From the FanPosts -Joel
The outcomes of all football games are determined solely by the players on the field. Head coaches and fans can only do so much to help their team to victory; when the clock is running, it’s all up to the 22 on the field. But it’s not just the physical attributes of the players which factor into the final score. Players can be affected emotionally and psychologically by outside factors, and this can cause them to perform better or worse. These effects are some of what we know as "X-Factors".
There are different definitions of "X-Factor", of course. Many times it refers to a player who is able to break open or significantly alter games because of their playmaking ability. Other times it refers to a relatively unknown player who has the potential to play a substantial role during the course of the game. Still other times, it refers to a talent competition on Fox which evidently still has lots of viewers?
And of course, sometimes "X-Factor" refers to this:
Go ahead and watch that as many times as you want between now and Sunday night. It’s a good way to get pumped up for the game.
In this case, however, I’m going to define "X-Factor" as an outside influence on the game that will have an unknown effect on the game. It could favor either team, or be a complete non-factor. Let’s look at the most important X-Factors in the upcoming game between… well, you don’t need me to tell you.
The bye week
Why it will be a factor: The Chiefs are coming off a bye week, and the Broncos are one week removed from their own. Bye weeks always seem to have some effect on each team, whether positive or negative. Much depends on how the team spends the week off. However, they have had a noticeable enough effect that the Bills are now talking to the league about having to play too many teams coming off bye weeks.
Why it could give the Chiefs an advantage: The Chiefs have an extra week to prepare for the Broncos, while Denver had to prepare for a tough San Diego team during their week off. It also provides a welcome break to a team that has been eking out hard-fought win after hard-fought win. Nothing has been easy for Kansas City in the last few weeks, and the Chiefs will gladly take the opportunity to let their wounds heal a little.
Why it could give the Broncos an advantage: The Broncos may also have been able to use their bye week to prepare, at least in part, for the Chiefs. It’s also possible that taking a break out of routine could throw a speed bump into the Chiefs’ road to an (already unlikely) undefeated season.
What the most likely outcome is: The Chiefs will benefit more from the placement of their bye week. Andy Reid is a good coach, and he won’t allow the bye week to mess with the team’s heads. The extra time to prepare for Denver will give the Chiefs’ coaching staff plenty of time to analyze the infinite amount of film on Peyton Manning and implement an effective strategy.
The flex to Sunday Night Football
Why it will be a factor: Oh, there are so many reasons. The game time is moved to primetime, with a national media audience. It is moved later into the night, which will affect the weather (see below). But the game, which was already going to be analyzed to the smallest details, will be scrutinized even further.
Why it could give the Chiefs an advantage: Kansas City has collected plenty of bulletin board material over the past few weeks as many prominent national sports analysts have refused to credit the Chiefs for their undefeated start to the season. This is KC’s opportunity to prove to their doubters that they are for real. They’ve been waiting for this chance for weeks now.
Why it could give the Broncos an advantage: Denver has substantially more experience playing on the national stage. An absurd amount of their games have been played in primetime. Will the relatively inexperienced Chiefs team crack under pressure?
What the most likely outcome is: Denver has far more experience on the national stage. It’s clear that they will be more prepared for the game in this regard. This is just like any other week for them. It’s possible the Chiefs will perform better with the added motivation, but I’m not ready to bank on that just yet.
Why it will be a factor: You knew this was going to come up. It might not have been as much of a factor in the afternoon time slot, but now that the game has been flexed to the night, the temperatures will be cooler and there’s a greater chance for bad weather. The early forecasts suggest temperatures a little below 40 degrees, which is cold, but not really cold.
Why it could give the Chiefs an advantage: The Chiefs, as a defensive team, are built to perform better in bad-weather situations than a team built around a high-flying offense. If the weather is cold enough to significantly affect Peyton’s passing attack, then the Chiefs will be in good shape. If there is significant precipitation, the you’d think the Chiefs should win the game.
Why it could give the Broncos an advantage: The weather forecast doesn’t look that bad for next Sunday. Peyton Manning shouldn’t be at that much of a disadvantage because of this. I don’t see any way the weather could give the Broncos an advantage, but it might not be a hindrance.
What the most likely outcome is: The weather will probably be a non-factor. It could be a factor, but given the early forecasts, it’s unlikely. Should the forecast worsen as we near Sunday, the Chiefs might gain an advantage, because Peyton Manning is terrible in cold weath-
Peyton Manning in 2012
|Temperature Below 40 F||23||29||79.3||304||3||0||144.8|
Sure, that’s a small sample size, and it’s from last season only, but it does suggest that Manning is still somewhat competent in cold weather. I'm guessing that those statistics are from a game or two against weaker defenses- I couldn't tell from the rest of the splits alone- but I often feel that the criticisms of cold-weather Manning are overstated. 40-degree temperatures won’t affect him terribly much.
The John Fox situation
Why it will be a factor: I really hate having to include this, but it will probably be a factor in the emotional state of the Denver players in the game. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it will play a role in the outcome.
Why it could give the Chiefs an advantage: The "play for the new coach or injured/sick coach" mentality isn’t necessarily a lasting one. Remember when the Chiefs beat the then-undefeated Packers in Romeo Crennel’s first game at the helm? Remember what happened in the next game? Or the next season? We must also take into account the interim coaching situation. Some (Broncos) fans might argue that John Fox is a better coach than Andy Reid. Nobody is going to claim that Jack Del Rio is a better coach than Andy Reid. (If you hear a Denver fan suggest that this week, you’re allowed to dismiss everything they say as utter nonsense). Depending on how much Fox is able to assist the Broncos, the Chiefs should easily have a coaching advantage.
Why it could give the Broncos an advantage: Players rally around fallen teammates and coaches plenty of times; often, it provides an emotional boost that allows them to play much better. The Broncos could very easily rally around Fox and capture the win for him.
What the most likely outcome is: The Broncos didn’t look great against San Diego on Sunday. They are a team with weaknesses. The Chiefs now have a significant coaching advantage. I don’t like that they are going to benefit from the illness of the opponent’ coach, but that appears to be the case. Chiefs Nation, I’m sure, wishes John Fox a speedy recovery.
The Dwayne Bowe situation
Why it will be a factor: I also don’t like having to include this one. In a year that has gone incredibly smoothly so far, yesterday’s news of Bowe’s arrest brought everything crashing back to the ground. Whether or not the Chiefs try to ignore it is irrelevant. There will be questions and rumors swirling around the team all week, which could throw the Chiefs off their game. It's been established that Bowe will play on Sunday, but things could change between now and then. It’s a story to keep our eye on, even if we don’t want to.
Why it could give the Chiefs an advantage: There isn’t really anything advantageous about the situation. The only positive outcome would be if Bowe sits and somehow, miraculously, his replacement (Junior Hemingway by some reports, other players by others) has a breakout game. Not likely. The best thing the Chiefs can do, realistically, is avoid making it an issue that affects their preparation for Denver. The easiest way to avoid making it an issue is to not make it an issue- let it slide under the table for the rest of the week; don’t make a big deal out of it.
Why it could give the Broncos an advantage: If the Chiefs’ #1 receiver is out of commission, then that is certainly beneficial to the Broncos. Regardless, this is the sort of thing you don’t want to have happen in the locker room of a 9-0 team heading into their biggest game in years. If the Chiefs lose focus in any way during the week because of this situation, then Denver gains an advantage.
What the most likely outcome is: Andy Reid and the Chiefs will play down the issue all week. Dwayne Bowe won’t be suspended for this game, and will be on the field, but it remains to be seen if Reid benches him for part of the game (unlikely, but possible), or if his play will be compromised due to the arrest. Certainly, this gives an advantage to Denver in the form of a disadvantage to the Chiefs.
* * *
There will be other factors that will play into the game, of course- for example, Peyton Manning’s ankles, or the keyboard skin I put on my laptop before the first game just to see how it felt, and have kept on every game this season and the Chiefs keep winning (if a Denver fan breaks into my dorm room and steals it, we could be in trouble). But the five factors listed above will probably have the greatest impact on the showdown at Mile High, beyond the players themselves. Whoever extracts the most benefits from these X-Factors is probably going to be the team to win the game. Either way, it should be an entertaining game to watch.