Thursday night could be the defining moment of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season.
I know, I know — we’re entering just the second week. But an NFL season can be all about momentum.
The Chiefs scored an important road victory over potential playoff team Houston in their season opener, playing about as well as they did poorly in last year’s opener against Tennessee.
Now they return to Arrowhead Stadium for a nationally televised divisional clash against arch-rival Denver and the atmosphere probably will resemble that of last year when the Chiefs destroyed New England on a Monday night.
There were fears the Chiefs might start 0-4, but now they can be 2-0 with a good chance at being 3-1 at the quarterpole. I don’t think there’s any way they can win at Green Bay a week from Monday, but at 2-1 they could go into Cincinnati knowing a victory there and the playoffs are a reality.
The Chiefs have been the Broncos’ own personal hand puppet recently. Denver has won six in a row, seven of the last eight. Peyton Manning has owned the Chiefs, dissecting their suspect secondary like a surgeon.
Manning, though, looked merely mortal in the Broncos’ opener against Baltimore. His rating was nearly at the bottom for all quarterbacks for the first week, but remember the Ravens’ defense has given him some problems in years gone by.
What has to be alarming to Denver supporters is that it looked like he had aged about 10 years. The arm strength, which appeared to wane last year, looks even more suspect. He missed several open receivers, probably costing the Broncos 14 points.
It also should be noted that Manning doesn’t have quite as many toys to play with. He’s definitely missed departed staples Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, which means more attention is being paid to Demaryius Thomas. His numbers were sensational last year, but he’s drawing more double coverage now, as Emmanuel Sanders is more of a possession receiver than a home-run threat.
Denver, which was thought to be all about offense last year, has morphed into a defensive force. Wade Phillips is in charge and he’s sending blitzers from every point imaginable. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs’ cobbled-together offensive line, which had five brand-new starters last week from the way they ended the 2014 season. It’s that group that will determine the Chiefs’ playoff status. Of course there’s still consternation about Eric Fisher, the overall No. 1 pick of the 2013 draft who has Tony Mandarich written all over him.
This could be a fascinating game. Andy Reid is in his third year at Kansas City and it’s time for the Chiefs to make a statement. The consensus is he has his deepest team ever, even with the so-so offensive line. A win over Denver and the Chiefs suddenly become players in the playoff picture.