In a 16 game schedule, all the talented NFL teams are going to have a few games when they don’t play their best, but still find a way to win. Kansas City had that type of game last week when they defeated Cleveland 23-17 to move their record to an NFL best 8-0. KC’s improvement over last season’s dismal ball club is miraculous. The main credit belongs to the Chiefs’ president, Clark Hunt, who hired head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey. It’s been a wonderful season for long-suffering Kansas City fans. However, a bit of caution may be in order. The Chiefs’ schedule has been fairly easy by NFL standards. Before the Cleveland game, the seven teams KC had beaten were a combined 15-33 and the Browns were 3-4. Next in importance has been KC’s good fortune in avoiding season-ending injuries that plague so many NFL teams. Knock on wood because the season is just half over. Kansas City goes on the road this Sunday to play Buffalo. The Bills were trounced last Sunday by New Orleans (35-17) and have a 3-5 record. KC needs to get win number nine because it starts getting tougher real soon. The Chiefs have a bye week after Buffalo and then play at Denver on November 17. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning will present the most daunting challenge that KC’s defense has faced this season. That game will be on the NFL’s center stage. Kansas State had a must win football game last Saturday and the Wildcats came through with a confidence-building win (35-12) against West Virginia. That moved K-State’s record to 3-4 and 1-3 in the Big12. What’s most important is the Wildcats now have a chance to make it to a bowl game. K-State plays Iowa State in Manhattan this Saturday and Kansas in Lawrence on November 30 -- the Wildcats should win both of those games. That leaves three other games: at Texas Tech on Nov. 9 and home games with TCU on Nov. 16 and Oklahoma on Nov. 23. If they defeat Iowa State and KU, K-State would have to win one of those other three games to qualify for a bowl game. That’s a significant challenge, but attainable. Coach Bill Snyder’s team is improving as normal, slowly but surely. His two-quarterback system worked well against West Virginia. It looks like that’s here to stay for the rest of this season. Jake Waters had an excellent passing game against West Virginia, thanks in large part to some great catches by Tyler Lockett, who caught three touchdown passes. Kansas State is a completely different football team with Lockett and Tramaine Thompson healthy at the wide receiver positions. Effective passing opens up the running game and makes the entire offense function smoothly. After the game, Snyder said, "I think just based on their performance and the catches that they made that it was significant for us. It was very beneficial that they are back." Iowa State, like Kansas, is going the wrong direction as the season moves into the homestretch. The Cyclones have big problems on defense and the improving Kansas State offense will have a big game Saturday. Making it to a bowl game would make the 2013 season a success for the Wildcats. The overall effort by KU’s football team during the 59-14 shellacking at the hands of Baylor was unacceptable. Their blocking and tackling was substandard to say the least. KU basketball has started, and it has been a sight for the sore eyes for Jayhawk fans. KU has two exhibition games before the regular season begins. Little or nothing will be gained except for fans to get their first look at some exceptional freshmen. But it will be a welcome relief from watching the football team. Before MLB goes into hibernation for the winter, one rule is badly in need of change before the 2014 season: when relief pitchers come in from the bullpen, there should be no practice pitches. The relievers should warm up in the bullpen and be ready to go when their manager hands them the ball. Reserve basketball and football players don’t take practice shots or throw warm-up passes while the game is held up. Managers often change pitchers seven or eight times a game. Frequently, relievers pitch to just one hitter before they’re replaced. This ancient tradition of warm-up pitches slows down play and kills excitement and shouldn’t be allowed. “We’ve always done it this way” is the worst possible defense for this antiquated ritual. -Mac Stevenson is a longtime columnist on collegiate and professional sports in Eastern Kansas.