- Associated Press - Friday, October 8, 2010

MAPLEWOOD, MO. (AP) - The Post Bar and Grill has 16 beers on tap, 22 flat screens and 70 fantasy leagues. Even better, all three of the state’s football teams are actually watchable.

Missouri is 4-0, unbeaten in pre-Big 12 play for the fifth straight year and is ranked 24th. Two early-season build-a-record wins were televised on pay-per-view only, and big crowds packed the bar with the audio feed outside.

The 3-0 Chiefs are the best story of all, improbably the NFL’s last unbeaten team coming off a three-year total of only 10 victories. The last time Arrowhead Stadium was such a destination was back in 2006, when they backed into a wild card playoff spot.

The Rams? They are 2-2 but have shed the yoke of sad sack, untied themselves from the whipping post and ridden their confident young quarterback in doubling the 2009 win total after only four games.

“Drafting Sam Bradford is the best thing the Rams have done in a while,” Post bartender Brent Mortara said. “Got to love what they’re doing.”

No joke: St. Louis is tied for the NFC West lead.

“Can’t wait for Sundays now,” two-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson said. “Not so much waiting for Sunday to get that bad taste out your mouth, but to have that good feeling again. It’s kind of, it’s addictive.”

Across the Show-Me State, that’s the case.

On a fairly busy Thursday night at the Post, recent Missouri graduates Tyler Zimmer, Justin Wells and T.J. Erlacker were watching Nebraska pound Kansas State, the Giants’ Tim Lincecum fan 14 Braves and local product Paul Stastny scoring in overtime to give the NHL’s Avalanche a season-opening win over Chicago.

Mere warmup fodder. Game on for real when the Tigers tackle Colorado in the teams’ Big 12 opener Saturday night.

“It’s a lot more fun to tailgate and go to the games if we’ve got a winner,” Zimmer said. “Sure we’ll be getting bigger tests the rest of the way, but you’ve got to like what you’ve seen so far.”

The Rams have declared sellouts the last two games, even though the Edward Jones Dome hasn’t been full. Still, it’s a lot better than the drab fadeout to 2009 when the last three home attendance totals were the franchise’s worst since moving to St. Louis in 1995.

“I’m on board,” Erlacker said. “Heck, I’m on board with everybody.”

Chiefs mania is evident at Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City, Mo., where TVs hang above practically every blackjack and craps table.

“It’s getting crazy again,” dealer Al Hill said. “That’s about all anybody wants to talk about, the Chiefs. I listen to talk radio a lot and if you get 10 seconds an hour on the Royals, it’s unusual. Everybody is talking Chiefs, Chiefs, Chiefs.”

In Columbia, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, fans can have it both ways while waiting for Tigers games at Faurot Field. At Champs Sports in the Columbia mall, Bradford jerseys have been a top seller pretty much since the Rams took him with the first pick of the draft.

“Since day one, it’s been Bradford by far,” sales associate Ashley Lary said. At a nearby store, there are at least 13 varieties of Chiefs baseball caps.

The question hangs in the air: Are any of these guys for real?

After all, Missouri has been unbeaten entering Big 12 play five straight years but faded to 8-5 and submitted to a Navy beatdown in the Texas Bowl last season. The Rams were 6-42 from 2007-09. The Chiefs have so far allowed only 38 points, tied for best in the NFL, but are a touchdown underdog to perennial AFC powerhouse Indianapolis on the road this weekend.

So, enjoy while it lasts, play the what-if game, dream of playoff berths and BCS bowl invites. Get a little greedy.

“This is going to sound really irrational, but the Rams should have beaten the Cardinals and the Raiders,” said Martara, the optimistic Post barkeep. “It sounds crazy, but they should be 4-0.

“At this point, you have to like their chances.”


AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker and Associated Press Writer Alan Scher Zagier contributed to this report.

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