The Kansas City Chiefs’ regular season finale Sunday at San Diego was meaningless, as far as playoff positioning was concerned.
KC had already cinched a slot in the playoffs and the Chiefs can now focus entirely on their first playoff game this weekend.
Kansas City will play Saturday at Indianapolis during the wild card round.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Colts shellacked the Chiefs, 23-7. But, every game is different in the NFL and KC is a dangerous team if all key players are healthy.
It goes without saying Andy Reid should be the NFL’s coach of the year. The turnaround of the Chiefs from a 2-14 record in 2012 to 11-5 this season borders on incomprehensible.
KC quarterback Alex Smith has been as effective as could be expected with a limited surrounding cast.
Kansas City’s most obvious weakness is a substandard receiving corps — the receivers are ineffective at getting open, and when they are open, they drop way too many passes.
In addition, the offensive line has been better at run blocking than protecting Smith on passing plays.
The Chiefs’ defense has played well for the most part, but the defensive backs had a poor game against Indianapolis, leaving the Colts’ receivers wide open time after time.
KC’s pass rush has been on and off.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will welcome back defensive end Justin Houston, if he recovers from a dislocated elbow in time for the playoffs.
Houston is KC’s best pass rusher.
If the Chiefs are going to be successful in the playoffs, they will need some significant improvement from their receivers.
Dwayne Bowe is the most likely candidate to step forward and make big plays, but his pass catching so far this season has been mediocre at best.
In the playoffs, it’s sudden death and anything can happen.
Kansas City has a solid team and won’t be a pushover for anyone.
Turning to college basketball …
Second semester classes don’t begin at Kansas University until Jan. 21, meaning KU coach Bill Self could have unlimited practices from Dec. 26 until classes resume.
During that timeframe, the Jayhawks will have played at home against Toledo on Monday night and San Diego State on Sunday, at Oklahoma on Jan. 8, at home versus K-State on Jan. 11, at Iowa State on Jan. 13, and home games against Oklahoma State on Jan. 18 and Baylor on Jan. 20.
It’s a subtle disadvantage to play K-State, OK State, and Baylor in Allen Fieldhouse when students are gone and then have to turn around and play those rivals on the road with their students in full voice.
Kansas will be fun to follow for the next month.
From here, it looks like the rookie Jayhawks are on the verge of becoming the foundation of a consistently improving juggernaut.
Center Joel Embiid, small forward Andrew Wiggins, and guard Wayne Selden are becoming comfortable in Self’s system.
Embiid and Wiggins are exceptionally gifted athletes that don’t come along often, let alone having two of them on the same team.
The Kansas State Wildcats had one statistic in their win over Gonzaga that should have KSU fans eager for 2014: K-State had just four turnovers in a hard-fought game against a quality opponent.
K-State having just four TOs in a close game so early in the season is encouraging indeed.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster (6-2, 200) is off to a stellar start for Coach Bruce Weber, both on offense and defense.
After slow starts, senior guards Shane Southwell (6-7, 215) and Will Spradling (6-2, 185) are beginning to play well at both ends of the court. And, two other freshmen, point guard Nigel Johnson (6-1, 180) and forward Wesley Iwundu (6-7, 195), are gaining confidence and experience.
Weber also has talented depth: the reserves have been effective coming off the bench.
Inside players Thomas Gipson (6-7, 265) and D.J. Johnson (6-9, 250) have played up to their potential, but are limited because of their size. Either Gipson or Johnson would be OK as a power forward, but neither is equipped to handle big centers in conference play.
Regardless of the lack of size, Kansas State can hang with almost any team if they commit just four turnovers — that’s a big-time stat.
Because of the extensive coverage of football and basketball on TV, this is the best time of year for sports fans across the country.
It brings to mind a favorite expression of the late, famous Hollywood actress, Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”