By Steven St. John
After five games and six weeks of the 2016 NFL season, the Chiefs have already experienced a rather wild rollercoaster ride of events. The crazy comeback against the Chargers, the embarrassing performance against the Steelers and the domination of the Raiders...and, we haven’t even made it to the halfway point of the season, yet. And, despite the ups and downs, the Chiefs appear to be right where they need to be as they enter a favorable stretch of games over the next month. Kansas City, Denver and Oakland all have two losses and San Diego, although competitive, is already saddled with four losses. So, for the optimists, the chances of the Chiefs winning the AFC West look promising.
Here are five reasons why you should be excited about the Chiefs chances to win the division.
Justin Houston is back on the practice field.
It’s ok to be cautiously optimistic about Houston’s return. For a long time, there was doubt and uncertainty surrounding Houston’s injury, but it seems like there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. If Houston returns to the Chiefs defense anything close to 100%, the KC defense could become one of the NFL’s best despite the season ending injuries to Allen Bailey and Justin March-Lillard.
The Chiefs offensive line is finally getting healthy.
Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are the bookends, but questions have surrounded the inexperienced interior of the line. Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Parker Ehinger are finally playing together and, hopefully, building chemistry which will pay huge dividends for the Chiefs as the season goes on.
With the return of Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have the best backfield in the NFL.
Spencer Ware is turning into a star and Charcandrick West has shown the ability to make plays when given the opportunity. Add Charles to the mix and the Chiefs running backs are deep and dangerous.
The Broncos look beatable.
After back-to-back losses to the Falcons and Chargers, Denver finally looks like they have some weaknesses and it’s more than just inexperience at quarterback. The run defense looks leaky and that could be huge if the Chiefs play the Broncos with the division on the line.
The upcoming schedule looks favorable for the Chiefs.
It’s time for the Chiefs to make their move and they have an excellent chance to do just that over the next five weeks. They play the Saints in KC, at Indy, Jacksonville, at Carolina and the Bucs at Arrowhead. The goal should be 4-1 over these five games. If they accomplish that, they’ll be in great position when they travel to Denver for Round 1 against the Broncos on November 27.
By Steven St. John
1) Will Eric Berry show up?
I don't think he will and I really don't think it's a big deal if Berry doesn't practice in St. Joseph. However, Andy Reid will be asked about Berry 722 times during camp, so sheer repetition alone makes it the top question.
2) Who will win the back-up quarterback battle?
Will it be Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray, Kevin Hogan or NICK FOLES? HEY, JAKE! NICK FOLES IS AVAILABLE! I don't know if the Chiefs are actually interested in Foles, but I really want them to be interested in him. Then, I could hear Jake call for Alex Smith to be benched every single day for the rest of the season, regardless of his performance.
3) How will Andy Reid utilize Jamaal Charles?
Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware proved they can get the job done last season, but you can't turn your back on a healthy Charles. I think Charles can be used more often as a receiver with West as a change of pace and Ware as a short yardage hammer. If all three backs stay healthy, the Chiefs should be able to run fresh legs at opposing defenses all season long.
4) Can the defense mount a consistent pass rush without Justin Houston?
Hopefully, Houston will be back sooner than later, but the Chiefs must prepare to play without him, just in case of a setback. I love the addition of 2nd round pick Chris jones to the defensive line. I think he will have an immediate impact. But, Tamba Hali needs to show he still has plenty of gas left in the tank because stopping him will be a focal point of opposing offenses until Houston returns..
bMarcus Peters is a stud, but the Chiefs are still waiting to find out if Gaines and Steven Nelson, former 3rd round picks, can be consistent contributors in the secondary. Kansas City also drafted KeiVarae Russell (3rd), Eric Murray (4th), and D.J. White (6th) this year, so they have certainly thrown numbers at the situation. Murray has been working at safety, but he could still see some time at corner. This will be a very interesting battle to watch in camp.
By Steven St. John
Canelo Alvarez defends his WBC Middleweight title against Amir Khan tomorrow night on PPV from Las Vegas. Alvarez is one of my favorite fighters to watch and I expect his showdown with Khan to be an exciting fight. I think Khan’s speed might give Canelo some problems early in the fight, but eventually Canelo will land a meaningful shot on Khan’s questionable chin and that will change or maybe even end the fight. Canelo will win by stoppage in the mid to late rounds.
In anticipation of this fight, here is a Sweet 16 list of my favorite fighters to watch in boxing. This is not a list of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. This is simply the fighters that I enjoy watching the most. I’m friends with Victor Ortiz, so I have omitted him from this list. I have also left out Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., even though I love him and his father. But, until JCCJ decides to train properly for his fights and starts listening to the advice his father gives him, he will stay off this list. Also, he should probably stop smoking weed during training camp.
· Gennady Golovkin – GGG is the most exciting fighter in boxing. Some fans question GGG’s level of competition, but it’s not his fault that many fighters are afraid to fight him. Hopefully, Golovkin will fight Canelo soon. If so, I might pass out with excitement during the ring introductions.
· Canelo Alvarez – He is the face of Mexican boxing and currently the most popular PPV draw in the sport. If he defeats Kahn, everyone will want him to fight GGG. That may not happen in September, but I think it will happen next May.
· Juan Manuel Marquez – He hasn’t fought for a long time, but until he officially retires, I will keep him on my list. He is one of my favorite fighters of all-time and one of the most entertaining fighters of my lifetime.
· Terence Crawford – Crawford is the pride of Omaha and he is one of the best fighters in the world. I can’t wait for his fight against Viktor Postol on July 23. What a fight!
· Deontay Wilder – Wilder is the currently the best American heavyweight and has the chance to become the best heavyweight in the world. He has the power, size and charisma to be a superstar, but I still worry about his chin. We will find out a lot about Wilder when he fights fellow top-ten heavyweight Alexander Povetkin on May 21 in Moscow.
· Sergey Kovalev – He is like the Terminator. An absolute destructive force. And, he’s supposed to fight Andre Ward in November. Please let this fight happen. Please.
· Andre Ward – Ward might be the best fighter on this list, but some people think he’s boring. I think he is technically superb and can adjust to win any style of fight. I would pick him to win in a fight against Kovalev.
· Miguel Cotto – Cotto has been one of the most exciting boxers to watch in the last 25 years, but his career is winding down. He hasn’t ducked anyone and he’s never backed down from a fight. It will be interesting to see who he fights next and how he finishes his hall-of-fame career.
· Keith Thurman – He’s undefeated and has a real shot to become a star in boxing. If he beats Shawn Porter on June 25, he will cement himself as the best welterweight in the world. I would love to see him eventually fight Danny Garcia.
· Shawn Porter – Porter is very exciting and has tremendous power, but he showed some flaws in his loss to Kell Brook. Beating Thurman would be HUGE for his career, but I don’t think it will happen.
· Lucas Matthysse – He’s like a machine, but he’s starting to slow down. I would love to see him fight a rematch with Ruslan Provodnikov.
· Ruslan Provodnikov – He’s going to fight John Molina on June 11 and that should be an outstanding fight. Provodnikov then might fight Crawford, but that would be bad news for Ruslan. Again, I want a rematch with Matthysse.
· Viktor Postol – His win over Matthysse was awesome, but now he faces Crawford on July 23. The fight will be exciting, but Crawford is just too damn good.
· Oscar Valdez – Valdez could be the next big thing in Mexican boxing. It will be fun to see how he evolves over the next 12-18 months.
· Roman Gonzalez – Many boxing pundits rank El Chocolatito as the best fighter in the world and they may be right. However, there is nobody in the flyweight division that can touch him and he needs better competition to attract the attention from fight fans he deserves.
· Adonis Stevenson – Stevenson is bold and brash. I would love to see him fight Kovalev or Ward, but that doesn’t look likely to happen anytime soon. He needs to step up his level of competition.
By Steven St. John
Chiefs Kingdom received some horrendous news on Tuesday morning, as Andy Reid and head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder updated the status of Justin Houston’s injured knee during a conference call with the media.
Here is what Burkholder said about Houston during the conference call:
So Justin, if you remember, hurt his knee in (November) against Buffalo, I think. We went through the playoffs where he was knicked up. He went down and saw Dr. (James) Andrews for the second time in February, had his knee scoped. At that time, in the week of February first, I think it was, he had his knee scoped. When Dr. Andrews took a look inside his knee, he determined that his ACL was intact, it just wasn’t functioning. He didn’t do anything at that moment, brought him out of surgery, we all got on the phone, discussed everything and decided to have his ACL fixed. He had his ACL fixed on the 16th of February. Right now he’s in the middle of the process of doing rehabilitation for an ACL injury that was a little bit tricky, because his ACL wasn’t torn, but it wasn’t functioning the way it should, so Dr. Andrews fixed that. And as you know from past, those are six-to-12 month recoveries, so it’s too early to tell where he’s at right now, but he’s on the road to recovery.
Welp. This really sucks. And, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Did the Chiefs make a mistake by bringing Houston back for the playoffs? Did anyone know that Houston had suffered an ACL injury before February or was it a complete surprise? Would the Chiefs have still brought Tamba Hali back, if Houston hadn’t suffered this ACL injury? Will Houston miss the entire 2016 season?
Regardless of the answers to the first few questions, the last one is all that matters. If Houston misses a portion or all of the 2016 season, it will be a HUGE blow to the Chiefs chances of returning to the playoffs. It’s just awful news to a team that still needs to replace Sean Smith in the secondary and make other necessary upgrades to keep up with the rest of the AFC West.
Again, without Houston, the Chiefs will be left to count heavily on an aging Hali and a still unproven Dee Ford, unless they decide to address the situation early in the upcoming draft. Yes, in the same draft they need to add a cornerback, offensive and defensive line depth and another wide receiver, all without the benefit of a 3rd round pick.
Hopefully, Houston will be back in closer to six months instead of 12. And, if you’re looking for optimism, Reid referenced Houston’s tremendous work ethic and that’s he’s a “fast-healer”. However, the bright side doesn’t look so bright right now. All I can say is the whole situation really sucks.
5 Reasons Why the Chiefs Can Beat the Patriots
By Steven St. John
· The Chiefs defense will present a nightmare match-up for the Patriots offense. Kansas City’s ability to generate a consistent pass rush from their defense line without blitzing will be a huge key. Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard were beasts against the Texans and they will be more than a handful for New England’s porous offensive line. If the d-line can move Brady off his spot and hit him even when they don’t sack him, the rest of the defense will benefit. Also, Bob Sutton will then be free to bring extra pressure with some well-designed and disguised blitz packages at his discretion instead of being forced to generate a pass rush through exotic blitzes.
· Ron Gronkowski will not be 100%. The Pats are getting Julian Edelman back from injury, Edelman will also be less than full strength, but he will still be a problem for KC. However, if Gronk is hobbled, the physical and versatile Chiefs secondary will have an easier time imposing their will on the Patriots smallish receivers. KC’s secondary is deep and talented. Even if Gronk makes a miraculous recovery, this should be an excellent match-up.
· Eric Berry. This team feeds off the energy and determination of their leader, Eric Berry. We all know what he’s been through and we’ve marveled at his return to elite level play. He does plenty to physically help this team, but what we don’t quite understand is how much he means to his teammates emotionally. Berry inspires everyone in a Chiefs uniform. The team has taken on his attitude. They have faced adversity and persevered. This is Eric Berry’s team and they will follow him through anything and everything. These intangibles cannot be ignored.
· Alex Smith won’t make the big mistake. Smith may still be too conservative at times, but he has clearly taken his play to a higher level. He has been terrific running the football and he’s developed a good chemistry with Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. Even if Maclin doesn’t play, it appears that rookie Chris Conley is ready to make a bigger impact now that he is comfortable in the offense. Smith has found his groove of making plays while not jeopardizing the team with crucial mistakes.
· Special teams. Dave Toub is the best Special Teams Coordinator in the NFL. In Kansas City, his teams have delivered multiple returns for TD’s while his coverage units have given up ZERO TD returns since he’s been in KC. Cairo Santos has developed into a dependable kicker with a booming leg on kickoffs and Dustin Colquitt continues to be one of the best punters in the NFL. If this game comes down to special teams, advantage Kansas City.
Chiefs 24 Patriots 20
By Steven St. John
The Royals are two wins away from winning the World Series.
Let me repeat that. THE ROYALS ARE TWO WINS AWAY FROM WINNING THE WORLD SERIES.
Say it loud and say it proud. I’ve been waiting for this to happen again since 1985, when I was a naive 12-year-old that assumed my hometown team would be title contenders every season.
My sons have been waiting for this their entire lives. We’ve made countless trips to Kauffman Stadium over the years and they’ve endured listening to their Dad attempt to convince them why this was the year and why that Royals team was different than the rest.
Finally, it’s all true. And, for the Royals fans that have left this earth, still hoping to watch their team make that climb back to the top of baseball’s championship mountain. Huge fans like my Mama and my Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Richie and Cousin Tony. I was with my Mom at Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and when the Royals won Game 7, I hugged her and my Grandparents and we cried tears of absolute joy. I will never forget that feeling.
And, that’s what I want my sons to experience. I want them to watch their beloved Royals win it all. Then, I want to hug them as we cry those same tears of joy, creating a memory they will hold in their hearts, long after I’m gone. I want them to tell their kids crazy stories about 2015, the same way I tell them stories about 1985. I want my wife and daughters to scream, just like they do every time they see Eric Hosmer’s face.
I want my Dad to tell me how much he loves Salvy because he’s the heart and soul of the team. I want Moose to win it for his Mom, and Chris Young and Edinson Volquez to win it for their Dads.
I want every single Royals fan around the world to celebrate…to laugh…to cry.
I want a parade though the streets of my hometown.
I want the Royals to win…two more games. For me…for my boys…for you…for Kansas City.
I don’t care if it happens in New York, in Kansas City or on the moon.
We’ve waited long enough. It’s time for the Royals to take the crown.