When the NFL schedule was released in April, who would have
guessed that the first big matchup of the season would be this
week's game between the Broncos and the Chiefs? Denver hasn't
been to the playoffs since 2000; Kansas City's postseason drought
goes back to 1997. Yet these unbeatens could be the best two
teams in football.
The Broncos brushed aside their first three opponents by 20 or
more points. Then came the Lions, a sandwich game, falling
between the Raiders and the Chiefs. Denver won, but it wasn't
easy. At the start of the season, the knock on the high-scoring
Chiefs was that their defense was too soft. The unit got its
first test on Sunday against the Ravens' ball-control offense and
came out of it a little groggy but still unbeaten.
Look for the Chiefs to slam the Broncos with Priest Holmes.
Wideout Johnnie Morton's big day against Baltimore created the
appearance that K.C. has a deep passing attack, but Trent Green
hasn't looked all that comfortable in the pocket when he's under
pressure, and the Broncos will rush him plenty. I think K.C.'s
line, the best in the business, can handle a no-frills scheme, so
it'll be up to Denver's defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, to
come up with an exotic blitz package. I think he will.
Baltimore's stretch play, with Jamal Lewis cutting back to the
weakside, gave the Chiefs trouble, and no one runs that type of
play better than the Broncos. But who will they do it with? Will
Clinton Portis (bruised sternum) be at full strength or will K.C.
get a heavy dose of Mike Anderson, who packs a wallop but isn't
the multidimensional threat Portis is? Jake Plummer, with a 64.5%
completion rate, is thriving under Mike Shanahan. Not bad for a
guy who was a 55.9% passer over his first six NFL seasons. Rod
Smith and Ed McCaffrey aren't the deep threats they once were,
but there's a new long-ball target, Ashley Lelie, who seems to be
good for at least one big play a game.
I think the Broncos' attack will do more against the Chiefs' D
than K.C.'s offense will do against Denver's defense. The rush
will get to Green, and the Broncos will find a way to keep the
ball from return sensation Dante Hall. Denver is my pick.