Five Things I Think: Time for a New Champion

In this weeks edition of my Five Things I Think, we explore the changing of the guard in the AFC West, the Richardson shove, the Raiders big win Sunday. Off topic I offer my take on the Royals trading King Zack and will the NBA's Hornets work in KC?

1. Put A Fork in San Diego - In the aftermath of the Chiefs narrow victory over Denver and the Raiders blowout win over the Chargers on Sunday, this weekends contest between Kansas City and San Diego is going to be the biggest game of the season. In fact, it might be the biggest game around these parts since the Chiefs played the Colts in the playoffs in January of 2004. It's a statement game for Todd Haley and the entire organization. It could also be a changing of the guard in the AFC West.

Last week all we heard from the national pundits were how the Chargers were coming on and they were going to take the division. Even after the results of Sunday, I read a columnist from CNNSI who still believes San Diego is going to win the AFC West.

Some people just don't get it. The Chargers are finished. Last weekends embarrassing home loss to the Raiders, set this team so far down the playoff prospect list, that there's virtually no scenario that puts them in the post season.

Sure they could run the table, win their next four games, and end up with ten wins. But for a team that can't run the ball, has horrific special teams and has become one-dimensional on offense, tell me how that's going to happen.

And when you add their plethora of injuries on offense, how can any team that has to dress 21 different receivers, going to win four more games. I don't care how good Chargers Quarterback Phillip Rivers might be, he's not that good.

On the other hand, the Chargers still have the wherewithal to pummel the Chiefs on Sunday. And trust me, they're not going to lay down and let Kansas City just take this game. They're going to fight hard and do whatever they can to save their season. If nothing more, they can act as spoilers.

And one should expect nothing less from a team that has won four consecutive AFC West crowns.

However, this game means far more to the Chiefs than the Chargers. Should the Chiefs win, which I expect them to do, they'll put themselves in a position on a national level as a legitimate football team that has earned their spot in the post season. And even further they'll be a team, because of their offensive balance, that no other AFC team will want any part of in January.

And that's really what's at stake Sunday. Many still perceive the Chiefs as pretenders. The experts constantly mention their weak schedule. But nobody talks about the weak schedule of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lead the AFC North with a 9-3 record.

Nobody really talks about the easy path the New York Jets had in getting out to their 9-3 start. In fact, the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers all have had some relatively easy teams on their respective schedules.

And true so have the Chiefs. But with the exception of the Chargers, they've all managed to win most of the games in which they were favored to do so. On Sunday, the Chargers are eight point favorites to defeat the Chiefs.

So in essence the Chargers should easily defeat the Chiefs. On Sunday, we're about to find out if the Chiefs are for real or not. There is so much at stake on Sunday for Kansas City. But there is even more at stake for the Chargers.

2. The Richardson Shove - For the record I will never condone a player shoving a coach. I don't care what is at the core of the incident, that's off limits. Richardson's sideline antics will probably cost him a few bucks out of this week's game check.

There's no excuse for Richardson's actions on Sunday but the Chiefs need him on the field in San Diego this weekend.
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It won't likely put him on the bench on Sunday. And that's because without Richardson in the starting lineup, this offense line isn't as good. In his absence in the fatal drive that resulted in a fourth down sack, his replacement Ryan O'Callaghan was the culprit that led to Quarterback Matt Cassel scrambling for his life.

O'Callaghan missed not one but two of the blitzes coming around the right side. He whiffed on both. Had he hit one of then maybe Cassel can escape the pocket and save the play. But that wasn't the case.

Richardson is one of the unsung heroes for the Chiefs this season. And of all the offensive lineman on the roster, he might be the teams most physical. He's worked hard to shed some pretty awful labels that dropped him from a second round draft pick to sixth rounder.

When pushed by reporters on Sunday and Monday about the incident, Todd Haley said the matter would be handled in-house. And that's where this flap needs to stay. But I do commend Haley for sticking up for his player.

And in part it could be based on the fact, Haley and Hoffman, got into a heated exchange in Seattle when the Chiefs had a field goal and punt attempt blocked just minutes apart.

Either way Richardson's fire isn't really a bad thing. But it has to be dealt with.

3. Kudos to the Raiders - I have to give Oakland Head Coach Tom Cable tremendous credit for his game plan last Sunday against the Chargers. His smash mouth approach was exactly the precise recipe he needed to stir the Raiders upset in San Diego.

Raiders Head Coach gets my NFL Game Ball for his teams decisive victory over San Diego last Sunday.
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And with the victory, I'm not going to say the Raiders are back. But I think in 2011, the Chiefs and Raiders are going to be the two teams to beat. It's likely the Chargers will dump Norv Turner at seasons end and we've already seen the Josh McDaniels departure in Denver.

And though I think Cable isn't a great X's and O's coach, there is talent on that roster. In fact, if Kansas City had the Raiders front four, they'd be Super Bowl bound. That's a bold statement but it's an accurate one.

Either way you look at that, it's just good to see both teams play meaningful football games in December. It bodes well for the future of these franchises. Because there's nothing better for this rivalry going forward than if they become the power brokers in the AFC West.

Don't know about you but I'm tired of the Chargers and Broncos recent dominance.

4. NFT #1 - With Baseball's winter meetings in full swing, the Kansas City Royals are at the center of the meetings. Everyone knows veteran pitcher Cliff Lee will get a new contract before all the General Mangers depart on Thursday. And should the Washington Nationals make Lee an offer he can't refuse, as some suggest they will, then suddenly Zack Greinke becomes the hottest property in all of baseball.

Will Royals GM Dayton Moore really deal his only bargaining chip at Baseball's Winter Meetings?
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That will make General Manger Dayton Moore a much wanted man. Our best guess is that at least six teams have contacted him about the price for Greinke. Among the suitors, the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and the Minnesota Twins are coveting the young right-hander.

In my view, Moore has to trade him now. From all accounts, Zach doesn't want to play for the Royals. And considering that he's under contract for two more seasons, plus he's the second best pitcher available at the Winter meetings, Moore has to strike the fire while he's such a hot target.

Thus far the Rangers and Blue Jays are the leaders. But neither at this point, until Lee signs, is willing to give up the four players that the Royals want from each organization.

And Moore is smart to make sure he gets maximum value because sooner or later one of these teams will bite.

The Royals are asking for a lot but Cy Young Winners, even those aloof as Greinke, don't grow on trees. He's a premium pitcher in a buyers market. He should fetch four players that will someday make the Royals 25-man roster.

If the Blue Jays are willing to part with Pitcher Kyle Drabek and Outfielder Travis Snyder as the centerpiece for the trade, Zach heads north of the border before Thursday.

Should the Rangers agree to send shortstop Jurickson Profar, outfielder Engel Beltre and two other A-ball prospects, they could hold a press conference today with Greinke in a Rangers uniform. Imagine he and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan on the podium together?

Either way Moore has the option right now to improve his ball club. He already has the games best minor league collection of future big league prospects. And should he trade Greinke, he'll have four more of them.

So will he be traded by Thursday? If I were a betting man, I'd say yes.

NFT #2: NBA in KC? - Count me as a naysayer to the New Orleans Hornets moving to Kansas City in 2012. It just won't happen. Not because I don't think it could work in Kansas City, but because NBA Commissioner David Stern isn't a fan of our fine city.

Will the NBA's New Orleans Hornets play their basketball games at the Sprint Center in 2011?
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He has gone on record numerous times that he doesn't think the city could support, even with a state of the art facility like the Sprint Center, an NBA team. And as much as I hate to admit it, I agree with him.

Right now Kansas City has two franchises. One the Kansas City Chiefs and second the Kansas Jayhawks Basketball team.

In this area, those are simply the facts. When you listen to sports talk radio in Kansas City the hottest topics are the NFL Chiefs and the basketball program at Kansas - these franchises go one and two in the minds of fans. The Royals, at this point until they can turn around their fortunes, fall into third place. After that, it's the Missouri Tigers and the Kansas State Wildcats.

Kansas City has already failed once in the NBA when they had the Kings. Though their departure could have been avoided, nobody really stepped up to save them. At the time of the move, both Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, a minority shareholder in the Chicago Bulls and Ewing Kaufman owner of the Royals had the financial deep pockets to keep the Kings in Kansas City. But both passed. It's too bad because the NBA was about to hit a resurgence that would have made both men hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now comes word that the NBA is purchasing the Hornets and all the talk in the wake of this development, centers around will the NBA team stay or will they go? Cities such as Kansas City, Seattle and Anaheim appear, in no particular order, to be the front-runners.

Since the Kings left town, Kansas City has never shown they care that much for the NBA. Sure they sellout the Sprint Center for a one game extravaganza that generally features former Big 12 basketball players. But Kansas City is a college basketball town. With the Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats and Missouri Tigers basketball programs each having major success this season, do we really have the passion in this are to support the Hornets?

I don't think so. But I could be wrong. Either way my guess is that like the Pittsburgh Penguins did a few years ago, Kansas City will be a pawn should the Hornets relocate next season.

That is however unless AEG, who runs the Sprint Center, gets down and dirty and pulls off what would be a big upset. They have the financial resources to overpay to get it done. And I'm aware of at least one family locally that has interest and the money necessary to purchase the Hornets and bring them to Kansas City.

But whatever happens, it needs to get done fast. The longer this saga lasts, the less likely Kansas City gets an opportunity to land the struggling Hornets. However, should the threats of an NBA lockout this summer gain more support, then Kansas City can forget it altogether.

Rest in peace 'Dandy' Don Meredith. You made my NFL childhood even better thanks to your work in the Monday Night Football Television broadcast booth. You were one of the games most treasured broadcasting icons. But make no mistake about it, your light will never go out in the minds of those, like myself, that were old enough to enjoy your work on ABC.

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