You remember the Kansas City Chiefs, don’t you?
The Chiefs were forever the toast of the town, ranking right up there with Gates Barbecue. People used to talk about the upcoming football season as early as June, as their across-the-parking-lot brethren Royals were generally out of the playoff race by that time.
But the Royals are now the big deal after being in hibernation for nearly 30 years. Fans are flocking to Kauffman Stadium in record numbers. On Monday nights when the usual 13,000 diehards plus an assortment of crickets used to show up, they are now packing in more than 30,000. Their average attendance is 33,000, which used to be close to what they’d draw for a three-game series in the dog days of summer.
Talk radio in Kansas City leads off with the Royals daily when they used to be in the third block. They are above the fold in The Kansas City Star. Johnny Cueto could run for mayor and he’d probably win.
The Chiefs are still around though. For those who can’t tear away from the Royals, the Chiefs opened their preseason schedule last Saturday with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals and even though the TV ratings for that game were higher than the Royals, it's probably because the Royals' network didn't carry the game and people couldn't find it on obscure Fox Sports I.
I guess you should say the Chiefs’ backups were better than the Cardinals’ backups. Arizona played its first-team offense just one series and it blitzed down the field for a touchdown. From there, Arizona couldn’t stop the Chase Daniel Show and he even threw a pair of touchdowns to wide receivers, something Alex Smith couldn’t do in 16 games last year as no Chief wide out visited the end zone.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t given the Chiefs a long look because of Royals Mania. They are home Friday to take on Seattle and I’m sure with the Royals on the road, there will be a decent crowd. But many of those in attendance will be there with “Hosmer” jerseys on and listening to Denny Matthews on the radio.
From what I see of the Chiefs, they’re going to struggle to score points (pay no attention to the 34 they scored last week, that’s a preseason mirage). The offensive line is going to be woeful and now former overall No. 1 draft pick (bust?) Eric Fisher is out a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain. They’ve already lost center Rodney Hudson to the Oakland Raiders, of all teams, but did bring in former New Orleans star Ben Grubbs, though the tread on his tires could probably be punctured by a tack.
The offense will live and die on the flying feet of Jamaal Charles. I’d like to see the Chiefs run him less, but throw to him more. He needs to be out in the flat where he can make defenders look silly in 1-on-1 situations.
Jeremy Maclin will be an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe from a speed standpoint, but say what you will about Bowe, the guy had some toughness. You never knew where his mind was, though, as he could make the spectacular catch look routine, then would drop an open throw.
Travis Kelce is a weapon at tight end, you just hope he’s matured some and doesn’t do all that stupid stuff after a catch. He just needs to play the game and cut out all the extracurriculars.
The defense welcomes back Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito and Eric Berry, but is missing linchpin nose tackle Dontari Poe, who may miss at least six games. There’s still a lot of nervousness about the secondary, especially with Sean Smith missing the first part of the season for off-the-field mischief.
Big-money Justin Houston won't be able to play up to his overblown salary (he's somehow being paid more than J.J. Watt!), but is still among the best five linebackers in the NFL. Tamba Hali hopes to squeeze out one more good year on his creaky knees, while Johnson will get by on cunning and guile. Maybe Dee Ford can contribute this year after being a Fisher-like bust last year.
I’m sure once the season gets closer, Kansas City fans will start paying closer attention to the Chiefs, who may have the toughest first four opponents of any team in the NFL, there of them on the road. But given the way the Royals are going, the Chiefs are going to be overshadowed until the end of October — and by that time they may be out of the playoff picture.