Well, we made it through Chiefs training camp and all of the preseason games. Now we finally get real games that actually mean something. The Chiefs are not the only team with a big game this weekend. But we will touch on the local colleges and their games later because the NFL is king and it always gets top billing.
1. And the home of the CHHHHEEEEIIIFFFFSSS!
It feels like the 2011 home opener when the Chiefs were destroyed by the Buffalo Bills was a lifetime ago. For Chiefs fans and players I am sure they would gladly hire Lacuna, Inc. to ensure that memory would be erased for good. Here we are, a year later, and things are looking good for the Chiefs to come out of this game with a victory.
Before the preseason, when I went through the Chiefs schedule, I had them finishing the season 10-6 and just missing the playoffs. One of the games I had the Chiefs winning was the season opener vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Well, I am now taking that win off the board and backing the Chiefs record down to 9-7. With the injuries in the defensive secondary and the suspension of Tamba Hali I have trouble seeing the Chiefs win this game.
If the Chiefs win this game they do it by running the ball and hitting Matt Ryan. Good news is the Chiefs are really good at running the ball so they should be able to be really effective doing that. For me the magic number of rushing yards they need to get is 200 yards. If the Chiefs can rush for 200 yards against the Falcons that means they are dominating the time of possession and keeping their own defense well rested. But more importantly, they will be keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and the rest of the Falcons offensive on the sidelines as spectators.
The Falcons offense is going to get the ball at some point during the game. If the Falcons offense never takes a snap then something crazy happened. When the Falcons are on offense, the Chiefs need to get pressure on Matt Ryan and knock him down...a lot. My magic number for the Chiefs defense is five. As in the five sacks. If the Chiefs defense can sack Matt Ryan five times then I feel confident the Chiefs are winning the game. No Hali just plain sucks for the Chiefs. It sucks because the chances of the Chiefs sacking Matt Ryan five times without Tamba Hali are about slim and none. And I think just saw slim leaving town for a long weekend.
Official prediction is 27-17 Falcons.
2. Welcome to the jungle:
The next line that Axl Rose screams in that song is, "We got fun and games!" and MU is going to find out all about the fun and games of the SEC this Saturday as they play their first SEC football game ever. Mizzou's first SEC game ever comes as #7 Georgia rolls into Columbia to show The Zoo what SEC football is all about. At least that is the narrative that is being discussed leading into this game. I am not interested in that topic at all. I am more interested in the idea being thrown around that this is the biggest game in the history of the MU football program. This isn't the biggest game in MU's history. Its not even the biggest football game for MU in the past 10 years.
In the current sports landscape the trend has been that whatever games you just saw or player you saw perform is the greatest, the biggest, and most important. The past (no matter how recent) is forgotten and thrown to the wayside and not given a second thought. I am not someone who thinks every accomplishment of the past is better than the accomplishments of now. Honestly I tend to give more credit to sports accomplishments of today than of yesteryear. My reason is pretty simple. Athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster now than they were back then. Teams play more games and more teams are competitive.
I state all of that to give some perspective on where my head is at when I say that MU's game vs. Georgia is not the biggest game in their history. It is a giant game because it is the first game in a brand new conference and it is against a SEC team that always seems to find its way into the top ten of the BCS. It is big because you only get one chance to make a first impression. But this game is not as big as the Armageddon at Arrowhead game that Missouri played against Kansas in 2007. It is not even as big a game as the 2010 game at home vs. #1 ranked Oklahoma.
There will never be a MU football game as big as the 2007 Armageddon at Arrowhead game vs. KU. It was the Border War on steroids. In fact it was the Border War on steroids that were on steroids. MU was the #4 team in the nation and were getting ready to play their biggest rival, the Kansas Jayhawks who were the #2 ranked team in the nation. It was a special game in a special year that Kansas City will never see or experience again. After winning that game MU vaulted to a #1 ranking in the nation. They only held the ranking for one week as they lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, but they did get pretty damn close to the mountain top.
The 2010 game was another one of those special nights and special games for the Missouri Tigers in the history of their football program. Mizzou hosted the top ranked and Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma on national TV with the all the eyes of college football watching. MU's success vs. OU was pretty nonexistent. In the magical 2007 season the two blemishes were courtesy of Boomer Sooner.
OU's ranking that night is secondary when you talk about why that game was important. The fact was that on Faurot Field on that Saturday night with ESPN College Gameday in the house MU was able to exercise a lot of demons because they were able to beat Oklahoma.
When I rank the "biggest games in the history of Mizzou", the upcoming game vs. Georgia falls third behind Armageddon at Arrowhead in 2007 and the OU game at home in 2010 and those two are in a class all by themselves. Outcomes help tell the tale of how "big" a particular game is in people's memory. If MU had beaten OU in the Big 12 title game in 2007 then the game at Arrowhead loses much of its luster. If MU beat OU and played in the BCS title then the Big 12 title game becomes a forgotten memory. The outcome of the UGA game Saturday will have the final say on where it ultimately ranks in MU history. Right now it falls very short of cracking my top two.
3. Return of the King:
King can be a lofty term to throw onto an NFL player but for me, Tony Gonzalez has earned the crown. He is the greatest Chiefs player I have ever seen with my own eyes. Sunday marks the return of Tony G to the place and the team he called home for the first 12 years of his Hall of Fame career.
Gonzalez's success in the NFL has been bittersweet to say the least. Throughout his entire amazing career Tony Gonzalez he has never been on a team that has won a playoff game rocking an 0-5 record. For me his lack of playoff wins does not diminish what Gonzalez has accomplished in his career. With Gonzalez announcing before the season that the 2012 season will be his last it is now or never for Tony G. I don't know what kind of reception #88 will get at Arrowhead on Sunday but I know it should be standing applause.
4. The U heads west:
The entire Midwest is a buzz over this rematch, right? No, this game doesn't carry the hype of last year's match up. Some of that is because it is being over shadowed by the SEC match up between Georgia and MU. That does not mean this game does not carry the same importance as it did last season. K-State's win at Miami last season was a springboard for the success the Wildcats had in 2011. Not many people thought KSU were going to win the game last season and that win put the Wildcats on the national radar. If K-State loses to Miami on Saturday that is a step back for a program that is about progression not regression. Bill Snyder and K-State are a rare favorite in a game and the outcome of this game should reflect that.
5. It's all about the Capology baby!
The NFL has begun and the yearly tradition of seeing where teams fall under the salary cap. You can imagine how shocked I was to see that according to the NFLPA the Kansas City Chiefs are $26.6 million under the cap. They come in second to the Jacksonville Jaguars as far as the team with the most cap room. Believe it or not, I was not shocked at all. If you want a really good read about the Chiefs cap number check out Kent Babb's article in the Kansas City Star.
This brings up the question of how cheap are the Chiefs. Notice I didn't say whether or not they are cheap. It's clear the Chiefs are one of the thriftier teams in the NFL. I believe the old saying is if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck... When this topic of the salary cap comes up to Chiefs GM Scott Pioli he is steadfast in pointing out that he is not in the business of spending money just for the sake of spending it. I completely understand that mindset. But one place where it might have been good to spend some of that pile of money would have been on defensive back Brandon Carr. In the off-season, the former Chief cashed in as he signed a 5-year $50.1 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys. After his performance during the preseason and in the season opener against the New York Giants he appears to be worth the money. I got a text from a close friend who is a Cowboys fan during the game vs. the Giants and he thanked me and the Chiefs for not resigning Brandon Carr.
This is where the rubber meets the road for me on the spending habits of Scott Pioli. When the topic of not signing Carr is brought up the quick retort is would you rather have Eric Winston, Stanford Routt, and Peyton Hillis or Brandon Carr? My answer is all of the above. Because that is what the Chiefs could have done. It isn't like this was the Price Is Right Showcase Showdown and the Chiefs had to pick on or the other. You are allowed to have it all. As long as you have the money to pay them which the Chiefs have.
I grant you that not signing Brandon Carr is amplified by the injury to Brandon Flowers. But there are two positions you can never have too many of and they are defensive lineman and defensive backs. In the NFL the more depth you have at those two positions the better. Look at the New York Giants. They lacked high level depth at the corner back position and were torched because of it. They also have a lot of talent and depth at the defense line position and that showed as well.
Man, it is awesome to have football back. You probably noticed the Royals were absent from this week's entry. I have not totally forgotten about our local 9 in blue. I have a feeling they will make an appearance next week as a certain someone is coming back to the K.
Follow me on twitter @craig_a_brenner and until we met again. Peace out!