It's almost time.
The long-awaited matchup between the Chiefs and the Broncos is finally under a week away. The 9-0 (and division leading, and only undefeated, and yes I'm saying all that because it's fun) Chiefs face the 8-1 (and not undefeated and not division-leading) Broncos in a clash of two of the best teams in the NFL.
It's not just a battle between great teams or division rivals, either. It's a fight between two totally different styles of play. The Broncos are a high-flying offense that destroys teams, but also are near the top of the league in turnovers and have a defense that has been an issue at times. The Chiefs almost never make mistakes and sport a ferocious defense, but has an offense that has really struggled. It's almost an old school vs. new age game (for the record, if this game were played 15 years ago, Chiefs win by 20 and Wes Welker gets his head torn off by Eric Berry. That is an absolute fact).
But it's not even about just the teams anymore. This season, more than any other in recent memory, has been about fan rivalry. I have never seen two fanbases get under each others' skin like the Chiefs and the Broncos fans have this year. Maybe that's because this is the first time both teams are REALLY good at the same time since the interweb got huge. Maybe it's because of the clashing style. Maybe it's because Peyton Manning is evil. It's all speculation, really.
But that said, this is going to be a week of INTENSE trash talk, debating, and general junk-waving (for lack of a better term). In honor of what is the biggest regular season game in... well, let's say forever (since it's the time for hyperbole in sports), I've decided to dust off an oldie and get back to basics.
Don't call it a comeback, but it's time for another round of the "Arguing With..." series!
(Side note. I really don't know how this game is going to go. It wouldn't surprise me that much if the Chiefs won by 10, or even more. It also wouldn't surprise me if it went the other way. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy every minute of the trash talk between now and then)
Since AP has grown fivefold since I last did one of these, let's go over the format. I present the typical argument you'd hear from a Broncos fan, then present to you the way to destroy that argument. Good times will be had by all, and you'll be ready to destroy your co-worker who just started cheering for the Broncos last year because he's a d-bag frontrunner and probably a communist.
Broncos Fan: "The Chefs are totally overrated. They've had the softest schedule ever. Beating bad teams means nothing! We're the class of the NFL. Did you see how I called your team the 'Chefs?' Wasn't that awesome?"
We'll start with something really, really, really easy but shockingly common. I've heard this so many times I think I could answer it in my sleep.
Yep, the Chiefs have beaten teams that (taking out the Chiefs games) have a combined record of 30-45, with a winning % of .400. Clearly, that's not all that impressive.
But hey, this should be a two-way street, yes? So what's the combined record of the teams the Broncos have beaten this year? Subtracting their games against the Broncos, it comes out to... 28-38, for a winning % of.424.
Pardon me while I shiver with appreciation for how much the Broncos have proven themselves this year. I mean, that .024 is clearly a gaping chasm that calls for any comparison between the two teams to be laughed at, right?
Anyone who dismisses the Chiefs based on SoS but lauds the Broncos as amazing is forcing a double standard that is just nuts.
Broncos Fan: "Yeah, well, the Broncos have been amazing for two years! The Chiefs have only been OK this year. That's why I can say it's super different. We'd be winning anyways, and we've proven that by how awesome we were last year, too."
When they say this (and they will), be happy they brought up 2012 while talking about strength of schedule.
Because you want to know a dirty little secret about the Broncos "dominant" 13 wins last year. They came at the expense of teams that were a combined 80-128 (.385). Yep. Sure, they PLAYED 3 other teams with exceptional records during the regular season (Falcons, Texans, and Patriots)... and lost to all 3 of them.
So feel free to let them bring this up as a justification to ignore our similar strength of schedule in 2013 (and again, they will). Because it's a perfect chance to point out to them that if we're really going to say having a weak strength of schedule means you've proven nothing at all, then the Broncos are right there with the Chiefs.
Broncos Fan: "Fine, whatever, but your strength of schedule is still really stupid weak, yo. Anyone could win 9 straight against those teams."
Maybe you're arguing with someone stubborn enough to stick to their guns. This is a perfect time to bring up that word everyone loves to throw around in the NFL: parity.
All you have to do is take a look around the NFL every week and you'll see a "good" team lose to a "bad" team. This most recent week the freaking Jaguars, the worst team I've seen in my life, beat a Titans squad most people thought had a shot to try for the playoffs. The lowly Rams curb stomped everyone's favorite Super Bowl dark horse, the Colts.
And it's not as though this was some sort of unique week, either. Last week the Jets stunned the Saints while the Dolphins overcame the Bengals in what everyone thought at the time was a major upset (seems a lot more plausible now, eh?). The reeling Redskins beat a Chargers team that was looking like it could contend for a wild card spot.
It is insanely difficult to win 9 consecutive games in the National Football League. That is just a stone cold fact. If it weren't, these types of streaks would happen a lot more often. The NFL features more parity than any other league in the world. This isn't the NCAA, where the talent level between the best team and the worst team is insurmountable. Any given Sunday actually does have meaning.
And really, if it were THAT easy to win 9 straight... you'd think the great and wonderful Broncos could've done it.
Broncos Fan: "Whatever. You've faced all backup quarterbacks and scrubs. You're lucky you haven't had to face a legit offense yet this year. That's the only reason your defense looks good."
Hey, no denying that the Chiefs have had some luck when it comes to quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not as good as Jake Locker. Jeff Tuel is a definite downgrade from what the Bills want to march out at quarterback.
On the flip side... it's an utterly asinine idea that the Chiefs somehow got "lucky" playing against Case Keenum and Jason Campbell as opposed to Matt Schaub and Brandon Weeden (or even Brian Hoyer). Let's really look at this.
Matt Schaub was D-O-N-E. He didn't just have a fork stuck in him, he was half eaten and being boxed up to take home. He was throwing pick-six's like they were going out of style and was actively costing the Texans games. When Keenum played against the Chiefs and looked competent, everyone (and by everyone, I mean the Broncos fan you're arguing with) assumed it was because the Chiefs defense is overrated.
Except then Keenum went out and played even better against the Colts (a team Broncos fans pretend is the 2nd best in the NFL), then very well against a Cardinals defense everyone acknowledges is very tough. So much for that "you've been saved by backup quarterbacks" theory when it comes to the Texans. Keenum playing made it harder, not easier.
What about Campbell? Dude's terrible, right? Except no one, literally NO ONE will say Weeden would've been tougher than Campbell. People try and argue Hoyer would be tougher, but that's just crazy. Hoyer looked solid in exactly one game this season (against the Bengals). Beyond that he had a game against the Vikings where he took as much off the table as he put on it (3 INT's to go along with 3 TD's) and a few snaps against the Bills.
Jason Campbell, in the meantime, played a solid game against the Chiefs and then absolutely shredded the Ravens. Sorry, we didn't "luck out" there at all. We got unlucky.
Finally, is everyone seriously forgetting about the Chiefs defense holding offenses led by Tony Romo, Mike Vick, and Eli Manning to under 17 points? Please. Don't act like the Chiefs have only played 3rd string quarterbacks. It's just plain wrong, and makes you look like you don't bother to really look beyond box score analysis.
Broncos Fan: "Fine, but what about your rushing defense. Worst in the league! I knew you guys sucked!"
Since I just mentioned box score analysis, this seemed like a good one to bring up. This is a perfect time to say, "you haven't watched many of the games this year, have you?" Since they're making this argument, the answer will inevitably either be "only the Eagles and Bills games," or "I've seen them all, twice!" (the second one, by the way, is a bald faced lie people say to act like they know what they're talking about).
Should any Chiefs fan be a little concerned about the run defense. Sure. Is it even close to as bad as that 5.0 stat? Nope. We've had success stopping the run in every game we've played in but two: the Eagles and the Bills. I'll give you the Eagles; Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy ran all over us.
But the Bills game? Anyone watching that saw the missed tackles, the failures to wrap up, and the blown assignments that just screamed "our head isn't in this one!" Our defense picked the worst week to decide to put in a halfway effort for much of the day, because C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both seriously good running backs. And so they made us pay.
Our run defense held up against a healthy DeMarco Murray and David Wilson (both excellent players who are very dangerous when healthy). It did just fine against a tough Houston OL and Ben Tate, busting his ribs in the process (and don't say Arian Foster would've tore the Chiefs up. He had 4 carries for 11 yards when he exited the game). Anyone who bothers to watch the games can see our run defense can get the job done. It's an argument for the lazy to claim the Chiefs run defense "struggles" based on two awful games.
And beyond all that, even in the absolute worst two games, the Chiefs defense got it done when it was time to put the game away. If either Philly or Buffalo had been able to keep running the ball with success against our defense, we lose those games. But we didn't. Because they couldn't.
Broncos Fan: "Chiefs defense is still overrated. The Broncos offense is going to eat them alive with PFM!"
Hey, that very well may be. Who knows what the future holds? But ask your Broncos fan friend if he isn't just a LITTLE nervous based on a few simple facts...
1) The Broncos offense has struggled a bit (relatively speaking) when teams have moved to physical press man coverage. This happens to be exactly what the Chiefs are best at.
2) The Broncos replacement left tackle, Chris Clark, has definitely struggled against top tier competition. Tamba Hali is rushing the passer as well as or better than anyone in the league. Including Robert Mathis, who basically carved Clark up and ate him like a Christmas ham on national television.
3) The Chiefs pass rush has struggled most with quarterbacks who get out of the pocket and run around. Peyton Manning is a statue.
4) The Broncos offense just did this in 4 straight drives in the 2nd half against a Chargers defense that is missing its best pass rusher and is very weak in the secondary...
2 plays, -9 yards (fumble)
6 plays, 15 yards (punt)
3 plays, 6 yards (punt)
7 plays, 22 yards (punt)
Tell me the Broncos aren't thinking about those 4 things. They absolutely are, especially that number 1. And remember, putting up 28 on the Chargers is like putting up 3 against the Chiefs (via my super special math formula. And no, I can't reveal it).
Broncos Fan: "Whatever, even if you manage to hold our awesome offense to 28 points, there's no way you guys will score that much. Your offense sux, bro!"
Finally, an argument with some merit! Of course, your Broncos fan friend is going to overstate it by making it sound as though we're the... well, 2012 Chiefs. And that's just not true.
As of right now (these stats are going to change when the tallies from Week 10 are in, but I'm not waiting!), the Chiefs rank 17th in the NFL in scoring at 23.9 PPG. They're less than 2 points a game out of the top 10, for what that's worth.
And yes, I'm aware that includes defense and special teams. I guess my question is... so? A defense that forces costly mistakes and takes advantage of them is a skill, and one that is a threat to put points on the board at any time (especially against turnover prone teams. Say, aren't the Broncos turnover prone?). A dangerous return game is a skill.
The Chiefs, as an offense, have definitely been relatively disappointing this year. But at the end of the day, they've come through in the clutch when we desperately needed points. Since your friend is a Broncos fan, they probably didn't actually watch the Chiefs games and see...
... the 80-yard TD drive against the Cowboys in the 3rd quarter to regain the lead.
... the clock-killing 8 minute FG drive from our own goal line to reclaim momentum and basically ice the game against the Eagles.
... the 64 yard TD drive against the Titans in the 4th quarter to get the lead back from down 4.
... the 97 yard TD drive in the 2nd quarter to prop up the defense while Case Keenum was doing his best Joe Montana impression.
... the 75 yard TD drive in the 2nd quarter to bump the lead against the Browns to two scores.
.... the clock-chewing FG drive against the Bills to make it a two score game with roughly 2 minutes to go, again effectively icing the game.
The Chiefs offense hasn't been pretty, and it sure hasn't done enough to make the wins comfortable. But in the absolute worst moments, when it's been ESSENTIAL to get points on the board, the Chiefs offense has delivered.
Does that mean the offense isn't a concern? Nope. But it sure pushes back against the idea that it's some kind of crazy anchor weighing us down.
That should about cover it for at least one conversation. But I'll leave you with a few quick hitters.
If they say their defense is going to be way better with Champ Bailey back...
Tell them you hope Champ plays. Dude has been playing awful when he's been on the field this year, yet Denver's coaching staff insists on treating him like it's still 2010. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll end up on Donnie Avery, so we can all watch him get burned within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
If they say Orlando Franklin will shut down Justin Houston...
Point out that per PFF, in the 3 games Houston has played significant snaps against Franklin as a pass rusher, he's got 4 sacks, QB hit, and 4 QB hurries. And this was before Sutton and his own growth had him at the level he's at now. Could happen, but doesn't seem likely.
If they say Manny Ramirez will hold Dontari Poe down on his own...
Ask them to kindly watch some film from the Browns and Texans games, where Poe couldn't be contained by two of the best centers in the league in Alex Mack and Chris Myers. Then PRAY the Broncos decide to leave Ramirez alone against Poe.
There are a million more arguments to be had, but this should leave you with plenty of ammunition in the upcoming interweb wars. Here's hoping for a great game Sunday, and some good clean smack talk between now and then.
Oh wait, one more thing!
If they say "we're the best closing team in football" or something similar (something I've heard a lot from Broncos fans)...
The Chiefs have literally not been outscored in the 4th quarter once this year. It hasn't happened. Out defense has given up 17 points total in the 4th quarter through 9 games. And before they holler about our offense, point out our offense has scored 70 4th quarter points. Yep, that's 70-17, without a single time being outscored in the 4th (like the Broncos have been... twice).
The best closing team in the NFL resides in Kansas City. Should be a great game.