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.