (Ventura against Carlos Rodon), the Royals’ advantage Saturday (Volquez against Anthony Ranaudo), and the White Sox’s advantage on Sunday (Kennedy against Chris Sale). Let’s say they win two of three. That’s 75-67.
▪ Now the Royals come back home, where, last week aside, they’ve been terrific. Billy Butler’s awkward homecoming is pushed to the background. The A’s really are a bad team, and not just that, they’re a bad team playing badly, and very clearly focused entirely on the future (which they should be!). They have lost six of their last seven, and given up 10 or more runs in three of their last four. Let’s say the Royals win three of four, just because it’s hard to sweep even a bad team in a four-game series. Now we’re at 78-68, and the wild-card deficit is probably down to two games.
▪ Four more against the White Sox, and if my math is right, the Royals will face both Sale and Jose Quintana. Less than ideal, but if nothing else the Royals should be feeling good, confident, strong and focused. Three of four. Now it’s 81-69.
▪ Now comes the heavy lifting, three in Cleveland on a pivotal road trip. There’s bound to be a setback at some point, and the Indians have been tough on the Royals, so let’s say they lose two of three. That’s 82-71.
▪ Three in Detroit, the Royals have been good against the Tigers (10-6, even after this weekend) and been great when playing near the edge of the cliff, so a sweep: 85-71.
▪ Three back at home against the Twins, who stink, so another sweep: 88-71.
▪ The season ends with a weekend series against the Indians. Two of three, and you have your 90-71.
So, that’s one path. It involves the Royals winning all but one of their final eight series, including three sweeps. It involves the Royals playing better over a 25-game stretch than they have all year, and better than any 25-game stretch of 2015, when they essentially went wire-to-wire as the American League’s best team and won the World Series.
Now, obviously the path changes if the Orioles and Tigers fall back — the Royals will have some say in the Tigers, and the Orioles have their own difficult path — and it changes if you’ll accept a tie for the second wild-card spot as a playoff appearance.
There’s nothing in here that’s impossible, particularly not for this group. Just very unlikely.
When I wrote the column you all loved so much, it was unlikely that the Royals would win the playoffs. That was not an opinion. Just a fact. Nobody liked hearing it, and I get why — the Royals had won eight in a row, and 11 of 12 — but it was still true.
Since that day, the Royals have gone 7-6, and their wild card deficit has gone from 3 1/2 games to four. The standings haven’t moved much, but the Royals’ chances of making the playoffs have gone down because there are now two fewer weeks to make up the difference.
In the column, I wrote that the Royals were good enough to be a playoff team, but their July was so horrendous — their worst month since 2008, when the organization was still largely in disarray — as to make the playoffs too big of an ask.
If this keeps going the way it’s going — if the Royals are just good enough to almost make the playoffs — then “July” will be joined on the blame list by this last home stand.
Six games against teams they’re competing with for a playoff spot, and they could’ve won them all, should’ve won at least four or five, and instead won just two. This is a loser’s lament, but if the Royals win just two more on this past home stand they are just two games out of the second wild-card spot instead of four.
Almost as importantly, depending on which two games they won, the Tigers and Yankees would be worse off.
The Royals still have a path to the playoffs, as we just talked about in the previous question. But at this point, it depends upon the kind of hot streak they are capable of but that no big-league team can do on cue.
I mentioned earlier the Royals are just beginning a 14-game stretch against non-contenders, including 10 against the Twins and White Sox, whom the Royals have beaten 21 of 26 times this year.
So they can do it. But they are sure are making it hard on themselves.
Well, sure it matters. He’s making outs in more than 75 percent of his plate appearances, which is less than ideal. Alcides Escobar is hitting much better lately, which is nice, because it becomes very hard to score when you have two holes in the lineup.
But you make a good point. When Mondesi is on base, he is an enormous problem. FanGraphs values his base running at 1.2 runs above average, and that’s from basically five or six weeks of games. He is scoring 41.9 percent of the time he gets on base, which is above average but considering the general lack of power in the Royals’ lineup means he’s doing some of this on his own.
Defensively, he’s been terrific. I think we can all remember at least two or three spectacular plays, and you can see the start of a nice chemistry between him and Escobar.
I wondered if the Royals’ fight back into the playoff race would change how they used Mondesi — the same way it changed how they’re using Matt Strahm — but I understand why it hasn’t. The most obvious is what you’re talking about. He is supremely talented, and can help win a game without getting a hit. You stick with those guys a little longer, and who knows, maybe the production comes along quicker than you think.
There are subtle reasons, too. Mondesi is a centerpiece of the Royals’ future. Dayton Moore has long talked about the need for the Royals, once this thing got going, to win and develop simultaneously. All teams have to do that, to a certain extent, but it’s more important for those with limited money.
The other thing is the Royals don’t have a terrific option. Whit Merrifield would be the guy, but his struggles in July are why Mondesi has this opportunity. If neither player is going to hit, at least Mondesi gives you more speed, better defense, and has a higher ceiling for the future.
People loooooooove to be angry, offended, ashamed, and perhaps more than anything else, righteous. This is especially true in sports and politics, and in sports it can be done under the cover of fun, so a lot of what you see or hear is disingenuous at best.
I believe this to be particularly true in the case of field rushing.
This is one of many topics that would make for easy and well-read columns if I felt the other way, or would just pretend to feel the other way for the sake of the take, but I also like to have at least a little self respect so: I stand with the court stormers, the field rushers, the chanters, the distractors, and anyone else who dare have fun at a sporting event without harming anyone.
The only exception: those insufferable, attention-starved, possible communists who start the wave, because once that abomination gets going in a stadium, decent and taxpaying citizens can’t watch the game.
I have said this before: the wave is like being at a bar, and having someone storm through and knock everyone’s drink over, all in the name of needing people to look at them.
This is personal to me. Eighth question down, if you care.
I actually think they’re in better shape than I’m guessing most Royals fans feel at the moment.
Nobody wants to hear this — just like nobody wanted to hear it when I said they had a lot of good luck last year — but the Royals have had a lot of bad luck this year.
On one play, the Royals lost Mike Moustakas for the season and Alex Gordon for two months. Moustakas had never been on the DL before this year, and his absence is a gut punch. Gordon is the most respected guy in that clubhouse, and I believe has been playing through lingering wrist pain. Lorenzo Cain went on the DL. Wade Davis went on the DL. Kendrys Morales had a bizarre two-month stretch where he forgot how to hit. Joakim Soria has been both bad and unlucky at times.
Again, nobody is feeling sorry for the Royals. They’ve had plenty of success these past two years, and plenty of good fortune. But if we’re making decisions about the future, it’s worth keeping in mind.
If it were up to me, the Royals would look for a good value bat that could play right field, but mostly concentrate on pitching.
For some reason, an offense that’s next-to-last in runs has avoided the harshest criticism while a pitching staff that’s third in ERA has worn it. But when you look at potential production and contracts, the lineup can still be better — they were sixth in runs last year — while the pitching staff can be improved.
Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Yordano Ventura are locks for the rotation. Dillon Gee will likely be back through arbitration, and Chris Young has one more year on his contract and should be given the chance to be more of 2015 than 2016. Matt Strahm will have the chance to earn a rotation spot, too.
I believe the Royals should offer Edinson Volquez a one-year qualifying offer. That would mean more than $16 million, which I know sounds crazy for a pitcher with a 5.02 ERA, but a few points:
▪ He is unfailingly reliable — with his next start, Volquez will have at least 30 in five straight seasons — and there is a lot of value in reliability. Only three pitchers have started more games in the last five years
▪ Just last year, he was the best starting pitcher on the World Series champions, which is pretty decent.
▪ The old baseball line says there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract.
▪ If Volquez turns the deal down — and don’t laugh, there could be a three-year, $45 million deal out there for him — the Royals would receive a compensation pick between the first and second round.
▪ Ppart of why Volquez might turn the deal down is part of why the Royals should offer it: the starting pitching market is going to be rotten. I mean, really. It’s rotten. Andrew Cashner may be the pick of the litter.
So, anyway, sorry for the diversion there. Even with Volquez back, the Royals should be looking for at least one or two starting pitchers — these would be value plays, long shots like Chris Young was last year — and another relief pitcher.
This will be tough to pull off, because money will be tight, but it’s essentially the last year of this current core, and the Royals can expect a big revenue bump on the next TV contract. The current deal expires after the 2019 season, and these things are often renegotiated a year or two ahead of time.
This is an important question. I’m a staunch pro-spice guy. I like salsa on my eggs, Sriracha on my Thai food, jalapeños on my nachos. My wife is constantly asking me to de-spice stuff I cook, especially chili.
But there is a limit. Los Corrals is one of my favorite Mexican places in the city. They might have the best Taco Tuesday in town, and their chips usually come out piping hot, they’ve got good cheese dip, really, it’s a terrific place.
But if you see their hot salsa for sale on a grocery store shelf near you, run for the damn hills. That stuff will kill your tongue. If you get it at the restaurant, at least you can use it as a way to customize the regular salsa they give you, but on its own it’s inedible.
Somewhere, I guess, there are people who can eat that kind of thing straight and god bless all three of them. But the point of spice is to add flavor, not to overwhelm it.
So mark me down for a “hot” guy.
That was a 50-50 game, at home, and Texas got a few lucky breaks (particularly the non-call on what should’ve been a targeting penalty in the end zone). But they still looked damn good.
You would expect Shane Buechele — I absolutely remember watching his dad on WGN back in the day — to only improve, and he had a few throws the other night as good as you can make.
But it was also one game, and I do believe there are few things in sports quite as misleading as the first game of a college football season, so I’d like to pump the brakes a little bit.
I don’t think Oklahoma’s loss is all that bad, actually. Houston may end up in the playoff, and it was basically a statistical draw. TCU probably doesn’t need to be giving up 41 points to South Dakota State. I’m curious about Oklahoma State and West Virginia, skeptical about Baylor, but really, it’s all wide open.
I’d still bet on Oklahoma, just because I think they have the best talent, and a proven coach. But, really, this is nothing more than a guess.
If you are going to limit me to games that actually might make sense, I will tell you that Mizzou-Nebraska would sell a lot of tickets, and give each school a chance to showcase at an NFL stadium in a market where they have a strong fan base, and a place that’s important to them financially and for recruiting.
Nebraska is playing Oregon this year, and last year played Miami and BYU. SEC schools are required to play at least one power five school (or similar caliber) in the non-conference, and this would make a ton of sense for the Tigers.
There are a lot of reasons for a line to move, but it’s not often you see this: KU opened as a nine-point underdog, and the line moved almost immediately to three, and in some places 2 1/2 .
Ohio won eight games last year, losing to Appalachian State in a bowl game, and was picked to finish second in the MAC East this year. But, well, then it opened last weekend with a triple overtime 56-54 loss to Texas State, at home.
Now, I watched exactly as much of that game as you did, so I have no idea what it looked like, but Google tells me that Texas State was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team Sun Belt.
That’s not good.
Kansas beat Rhode Island 55-6, and you probably know this, but Rhode Island is one of the worst teams in FCS. It went 1-10 last year.
What happened last week doesn’t necessarily dictate what will happen this week, of course, but just based on first week results, sure, this is absolutely winnable for Kansas.
If you bet the over on KU’s win total this year, this is probably the game you were counting on to put you over the top. At Memphis next week is tough, and it’s entirely possible the only conference game KU is less than a 10-point underdog is Iowa State at home.
Bloody hell, this is hard to answer. I could, with no problem at all, name 25 places I love to eat here. Maybe 50. I am taking your question literally here, the wording of “favorite spot to eat,” and it’s Char Bar.
First, the food is terrific. The classic barbecue stuff is great, the Burnt Heaven is absurd, and the Jackknife is unlike anything I’ve ever had. The beer list is extensive, and the brunch. The chicken and waffle, the blackberry french toast, the wake and bacon omelet, it’s all good.
But the thing that puts it over the top is the location, and the atmosphere. I love Westport, and on a nice day their outdoor seating is one of the best places in town. I might feel completely different if we didn’t have kids, but you can sit out there forever and let them play, talk to people, enjoy your food and drink. I know I sound like a paid ad here, and I would absolutely take their jackfruit recipe, but beyond that this is just from the heart.
There is, literally, nothing I don’t love about that place.
I’m replacing Dee Ford with Von Miller, because it turns a huge weak spot into an incredible strength, and caps the division rival at the knees.
Other candidates: Phil Gaines for Patrick Peterson, Alex Smith for Cam Newton, and Justin Houston without a functioning ACL for Justin Houston with a functioning ACL.
Stores I’ve been to twice in a day, not just a weekend: hardware store (believe my career high is four), grocery store (this happens regularly, because I rarely take a list, because I’m an idiot), Costco (that one always stings) and Harry’s Country Club (I’m not too proud).
The circumstances here are critical. If you went once, weren’t sure if you wanted to make the purchase, and then went back when you thought about it, then good for you. If you went once, and just forgot something you were supposed to get there, that sucks, but brother I am the last person to criticize someone for a scatterbrained mistake like that.
If you went once, bought something, and then went back because you couldn’t figure out how to put it together, there’s a little walk-of-shame in that, but hey, we’ve all had our moments.
If you went once, bought something, and then went back because you’re dead certain they didn’t give you all the parts, so you raised hell with the manager, who finally gave you a spare, and then got home only to realize they gave you all the parts but your dumb self just missed it in your blind anger at not being able to put something together, then, well, no, of course I’ve never-ever-ever done anything like that.