Take heed, Bronco fans: K.C. for real
And the story of the year in the National Football League is … the Kansas City Chiefs?
Yes, we all realize the Denver Broncos are scorching the rest of the league, 4-0 and on pace to set every offensive record that can be conjured up, a good story, perhaps a Super story.
But heed the warning: This Kansas City bunch ain’t goin’ away.
Before this regular season comes to an end, the Chiefs may well be prime time fodder for the NFL Network, ESPN, Fox, CBS and every other media site that pays attention to such things.
The Chiefs, winners of only two games last season, have dispatched the injury jinx in going 4-0 to hang with Denver in the AFC West, and are solid and deep on both sides of the ball. They have allowed only 41 points, the best figure in the league.
They have a new coach in Andy Reid, long one of the best, and a new quarterback in Alex Smith, who has gone about the business of protecting the ball and maintaining possession with his short passes. They have a superb rushing game behind Jamaal Charles that remained intact even in the nightmare of last season.
And — and this is huge — they have that last-place schedule to mess with the rest of the season after beating up on NFC East foes the first month.
Check this out: the Chiefs defeated Jacksonville on the road 28-2, then three NFC East teams, Dallas 17-16 at home, Philadelphia 26-16 in Philly, and New York 31-7 at home.
And their upcoming schedule might play right into their hands.
They play at Tennessee this week — and the Titans, while more than respectable at 3-1, just lost their starting quarterback, Jake Locker, for maybe two months. Locker will be replaced by former Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who hasn’t seen the field yet for the Titans. Big break, Kansas City.
Speaking of Kansas City, that will then be the site of the next three games against Oakland, Houston and Cleveland. The Chiefs should be favored in all three, with Houston — a team constantly finding ways to lose — the biggest threat.
With a dozen games remaining on the schedule, Kansas City has only four games against teams with winning records, two of those coming against Denver.
The Chiefs play at Denver on Nov. 17 — in another schedule break, they have an off week and two weeks to prepare. The two teams meet again in Kansas City on Dec. 1 (better have your gloves at the ready, Peyton Manning).
Ah yes, Denver: the Broncos, Manning, a gaggle of receivers that spooks every opposing defensive coordinator, and a defense that is getting better and better despite the absence of Champ and Chump, aka Von Miller.
Sunday’s 52-20 win over Philadelphia, reinforced what we all thought going into the season: these guys are good, maybe great.
During the offseason, we saw power polls that had the Broncos, Seattle and San Francisco in the top spot, depending on the day and the source.
San Francisco has folded up due to injuries. Seattle is still unbeaten, but could well have lost two road games — and will lose several before the season is over.
And Denver has put up more than 44 points per game, with the closest game a 16-point victory over the Raiders.
Manning has thrown 16 TD passes on the season and nary an interception.
Remember that game last year in Atlanta when he threw three in the first quarter? Think he’s improved a bit? Matter of fact, think back through this year’s four games and try to remember one pass that could have been, should have been, intercepted.
We have seen Chris Clark step in for Ryan Clady at left tackle and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.
We have seen Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball fumble at terrible times. Both are simply getting better by the game and providing solid relief and fresh legs for the suddenly reliable Knowshon Moreno.
Manning and his receivers get to know each other better each week.
And Champ and Chump will be back on the field soon, making the defense deeper and better than it has been — and, by the way, just how good are Denver’s defensive backs?
Yes, Denver is good and getting better.
To win the West, however, the Broncos are going to have to go around the Chiefs, possibly the second-best team in the league.
It sounds crazy — and it’s certainly unlikely — but we could have Denver going 16-0 and Kansas City going 14-2. Or, gulp, maybe the other way around.