By Kevin Kietzman
Well, the Ravens didn’t do the Chiefs any favors Monday night with one of the most disappointing efforts of the season and it now feels like the best the Chiefs can do is get the #2 seed in the AFC Playoffs.
While it’s still possible the Patriots could lose at Denver and at Miami, it seems the most unlikely scenario of all. And even if they did, the Chiefs have to run the table against Tennessee, Denver and San Diego. And I don’t think the Chiefs will.
Not to be a downer, but I think it’s time to start looking for another Raiders loss somewhere to make sure KC wins the West and gets a week off and a home game. The Raiders are at San Diego this week and the Chargers are decimated with injuries. Quarterback Phillip Rivers, always turnover prone, is reaching new lows recently with his dreadful play. It has to be a Raiders win. Next week, the Colts visit Oakland and while the Colts can occasionally ride the hot hand of Andrew Luck to victory, they are not even in the Raiders’ league. Another Oakland win.
Again, don’t be alarmed, but I think the AFC West is coming down to the final game of the season and I’m not going to be surprised if the Chiefs are a game back and need a win at San Diego and an Oakland loss at Denver.
The problem the Chiefs have had all year is they just don’t put teams away. Even at home, where KC has been victorious in 11 of its last 12, they are not even close to dominant. Maybe you can just keep winning close, low scoring games, but I don’t want to find out. It’s time for the Chiefs to exert themselves, time to make a statement. The Titans come in this week with arguably the league’s hottest quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a defense that has completely pulled it together the second half of the season. Tennessee will pound the ball running first (and Mariota is a big part of that running several designed plays Alex Smith used to run) and then take it up top for the long ball. This won’t be easy. I actually think beating Denver on Christmas night is now an easier assignment than beating Tennessee. I’ll take a close win this week but need the Chiefs to stop pounding our hearts against the Broncos. I tease Alex Smith a little bit every week when I see him that you have to start getting some easier wins or we’re all going to die young.
Bottom line for me? I actually thought the Ravens would win Monday night and set this thing up for a race to the top seed. Now I think the Chiefs will do very, very well to just hang on to the #2 seed and get that coveted bye and a home game in the playoffs.
By Kevin Kietzman
In a recent piece in ESPN the magazine, it was revealed that former Chiefs center Rodney Hudson is the closest friend on the Raiders to quarterback Derrick Carr. The two text constantly, watch film together and are occasionally caught off guard by one another when away from football, when the other reaches out to talk about a play or scheme.
It’s great copy.
The story does mention that Derrick Carr is a gifted quarterback and has the Raiders in first place. But the crux of the whole thing is that the Raiders spend more on their offensive line than any other team in football and that’s the reason this Carr is good and his brother David was not. You know, build an offensive line and the game is easy, right?
Of course, that doesn’t explain why Tony Romo could never stay upright and why the Cowboys have moved away from passing the ball to running it and playing defense. Their O-line is considered by many to be better than Oakland’s.
And so we see two fine teams line up and play for the AFC West at Arrowhead Thursday night. The Raiders with their massive O-line, young gunslinger and receivers against the Chiefs and the most important secondary in football. KC has focused on playmakers in space on offense that can fly after catching short passes and playmakers in the secondary that will break your heart. The Raiders have gone a more traditional route. The first game wasn’t close, 26-10, Derrick Carr foiled again by the Chiefs.
Actually the most memorable part of the ESPN story was the little known (but interesting) fact that the Raiders massive, expensive offensive line is comprised of all African American players. That’s pretty rare in the NFL. The line was so good against the Broncos earlier this year, the Raiders actually called the exact same running play 10 times in a row and averaged over 6 yards per carry during that stretch. Very impressive.
The point of all this? Well, if the Raiders line is really that good Thursday, they should be able run the ball at will. And even the Chiefs hawkish defense gets picked apart when QB’s have a lot of time to throw. Maybe the Raiders O-Line is the most important part of this game. Goodness knows half the fans out there believe that you can only win with great offensive line play. But it doesn’t explain how the Raiders only scored 10 on the Chiefs earlier this year and it doesn’t explain the roller coaster that is the Raiders offense. Oakland was awful for nearly 3 quarters last week against the Bills and just exploded to a 14 point win. They were pedestrian against the Texans a few weeks ago, and the Panthers. For long stretches. And then Derrick Carr and America’s second favorite team just bust out and go crazy.
I have to believe if the Raiders struggle for two plus quarters at Arrowhead, there won’t be enough drives left to come back. The Raiders like high scoring games and figure they can score once more that you. The Chiefs have played three teams this year that like to do it that way and they’ve beaten them all. San Diego, Oakland, Atlanta. Win, win, win. But hey, those offensive lines were great in those games.
Sports Radio 810's Kevin Kietzman's interview with Alex Smith, heading into 2016 Chiefs Training Camp:
Kevin - It is going to be warm in Kansas City. We’ve had some mildish kind of camps the last couple of years. Is this an exciting time of year for you?
Alex Smith - Yeah, for sure. This is the real deal. I mean it is the real kickoff, and we’re going to camp. With all the restrictions in the offseason, it is fun but this is real football. We will get to put the pads on, get to have real practices, and before you know it, preseason is here and then that goes through, and then Opening Day is right on you quick - it happens fast.
I really love our camp set up, I love going up to St. Joe. I think the facilities are awesome up there, I love the whole set up. Coach, with the morning practices is great. It’s fun, especially as you get older, it is fun for me since I got little kids. A lot of times throughout the year it is tough to always get to hang out with some of the younger guys - I’m going home and hanging out with family, and those guys go do their deal. So, camp’s a time for me … that there is a lot of hangout time and there is down time to get to know each other - kind of let loose, and be around each other in a relaxed atmosphere.
Kevin - You added to the family this year too right?
Alex Smith - Yeah, we did we had our third. Little girl, in February so she is a five-month old. Yeah, we’re doing good, got our hands full. I think we just got our three-year old out of diapers, so that’s looking good. So just one now.
Kevin – How about the projections this year? I’m just hearing more and more people say the AFC West is sitting there for the Kansas City Chiefs to take. What do you think about that?
Alex Smith – Oh without a doubt it’s wide open. I think that’s kind of the nature, that’s a lot of years, obviously they have some turnover at the quarterback position, but obviously very, very good on the defensive side of the football. But the whole division - I think Oakland is going to be continuing to get better, San Diego is always going to be dangerous, I think they’ll be better, anytime you’ve got a QB like Phillip (Rivers), you know they’re capable of playing at a really high level. So you know we have to be on it, you know we open up with a division game this year, so that’s always going to be interesting, and at home, so you know it’s important to get off to a good start. I think last year is such a great learning example for us on what not to do. And everybody has expectations just like we did last year, but you’ve got to take care of the little things, and you’ve got to play four quarters of football, and we learned that in those first few weeks last year. We jumped on some people and let them come back and kind of steals some games away that we felt like we shoulda won.
Kevin – Ya know, I know how smart you are, and I know how much work there is in playing quarterback and knowing offenses and it’s an intricate game sometimes, and all those things, and a lot of times I oversimplify things here, but I think a lot of fans would agree with this, that in the NFL, the teams with the quarterback-coach combo, the best coach, best quarterback combo, they win a lot in this league. And I don’t think it’s close in the division right now, with Peyton Manning gone, I think Andy Reid, Alex Smith is the best combination of head coach and quarterback in this division, and I don’t think it’s close. Do you feel like Manning being gone is a big deal? Does that change the way you look at the division or the season, or do you feel like frontrunners at this point?
Alex Smith – You know that’s a good question. I definitely think we’re excited about the season, and we’re confident. I am about what we have before us and the opportunity that we have before us. But at the same time, it’s the NFL - I mean there’s not an easy game out there. Certainly I think, yeah they’re the defending champs, Denver, and certainly they’ve won the division the last few years. But certainly with Peyton being gone, that does change things with the turnover at the quarterback position. They’ve lost some other players as well, and every year is different, so yeah, but big opportunity in front of us, I’ll say it like that, and I think we’re confident about it. But you have to be on it, you know - no one is going to hand it over, no one is giving it away. You’ve gotta go take it and do all of the little things to get it done.
Kevin – What are your thoughts about the contributions of Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles this year? Where do you think they’re going to be?
Alex Smith – Yea, no idea, you know, I’m not a doctor. I haven’t seen those guys lately. I’ve been hearing great things, but who knows. Certainly Jamaal had his surgery just a few months prior gives him a little more time to get ready. But we’ll see come camp, everybody is different. You can’t compare guys - injuries are all different, how their bodies respond. So you just got to be patient, and if they can’t go then the next guy has got to step up and we’ve got to find a way to get it done. Certainly at the running back spot though, a lot of experience with that last year with Charcandrick (West) and Spencer (Ware) stepping in and I think to have that depth is only a good thing.
Kevin – They played great, but if I know this right, Jamaal is such a threat as a receiver and can make such big plays and I know the league has kind of gone away from one running back, now a lot of teams treat running backs like they’re a dime a dozen or whatever and you guys played really well last year. But if Jamaal is what Jamaal used to be, isn’t that kind of another dimension, when you can throw the ball to him and he can go 37 yards with it after you throw it to him - isn’t that a whole different deal?
Alex Smith – Yeah, listen, I don’t know what the stats are, but obviously driving the football the length of the football field, depending on where you start, is hard. And there is a huge correlation when you get big chunk plays and scoring points. And I don’t know if there is a better running back in the league when it comes to making big plays, whether it be catching the football or running it. The guy just has, at any point, huge play potential and you just don’t find that anywhere. It’s incredibly unique, so to be able to have that back on the field and have defenses worrying about that is only going to make life better for the rest of us and being able to spread it around and make them defend everybody.
Kevin – Alright, I’ve told our listeners over the years here, there’s a couple of things that I really like about you that are kind of cool. You’re not on Twitter, you haven’t gotten on Twitter have you?
Alex Smith – I have not, nope, still no social media.
Kevin – This is good, I like this. I just think that’s probably a good policy for an NFL quarterback. The other think I told people was that in Tahoe last year, I thought it was really cool, with all of the elbow rubbing and all the celebrity and all that stuff, you kind of sneaked away with your wife one evening and went over to a different property across the street, and had a hat on and just blended in with everybody where nobody knew what you guys were up to. I thought that was pretty cool. Are you a private person? Do you largely like to stay away from being in the spotlight and being Alex Smith? And is it difficult to go to an event like this where everybody is just looking for celebrities?
Alex Smith – Yeah definitely, I’m inclined to be in private. There’s obviously the things that come with the territory of being an NFL quarterback that you just have to deal with and get used to. But certainly family time is something that I cherish and there are times when it is nice to be private and get away and spend some of the time. … But like you said, there are times certainly where you do try to duck away when I am with my wife and kids, and have some good family time.
Kevin – So would you say right now - if you had to guess - and these are the things we get to ask outside of season. But if you had to guess right now, after football, would you say there’s no football? I mean, you don’t want to be an announcer? You don’t want to stay in the game as a coach? You just wanna go do your own thing and be a private guy?
Alex Smith – That’s a good question, Kevin. Listen, hopefully, I don’t have to think about that for awhile. But yeah, that’s definitely a possibility, nothing is off the table at this point, and that’s certainly something that as you do get older you begin to ponder a little. But like I said, hopefully I don’t have to make that decision for quite a few more years. But yeah, that’s not out of the realm.
Kevin - Well if you ever want to try radio let us know. You’re always welcome here buddy. Always welcome here.
Alex Smith – Thank you
By Kevin Kietzman
It’s time for the people that think they know so much about the great game of golf to realize they know nothing about what’s good for the game.
Dustin Johnson was a great U.S. Open champion Sunday after blistering Oakmont, PA Country Club with an array of 350-yard drives, guided missile 6 irons into greens and just enough putting to put everyone away. DJ’s internet sensation wife, Paulina, and his kid made for a perfect little Father’s Day setting at America’s most important golf tourney.
But the USGA just had to ruin the fun.
On the 5th hole as Johnson was just about to putt his ball (but hadn’t set his putter head on the ground behind the ball), the ball moved backwards just a smidge. Johnson backed away and called a rules official over and reported it. He was the only person on earth that saw it live as it happened. Replay cameras caught it, sure. And his playing partner, Lee Westwood, walked over to talk about it too. All three men agreed it should not be a penalty. Heck, on what planet and what sport is something like that even considered a penalty?
An hour and a half later, the USGA decided to tell all the players near the top of the leaderboard that there “may” be a one shot penalty assessed at the end of the round to Johnson’s score. Immediately, this insane decision to not make a decision yet tell the players, altered what everyone was thinking.
In the end, Johnson won by 4 shots. So the USGA went ahead and penalized him a stroke - but he still won. It was one of the most gutless, ridiculous rulings I’ve ever seen in any sport. It made soccer rulings look sane.
The point of all this? Well, the rules of golf are written for a reason. Don’t cheat people you’re competing against, especially when they are not in your playing group. But golf at the highest level is a completely different animal. Every shot of every leader is televised in HD. Nobody is trying to cheat anyone. Ever. You couldn’t even if you wanted.
The USGA and Royal and Ancient rules of golf should be a nice guideline for “tournament rules of play”. You see, 5th graders can’t spike a football in the end zone and dance but the pros can. My friend may gain an advantage on me by not knowing the rules of golf and I may not like it and maybe we can use it to learn more about fair and unfair. But not the U.S. Open. There is no way they assess that penalty if Johnson wins by one or if he’s tied at the end of regulation. That made it even worse. They were afraid to call it and only did after they knew it wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Scrap the rules of golf guys and put it all in the hands of playing partners and on course officials. Use replay if you want. But only rule on two things: 1) Did a player gain an unfair advantage with intent to do so? 2) Did a player gain an unfair advantage because he broke a rule he didn’t know?
It’s that simple. When Dustin Johnson broke a rule by grounding his club in a bunker at the PGA Championship, he gained no advantage. He should have known the rule and shouldn’t have grounded his club. But he gained no advantage and it shouldn’t have had any effect on the outcome of the tourney he lost. He would have won. What a shame.
These golf snobs running these tournaments don’t understand why golf has stopped growing without Tiger Woods. There’s a lot of reasons, but one of them is a real disconnect between the ancient, stupid, complicated rules of golf written by the ruling class and the millions of us who just want to play the game for fun and watch the pros for entertainment. The USGA has long lost its way in this regard.
By Kevin Kietzman
If the Royals are the best team in baseball at home, what are they on the road? Keeping in mind the bar is much lower on the road, it’s a fair question to ask as the AL Central leaders begin a three city, 10-game roadie that starts with four against Cleveland.
The Indians sit 2 ½ games back with a resume chalk full of computer stats that tell us they are way better than the Royals. Maybe 10 full games better than the Royals. The Royals resume is chalk full of post season trophies, flags and rings and a bunch of new players nobody has ever heard of. Oh yeah, and the Royals are alone in first place playing what injured left fielder Alex Gordon described as the best baseball he’s ever seen the team play.
The Royals have won six in a row, eight of nine and they’re batting a ridiculous .358 as a team during that stretch. In each of those games, the Royals have had 10 hits or more. It’s easy to see why Gordon’s observation has validity and it hasn’t all just been guys like Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando, Brett Eibner and Drew Butera leading the way. No, the stars are shining in KC. Lorenzo Cain is 10 for his last 21 and Eric Hosmer is becoming a true MVP candidate after going 14 for 26 with 12 RBI on the perfect 6-0 homestand.
But as wicked as this bunch as been at Kauffman Stadium, they have had some trouble on the road. The fans in Kansas City truly intimidate visiting pitchers during rally time and especially late in games. There is no magic potion on the road. KC is 11-15 in other ball parks and has a history of serious offensive droughts in many of those losses. It’s pretty obvious the Royals can’t keep up the pace they’ve set on the recent homestand, but can they be a .500 team on the road this year? If so, you get the feeling this division is over.
The Royals are already 13-5 against the Central, just flat out owning Minnesota and Cleveland. But the math guys, and many traditionalists that believe in starting pitching, think Cleveland is the most likely challenger. That makes this series so intriguing. The Indians haven’t played their best, have three outfielders out and are just 2 ½ back. The main problem Cleveland has is the Royals are just starting to play their best, have two outfielders, a third baseman and a catcher out and are 2 ½ games up. I know that’s not advanced math, but sometimes simple math provides the real answers. And the only math that matters in sports is wins and losses.
If the Royals can play better on the road, all the math tells us this division won’t be much of a race at all.
By Kevin Kietzman
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right from the jump here, the Kansas Jayhawks are on fire.
KU is the number one seed in the entire NCAA tournament. They look like it, they play like it and everyone knows it. In fact, the only concern I have for KU at this point is the possibility that being from the Big 12 has once again made them look a smidge better than they really are. But the performance against UCONN quiets that theory significantly.
The Big 12 has three teams still dancing, all having played to their seed. So there is no back slapping, whoop-whooping over the mighty Big 12. The league has been a disappointment in the tourney again, but the remaining teams can make the league look great. Meanwhile, the ACC has a record 6 teams in the Sweet 16. I called this at the beginning of the Madness and we’ve talked about it for two months on Between the Lines. The ACC is the best league in hoops, and it isn’t close.
But what I really notice about March Madness is one of the strangest things in all of sports. Is there anything more predictable, yet filled with wild Cinderella moments, than the NCAA Tourney?
Think about it. You get your kicks from Stephen F. Austin just boggling your mind with their precision and passion and great stories. Northern Iowa tosses in a half court bomb at the buzzer. And Middle Tennessee... well… Middle Tennessee took out Michigan State in one of the most shocking upsets ever.
That was fun. Now THAT kind of fun is over. This is nearly a scratch field at this point with all 16 teams fitting into two distinct categories.
Category 1: You have played to your seed.
The South and the West are seeds 1-4. All the hand wringing over the committee being dopey and here we have a couple regions that have all four faves remaining. All four number one seeds are alive, too. Three of the four number one seeds are playing 4 seeds. So much for Cinderella.
Category 2: You are a name program playing well now
This is where Syracuse, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Indiana fit. They all beat slightly higher seeds (or not if they caught a break) and made the Sweet 16. But there is no real surprise as most of these teams have done this before. Up and down the board, we now have teams that have been there, done that. Those that haven’t like Miami and ISU are high seeds this year that have only met expectations so fare. And for a tournament known for surprises, there are none left in this field. Cinderella got all dolled up and got dumped at the curb well before midnight.