By Paul Thompson
The Denver Broncos, as you might have gathered, are the darlings of the NFL. Peyton Manning is at least half-deity, and their lone loss to the Indianapolis Colts was a clear fluke. The ludicrously fortunate Chiefs will surely be exposed against the unstoppable force that is the 2013 Broncos.
The previous paragraph about sums up what the national media has been opining in the week leading up to the highly anticipated Chiefs-Broncos Sunday Night Football game. The Broncos are roughly eight-point favorites in Vegas, and no one seems especially motivated to bet that line down. Ever the contrarian, though, I’ve come up with five reasons why the Chiefs can beat the Broncos this weekend.
5. The Brady Quinn Effect
Brady Quinn started both Denver games last season, with disastrous results. Quinn, who might have been the worst quarterback in football in 2013, summarized the Chiefs season by piloting Kansas City to a miserable 38-3 bloodletting in the last week of the season against Denver. He was 7-16 for 49 yards passing in that contest, a stat line so grotesque that it needs to be looked at through a mirror to limit the risk of blindness.
I know some have their issues with the conservative offense being run by Alex Smith, but I also haven’t been hearing any calls for the glory days of Quinn. Kansas City’s biggest upgrade this off-season was from atrocious to passable at the quarterback position, and it is ultimately the biggest reason why this team has inverted last season’s fortunes. Unlike Quinn, Alex Smith won’t lose games. With the Chiefs defense behind him, that might just be enough against the Broncos on Sunday
4. The Absence of Denver Head Coach John Fox
I know that Jack Del Rio has sat in the big chair before – for nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, actually – but that doesn’t mean the Broncos aren’t going to miss head man John Fox while he recovers from heart surgery. Fox holds a 101-83 career coaching record, has earned six postseason wins, and led the 2003 Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. Del Rio has a 68-71 lifetime record with just one playoff win. The absent head coach is an intangible situation that is impossible to quantify, but it will be intriguing to see what, if anything, changes with Fox sidelined.
3. Denver’s Banged Up Offensive Line
Top Broncos lineman Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, and initially it didn’t curb Denver’s vaunted offense much at all. But Peyton Manning has been strip-sacked in each of the past two games, as the line is finally starting to show some wear and tear. That trend is liable to continue this week, with Kansas City’s ferocious defensive front salivating at the notion of chasing a battered Manning around for his life. Look for Justin Houston, who has recorded just five tackles over the previous two weeks, to run roughshod over that makeshift offensive front.
2. Andy Reid’s Record After a Bye
Historically, Andy Reid’s teams crush it after a bye, compiling a 13-1 overall record in those scenarios. Obviously, this Broncos team isn’t your average clunker rolling in for a shellacking, and the game will be played a mile high in Denver. But I have faith that Reid will add some offensive wrinkles after two weeks without an opponent. That’s his modus operandi. Expect the Chiefs to move the ball better this week.
1. Peyton Manning’s Potentially Injured Ankle
No one knows exactly how injured Manning’s battered right ankle really is, but he was noticeably hobbled during his Week 10 game against San Diego. An MRI on Monday revealed no further damage to his previously diagnosed high ankle sprain, although Manning admitted after the game that he was “sore” following the contest. The elder Manning brother has never been much for mobility, but this is the type of injury that could get progressively more difficult to play with, especially if he takes pressure early in a cold-weather night game against the Chiefs. By the way, Denver backup quarterback Brock Osweiler has completed a grand total of four passes in his career for 22 yards. You really think he's ready to stand tall and deliver against the Kansas City defense? At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, Osweiler would more likely morph into the world's largest tackling dummy.
Are you feeling better about the Chiefs' chances yet?