Jussel: Orton throwing to Marshall should be theme in KC

Ahhh yes, Kansas City … in the winter time.

Not exactly a good thing.

The Denver Broncos are 1-15 when they play the Chiefs in Kansas City in December over the 50-year history of the two original AFC teams, nothing to write home about.

Take heart, however. There is hope.

These aren’t Mike Shanahan’s Broncos. Nor are they those of Dan Reeves, John Ralston, Red Miller, Lou Saban — any of those coaches who struggled in KC in the winter.

These are Josh McDaniels’ Broncos and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, there aren’t a lot of Broncos who have been through this getting-slaughtered process in Kansas City, not a lot of history to draw from in this relationship.

It’s ditto with the Chiefs: There is a new coach in Todd Haley, and a huge roster turnover — not many players or coaches around to savor the repeated poundings.

For confirmation, look no further back than a year ago, Dec. 7, 2008, in Denver, a 24-17 Bronco win.

Quarterbacking the Broncos was Jay Cutler, now a Chicago Bear. The QB for the Chiefs was Tyler Thigpen, now a backup in Miami.

Denver’s leading rusher in the game was Peyton Hillis, now an afterthought for McDaniels. The leading rusher for the Chiefs was Larry Johnson, recently suspended by the Chiefs, then released and signed by Cincinnati.

Denver’s leading receiver in that game was Brandon Marshall (more on him later). He is still very much in Denver’s offensive plans. The leading receiver for Kansas City was Dwayne Bowe, currently in the midst of a four-game substance-abuse suspension.

Instead of Cutler, we’ve got Kyle Orton at QB for the Broncos, and Matt Cassel replaces Thigpen at that spot for the Chiefs. Instead of Hillis, Denver has Knowshon Moreno, the rookie running back, and the Chiefs are replacing Johnson with Jamal Charles, more of a darter than the slugger that was Johnson. And although the Broncos have plenty of wide-outs including Marshall, the Chiefs are down to Chris Chambers and Bobby Wade — a pair of pedestrian vets, with Chambers just recently claimed off the waiver wire from the Chargers.

One other thing we should point out has changed in Kansas City: Surefire Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez is now with the Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, there are changes aplenty on both sides.

Denver is 7-4 and, despite their recent four-game slide, the leading contender for a wild-card playoff berth in the AFC. The Chiefs are 3-8 and fresh off a 43-14 hammering at the hands of the Chargers, although we also should note the Chiefs did upset the Steelers the previous week in Kansas City.

Still, barring a rerun of the loss in Washington or mass fainting at the sight of Arrowhead in midwinter, the Broncos should have what it takes to win this game today; they are simply the better team.

Denver is averaging 327 yards per game and the Chiefs are giving up a gawd-awful 392 per game. The Chiefs are averaging a paltry 267 yards per game on offense, Denver is allowing 295. The Broncos average 4.2 yards per rush and 6.5 yards per pass attempt. The Chiefs average 3.6 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per pass attempt.

If you think the Broncos have significant advantages over the Chiefs, you are right on.

Add to the mix the fact that McDaniels knows a thing or two about Cassel, the quarterback he had last year in New England and the one he supposedly wanted this year in Denver. Think the coach might have a few things up his sleeve for the new Chiefs QB?

And let’s not forget the Marshall Factor.

The Chiefs have not been able to contain him over the past two years. In the past four games, the big Bronco receiver has five TD receptions and 368 yards on 34 catches. If Marshall played every game against the Chiefs, he’d already be a Hall-of-Fame shoo-in.

Orton-to-Marshall should be big in this one and, other than tradition, there would seem to be nothing else to suggest the Chiefs should win the matchups and the game.

Denver has more to play for than do the retooling Chiefs. If the Broncos do indeed hope to make the playoffs, they need this game desperately. They should play with a sense of urgency.

I’ll take my 8-3 record picking with or against the Broncos (yes, I missed badly on the Giants game) and say McDaniels will have his team geared up and on track.

Denver 27, Chiefs 21.


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