Denver Broncos (1-0)
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
The Denver victory, I saw coming. The final score and the manner in which they won the game, I did not. I underestimated the Baltimore defense (and the Denver defense for that matter) and overestimated the Broncos offense. To say the offense struggled is quite an understatement. To say the defense was incredible is a similar understatement. My guess is both those trends continue Thursday night.
Denver showed signs of hope in their (what we would be calling “epic” if they’d paid it off with a touchdown) fourth quarter drive that ate up and astonishing 11 minutes of the game clock. That drive showed a glimpse of what the offense will become: a pound the ball machine. Can they do it against a tough Chief defense? Maybe once or twice, but I don’t expect an entire game to proceed that way.
Kansas City looked very good against the Texans. They moved the ball (though not as much as you might think) and they won the game by a comfortable margin. Travis Kelce emerged as a budding star, but Jamaal Charles was kept pretty much in check. The Chiefs scored 14 of their points in the first half on short fields set up by Houston turnovers. Though the Broncos are capable of turning the ball over to the Chiefs, I wouldn’t count on them doing it twice.
All that said, this is a tough draw for the Broncos in Week Two. Though I am sure they’re happy not to be going to Kansas City in November or December as they often do, I don’t know that warmer weather is going to make a huge difference here.
KEY MATCH UP
Obviously, until the Denver offensive line pulls itself together, Manning looks at least serviceable behind the center and the running game gets rolling, we’ll continue to point to the offensive trenches and ask questions. After a tough battle with the Ravens, the Broncos get another potentially dominant defensive line in the Chiefs. This could be a very long day for Denver if the line and Manning don’t play better and if C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman don’t break off a few long runs to soften up the pass rush.
T.J. Ward returns to the Broncos after his one game suspension. If he can hold talented tight end Travis Kelce in check and provide his signature run support and hard hits against Jamaal Charles, the sledding for the Chiefs’ offense will be much tougher.
So, last Sunday’s game did nothing to allay fears about the Broncos’ offense. In fact, it has exacerbated them. Though there are positive signs, it seems unlikely that the offensive line issues will have been resolved in this short a time frame and that Kubiak and Manning will be on the same page after looking as though they were reading different books Sunday afternoon.
So, Chiefs win in a blow out, right?
An, not so fast, friend. Denver’s defense is for real and, though Kansas City looked like a pretty strong offense last Sunday, Denver’s defense looked all world.
Can the Broncos win two weeks in a row with the defense carrying the offense? Sure. But will they? I don’t think so and I think we’ll have to endure more of the “Manning is done” narrative. The silver lining will be the long down time until Sunday, September 27 when the Broncos play the Lions in a night game.
For now, the team goes 1-1… Let’s see if Sports Illustrated’s Peter King still ranks them #1 after that.