People have told me my feelings on this will change as the kids get older and more into Christmas, but that hasn’t happened yet, so:
Reasons Thanksgiving Is The Best Holiday, Ranked:
10. It’s typically cold enough for a fire, not so cold you can’t go outside for a bit.
9. Everybody celebrates it.
8. The day after is fun to eat leftovers, and laugh at all the suckers in line at Black Friday sales.
7. Family traditions center around food.
6. No gifts. Other than a six-pack.
5. Brilliantly scheduled for Thursdays, which means a four-day weekend.
4. Football all day, which is the perfect escape of a conversation, or chance to veg out.
3. No pressure to do anything but eat.
2. The following is all socially acceptable: day drinking, gluttonous caloric intake, and naps.
1. I’m all-in on the spirit of the day. I think we all try to be thankful for what we have, always, but this is an entire holiday to think about it and appreciate it and ignore all the dumb stuff that stresses you out on most days.
This week’s reading recommendation is my friend Jeff Passan’s look at the world of illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players, and the eating recommendation is whatever you will be served on Thursday.
So, the loss to the Bucs was bad, and bad for a lot of reasons. A few:
▪ Alex Smith wasn’t good enough, again, continuing what’s now a trend.
▪ It was a chance to maintain pace with the Patriots, and a lead in the AFC West.
▪ The Bucs stink, especially on defense, and this should’ve been a layup with the hardest part of the schedule coming up: at Denver, at Atlanta, vs. the Raiders in the next three.
▪ If Alex Smith takes a knee, or trips on his dropback, or, ahem, punts the ball into the stands — if he, literally, does anything other than turn it over there at the goal line — the Chiefs probably win.
All of that is true. So is this:
The Chiefs still control their own season. They can win the division, and have no worse than the AFC’s No. 2 seed by doing nothing more complicated than winning their games.
And we can talk about how they were lucky to win the Chargers game, or the Panthers game, but it’s also true that they were playing without Jeremy Maclin, Marcus Peters, and Jaye Howard (and Jamaal Charles and Parker Ehinger, but they need to get used to that), and with an injured or slowed Dee Ford, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Charcandrick West ... and still would’ve won a game if not for a boneheaded mistake at the goal line.
If you want, you can make some optimism out of that.
Well, I’m actually not sure they need to “make up” the loss. Or, maybe they already did, by winning at Carolina, or at Oakland.
Whatever, the point is the Chiefs have it all in front of them. There’s still too much season left to put much stock into potential secondary tiebreakers, but the Chiefs are currently in a virtual tie with the Broncos and Raiders, with three games against them remaining, and one win already on the schedule.
The next three games — at Denver, at Atlanta, vs. Raiders — are brutal and will most likely be telling. Get through that with two wins, particularly if they’re the division games, and the Chiefs can claim to be one of the AFC’s best teams. Lose twice, and it’s a much tougher case to make.
They are collecting injuries. A few weeks ago, part of my Chiefs optimism was that they could be the rare team to get better as the season goes on, because they would presumably get stronger — most notably, with Justin Houston returning and being Justin Houston again.
Now, the opposite appears to be happening. We’ll talk more about Houston later, but the Chiefs rely on Jeremy Maclin so much, and he’s spent most of the season injured or unproductive. Derrick Johnson was beat to the corner by Jameis Winston on one play, in case you weren’t sure whether he was healthy.
But Peters was the guy the Chiefs missed the most against the Bucs. His best attribute is how hard he competes for the ball, and Winston threw a lot of contested passes. Peters has a well-deserved reputation for making big plays, and creating turnovers, and it’s possible the Chiefs were one big defensive play from winning that game.
There is no way to prove this, and it’s an irrelevant thought anyway, but I believe the Chiefs win that game if Peters is healthy enough to play.
Ford’s injury is troubling, too. Hamstrings don’t usually heal in a week, and even if he’s able to play on Sunday, it’s going to be cold in Denver, and combined with the altitude that’s not a good place to get healthy.
All of this is made worse by the idea that Denver is getting healthier. DeMarcus Ware is expected to be at or near full strength after the bye, headlining a list of Broncos working their way back.
Nobody’s going to care about the Bucs loss if the Chiefs can win in Denver, and I do believe there are some football matchups that shade toward Kansas City. But at the moment, it’s hard to be confident.
And I meant it.
The defense wasn’t good against the Bucs, you are correct. The pass rush was terrible, and they were garbage on third down. However, they were playing very shorthanded, seven of those points came after the awful pick gave the Bucs the ball at midfield ... and they still held the Bucs to four points below their season average.
Also, you do remember this is the defense that’s been good enough to win every game but Pittsburgh, right?
NFL teams are averaging 22.9 points per game. The Chiefs have given up that many in a game twice all year, and not since Oct. 2. The most they’ve given up since the bye was 21, and that was against the Saints, who’ve scored more than 21 in all but two of their games.
The Chiefs dominated the Raiders defensively, in Oakland, and did the same to the Colts, in Indy. Both of those teams scored their fewest points of the season against the Chiefs — a combined 27.5 points under their season averages.
Also, the Chiefs had just won two straight games with lousy quarterback play, and beat the defending NFC champion on the road, without an offensive touchdown, almost entirely because the defense pitched a shutout in the second half, scored a touchdown, and set up the winning field goal.
Right now, with injuries to Houston and Peters and Ford and Johnson and others, the Chiefs are fifth in points against, and first in turnovers forced.
So, yes. I believe a team can get to the Super Bowl with that kind of defense.
I don’t follow hockey enough to have an opinion on that sport, so:
The first two are close, and the bottom two are close.
I’m persuaded to put soccer ahead of football in part from watching Sporting Kansas City grow with Peter Vermes, and in part from watching the Premier League more over the last few years. Soccer is a sport based so heavily on teamwork, and cohesion, and on subtle lineup and substitution decisions that can have enormous impact in both the micro and macro senses. Coaching is critical with all of that.
Football is close, and on a different day, I might switch the order here. The schemes and play calls are so important. The most talented teams don’t always win. But there are also so many moments in games where a play works or doesn’t simply because one man was better than the other.
There’s a big gap then to No. 3, but I’m putting basketball ahead of baseball just because there are more strategic decisions in hoops. A coach can press, or not, steal points on inbounds plays, mix up defenses, etc.
Baseball managers and coaches can do some of this. Defensive shifts and the evolving roles of bullpens are putting more emphasis on coaching. But it’s still true that if the pitcher executes the pitch, the hitter is probably making an out.
All of that said: Klinsmann being fired is the only way this was going to end. They had to do it, and if nothing else, it’ll be nice having a national team coach who doesn’t consistently insult his players and the team’s fans.
Bonus: I appreciate his move being done at a time when Jose Mourinho could not be a candidate, because Mourinho is the worst. #COYG
Here’s where they’re good: attracting casual fans.
Here’s where they’re not: when you already love the sport, and the dynasty isn’t your team.
I suppose that even when a dynasty happens in a sport you love, and it’s not your team, there is a galvanizing affect it has for fans of different teams to come together against a common enemy.
But in general, I always like it to be more competitive. How exciting is this NBA season going to be when there is a 90 percent chance the Finals will be a rematch? The Patriots always being good does not make me more interested in the NFL, it just makes me sick of the Patriots.
Also, watch how quickly the Cubs turn into one of the most hated teams in baseball.
Glad you asked!
This will actually be my first year with an actual vote, which, I have to say, I find to be so cool. I am looking forward to studying the candidates more, clarifying what’s important to me, and filling out the ballot with thought and care.
So, as you can see, I don’t know exactly how I will vote, and if I didn’t have an actual vote, I’d probably run through 10 names real quick here. But I want to take more time than that this year, and every year going forward.
In general, I prefer players with high peaks over sustained good-ness, and on the spectrum of eligible voters, am probably less bothered by steroids accusations than most. I value guys who were the best at their position for at least a few years, which means I don’t know that I’d have ever voted for Rafael Palmeiro even without that finger wag.
Spoiler alert: I will almost certainly vote for Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds.
The first five quarterbacks listed on Walter Football:
1. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame.
2. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina.
3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson.
4. Davis Webb, Cal.
5. Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech.
If Watson is available wherever the Chiefs pick — probably in the 20s, somewhere — I would give a full co-sign to bringing him in.
Also, I think you meant “Romo’s time in Denver...”
This is the first offseason they can realistically move on from Smith, the first time his dead money number ($7 million) is manageable.
So, this is possible.
The answer to your question — and I always try to give a more definitive answer to these questions — is that it depends.
Is Kirk Cousins available? Is Watson there in the draft? Is Romo open to coming to Kansas City?
Also, and I’ve watched the games this year just like you have, but it’s worth asking anyway: does Smith stink the last six games, or is he closer to his 2015 self?
In other words: is there a better option?
Because Nick Foles is not a better option. Not based on what we saw against the Jaguars.
If the Chiefs can upgrade the position, they should do it. But a lot of the anti-Smith sentiment feels based in a bit of an anybody but that guy perspective that feels good but isn’t productive in reality.
And I meant it.
Not running a jet sweep to the tight end who just limped off the field would be a good place to start.
After that, they need to look for more opportunities to throw downfield, particularly with Tyreek Hill. There are ways to line him up in certain situations where the safety makes a decision, and either way something should be open.
But, look, I don’t claim to be smart but I am smart enough to know what I don’t know. Andy Reid is the best known of many Chiefs employees who know much more about their personnel, and football in general, than me. It’s up to them.
What I see is too many failures in execution, and I know that’s vague, and too much like the locker room cliches I try to keep out of my columns, but it’s also true. Jeremy Maclin is their most proven playmaker. He’s currently hurt, and on pace for the worst season of his career.
Alex Smith isn’t running as often or effectively as he has in the past. My theory is that teams began the season game-planning against it, Smith and the Chiefs failed to adjust back, and by now Smith has lost that part of his game. That problem is magnified by the head injury he suffered in Indianapolis.
He was much better against the Bucs than Panthers. Some of that should be expected. The Panthers are much better than the Bucs.
Some of this is a bit of an “other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”* but other than the horrendous, awful, no-good, bad-idea-executed-poorly, single-biggest-reason-the-Chiefs-lost interception, Smith was pretty good against the Bucs. Missing the third downs is terrible, but Smith was mostly accurate, hit a few deep balls, and had the touchdown scramble.
*Yes, I did use that line on the Border Patrol.
It’s all there, in other words. Maclin needs to be healthy, and productive. They need to continue to target Travis Kelce. Continue to use Tyreek Hill to stretch the field and present safeties with difficult choices. Use an athletic offensive line to move holes and allow Spencer Ware’s talents to shine.
But all of this becomes so much more difficult if Alex Smith isn’t better. He needs better decisions, and better accuracy, but most of all he needs better production with his feet.
He, and the Chiefs offense with him, has always operated with a relatively small margin for error. By allowing such a big part of his game to disappear without making up for it in other ways is simply a brutal obstacle to overcome.
On the list of Chiefs worries, this does not make the top 10.
Justin Houston is 27 years old, and just two seasons removed from 22 sacks. The Chiefs were committed to being patient with him, to better ensure that he was stronger when he came back, as opposed to being earlier when he came back.
I don’t know how realistic it would’ve been to expect him to be his 2014 self immediately. It doesn’t work that way.
But if you can’t trust a guy like that, in a situation like this, to gain strength and stamina as he plays, I don’t know who or when you trust.
That doesn’t mean Houston will be among the league’s best two or three pass rushers again. He’s coming back from a very bizarre injury. Nobody knows.
But the Chiefs have much bigger concerns at the moment.
We’re making history here, you guys — the Minutes’ first ever words about UMKC!
I do think UMKC could be in for a good season. They have one of their league’s best backcourts with (University Academy’s) Martez Harrison and LaVell Boyd, and if they can avoid the kind of drama and structural problems they had a year ago, have a real chance at the postseason.
One of the Kangaroos’ two losses was to Creighton, which I think even Kareem Richardson would tell you was a “buy” game, and even that came by just seven points on the road to a ranked opponent.
Murray State might be OK, but Drake and Bowling Green probably aren’t going to distinguish themselves this year. All that said, this is a team that should be better, the year after beating Missouri (I know, but still) and coming close enough to beating K-State that K-State is probably not going to schedule them anymore.
New Mexico State is the clear favorite in the WAC, but Harrison is the best player in the league, and UMKC has every reason to believe it can compete for the title.
I don’t know how it will end, and UMKC’s history is full of many more disappointments than accomplishments, but yes. I believe this team has a real chance.
They won a conference game.
They won a conference game against Texas.
They won a conference game against Texas, enough that Texas is apparently firing Charlie Strong.
All they needed this year was progress, and as momentarily encouraging as the TCU game may have been, it would’ve been hard to sell progress to players, recruits, and fans with a 1-11 season with the one win coming against perhaps the worst team in a lower division.
Kansas’ problems are deep, and one win doesn’t solve any of that. The program’s top booster told me he wanted to see “significant progress” by next year, and I think he was talking about more than one conference win, but, still.
This is the most tangible, believable sign that David Beaty is helping to push KU the right direction yet.
So, yes. I believe beating Texas makes this season a success.
I also believe that the standards will continue to rise, and they’ll need much more than one win against FBS competition next year to claim another success.
This is an important question, and there is no simple answer.
There are times that foods touching each other is not only acceptable, but preferable. Because you can go play in traffic if you don’t at least mix in a few bites of both mashed potatoes and turkey. Also, if you have any pride, gravy is on much of your plate already, so what’s the harm if you mix stuffing with mashed potatoes?
Now, even in these divided times, I think we can all agree that only a sociopath would combine, say, cranberry sauce with green bean casserole.
Also, if you don’t use your dinner roll to mop up some potatoes or gravy or stuffing or corn pudding, then you are most likely a communist and I don’t want you reading this anymore.
1. Stuffing. I will not debate this with you. Stuffing is the Mike Trout of Thanksgiving sides, right down to its shameful treatment — Trout should have more than two MVPs, and stuffing should be more of a factor outside this wonderful holiday.
2. Mashed potatoes. Goes with everything. Mix with so many other sides. A true team player.
3. Mac and cheese. Damn straight.
4. Au Gratin potatoes. I like potatoes and cheese. What do you want from me?
5. Roasted Carrots. Can pretend to be healthy!
6. Green bean casserole. When I grab a plate, I never think green bean casserole is going to be good. I am always wrong. ALWAYS.
7. Sweet potatoes. Yes, I’m aware that three of my top seven are potatoes. Go worry about your own list.
8. Creamed spinach. Same explanation as green bean casserole.
9. Rolls. Always good, but honestly, who’s excited about rolls?
410. Cranberry sauce. Get out of here, cranberry sauce. You’re overrated, arrogant, self-righteous and showy. Your time is past.