The late NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle made a lot of contributions to the sport he ran for 29 seasons. His biggest contribution was despite team market size or talent on the roster, he wanted a league where on any given Sunday, any team could beat another. That’s never been truer than today. On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Denver to take on a Broncos team that wants to drive Rozelle’s point him with an exclamation point.
Regardless of how you feel about the state of the Denver Broncos, they are still one of 32 teams in the NFL that give their best each week. Granted in 2023, their season is all but over, and with a loss to the Chiefs at home on Sunday, it’s possible with the trade deadline, the Chiefs might see some of their players on other rosters later this season.
With the NFL trade deadline looming, the Broncos are not winning the AFC West, they are not going to the playoffs, and it’s likely in the offseason they’ll be in search of a new quarterback, defensive coordinator, general manager, and numerous open roster spots to fill for 2024.
Even with a win Sunday against their division rival, the Broncos for the most part need to be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up. I’m not sold on Head Coach, Sean Payton being the man to do just that. To me, he took the gig in Denver because it paid more than TV, and he wanted to stroke his ego to become the highest-paid coach in the NFL.
For a guy who one a singular Super Bowl with Drew Brees as his quarterback, something does not compute, I’m not sure he really understood the mentality of the Broncos and how hard a process it will be to return them to the .500 level. Forget division titles and playoffs, because if the Chiefs have Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes playing pitch and catch, the Broncos are not going to overtake them anytime soon.
The Chiefs are the class of the NFL. From top to bottom, they’ve proven over the last five years with three Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them, five straight AFC Title games at home, and their ability to turn over a roster each season, they have it figured out.
Now Payton might get lucky and hit on a few trades and a handful of draft picks between now and next season, but players aren’t clamoring to be in the Mile High City to play for him. Already he jettisoned Randy Gregory and Frank Clark eating upwards of $11.5 Million. Between now and Tuesday another starter or two or more will likely follow them out the door.
Still, despite my bleak outlook on the Broncos, they can defeat the Chiefs on Sunday. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that occurs. Playing a team twice in three weeks is never ideal in the NFL. In fact, I give a slight edge to Denver.
The Chiefs have a big game in Germany next week against the Miami Dolphins that quite likely could determine the top overall seed in the AFC. Even though the Baltimore Ravens are one loss behind Kansas City, I’m not sold they can play at the level of the Chiefs for the entire season. So, a loss would be bad for the Chiefs. Currently, they are the top seed in the AFC with the tiebreaker in hand over Baltimore and Miami.
The Chiefs are always prepared to play, and they are used to getting their opponents’ best game each week. Denver’s defense did a terrific job in limiting the Chiefs to 19 points in their Thursday Night showdown. In fact, they limited the Chiefs to one touchdown in six red-zone situations. If that occurs again this weekend, Denver has a better chance to win than lose.
Momentum is a scary thing if you’re the favorite. It’s scary when the underdog has it late in the game with the final score in doubt. It means the pressure tightens, in this case against the Chiefs, whereas the Broncos are playing with house money. In other words, they have nothing to lose. So why not pull out all the stops?
To win Sunday, the Broncos don’t need to play a perfect game, but if their offense is as bad Sunday as it was in Kansas City, they’re doomed. The Chiefs defense is among the best in the NFL. For the most part, they’ve carried the offense as it continues to find its groove. They made strides in their win at Arrowhead over the Los Angeles Chargers, but they’ve yet to put strong offensive performances back-to-back this season.
That’s my primary concern for this football team. With games coming up against the Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles after the Bye Week, KC’s schedule gets much tougher. In fact, the Broncos game represents the last time, they can tweak the offense on the field against an opponent until Super Bowl LVIII.
Andy Reid is a master of adjustments, Mahomes can make any throw from any angle, but sometimes they each try to do more than is necessary. That’s not a knock because they’ve combined to win two Super Bowls together. Instead, sometimes they get too fancy on the play calling when a good old smash-mouth approach is the best fit.
In summary, I worry the Chiefs will be looking ahead to the Dolphins. Though Miami is struggling with tougher teams and has dealt with injuries, including Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs must view the Broncos as if they are leading the AFC West.
The Chiefs need to come out on fire and hungry to thwart any possible momentum shift if Kansas City jumps out to a big league. If for some reason the Chiefs are behind in the fourth quarter, they must do what they always do in those situations, find a way to win the game.
This week that might be easier said than done.
Kansas City Chiefs 27
Denver Broncos 26