I have spoken with the enemy and .... he's actually pretty nice! That would be Kyle over at SB Nation's Broncos blog, Mile High Report. I asked Kyle a few questions about Sunday's Chiefs-Broncos game. I also answered some questions for him, which he'll be posting at Mile High Report this weekend.
First things first. The Chiefs have had a tough week so we need something to cheer us up. For that reason, I asked Kyle what his worst memory of a Chiefs-Broncos game is, and he responded with the 2006 Thanksgiving night game. Which of course was awesome for the Chiefs.
"The Broncos were reeling a bit, but things weren't out of control yet. The Chargers had whooped them the week before, a battle for first place in the division, but the Chiefs game in Arrowhead (the first-ever NFL Network game) loomed large. The Broncos needed this division win to get back into the race and keep the pressure on San Diego. Plus, there were murmurs that Jake Plummer was at risk of losing his starting job, less than a year after leading the Broncos to 13-3 record and the AFC Championship Game.
"The Chiefs took control early and never let up. It was a sluggish game, and a painful one, as the Broncos looked ineffective all night. After the game, Jake Plummer was benched, and Jay Cutler started his first game the next week.
The feeling of vague helplessness the Chiefs gave me that night lasted for years to come. This game was particularly significant for me because I actually started blogging the next day. The loss stung so bad I had to create a website and vent. I suppose, eight years later, I should thank Chiefs fans for that. But I'd rather have Jake Plummer and that 2006 playoff berth instead."
Let's get to the rest of our Q&A where Kyle was kind enough to only make one joke about how bad the Broncos will win. I accept your sympathy, Kyle.
AP: If you were trying to stop the Broncos offense and could take any player out of the game, who would you take out? Why?
MHR: I'm guessing you mean besides the obvious answer of Peyton Manning. There is no other player you can take out. So instead of saying "Demaryius Thomas", knowing that Manning would be fine without any one of his receivers, I'm going to go a different angle. You don't need to "take out" a player from the game; you need to beat one. Someone who will help you beat Peyton Manning.
So if I'm a defensive coordinator attacking the Broncos, I'm looking for weaknesses on that offensive line. The most likely candidate right now is right tackle Chris Clark, who moved from replacing Ryan Clady at left tackle a year ago. Attack Chris Clark in the hopes that you can disrupt Peyton, and by extension, the Broncos offense. Because there is no one player, or even two players, you can take away in the passing game (other than Manning) to stop Peyton's offense. You have to hit him.
AP: As you look at the Chiefs offense, what worries you?
MHR: Jamaal Charles. The fact that he only got 11 touches a week ago actually worries me. Is there any doubt getting Charles the football will be a point of emphasis for Andy Reid and company after the justified criticism they received for their Week 1 game plan? Charles averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Broncos a year ago, and if the Chiefs can find a way to extend that beyond 15-20 carries, the Chiefs will be successfully keeping Manning off the field by keeping Charles on it. I'm confident in the Broncos defense, but I also don't underestimate Charles. He worries me.
AP: The Chiefs o-line has struggled. Please tell me DeMarcus Ware is too old and Von Miller is a fluke. Please lie to me!
MHR: DeMarcus Ware had 1.5 sacks in his Broncos debut, which we have scientifically projected to result in a 24-sack season. This is science. Von Miller had no sacks a week ago, which we have scientifically projected to result in a 22.5-sack season. But seriously, these guys look good. Ware looks lean and anything but old. Miller isn't a pure pass rusher anymore, showing his versatility in coverage (quite impressively, I might add), and in my biased opinion he's the best linebacker in the NFL right now. That being said, I suppose the good news I can give you is that neither seems to be quite 100 percent yet. Both sat out about 20 snaps in Week 1 due to fatigue/injury recovery.
AP: How confident are you in a Super Bowl for the Broncos? Scale of 1-10.
MHR: 7. That's the highest level I've been since 1998, when the Broncos aimed to repeat and did. There are too many variables in the NFL to really be any more confident. The Broncos could have a bad game in the playoffs (see: February 2nd, 2014). One team could get really hot at the right time (see: Baltimore Ravens, 2012). But the Broncos look good, the rest of the AFC doesn't look too challenging, and Peyton Manning is pissed off. That helps. Now, how confident am I in a Super Bowl *win* for the Broncos? 5. 50-50. Let's see how this season goes.
AP: The Chiefs are going to need a big special teams play to stay in this game. How are the Broncos special teams? Any issues with big returns this year?
MHR: The Broncos special teams could be without its best player, gunner and captain David Bruton, who is questionable with a dislocated shoulder he suffered vs. the Colts. Also, Matt Prater is suspended, so the Broncos are potentially without two of their key special teamers this week. That being said, replacement kicker Brandon McManus has a strong leg and was all touchbacks at Mile High last week; I wouldn't expect a kick return opportunity. And you'll have to actually stop Peyton Manning and company to force a punt to get a punt return opportunity, sooooo.....
I kid. Had to throw a jab in there. Good luck this weekend and here's to some actual football in this hellish week in the NFL!