When there's a rivalry like the Chiefs and the Broncos, things tend to get a little... tense on our respective blogs. Comment sections start to resemble YouTube, battle lines are drawn, someone throws a trident, the whole 9 yards.
In those fierce battles the debate is largely lost in the cacophony (I spelled that right on the first try. I win the internet today). And so I realized that there must be at least one debate that doesn't degenerate into a series of "yuh uh" and "nuh uh" responses.
Laurie Lattimore-Volkman is an editor and feature writer at Mile High Report. I did a podcast with her some time ago and found her to be quite pleasant for a Broncos fan. We had a ball talking Chiefs and Broncos (as well as bashing the Chargers and Raiders), and both of us thought perhaps we would be the two people to rise above the noise and argue out over who will win the Thursday game at Arrowhead (one that I will be attending, by the way. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, blacked out there for a second).
Laurie and I exchanged a series of increasingly trash-talk-laden messages to try and convince each other that our respective team would win. What follows is a (relatively) unedited transcript of that debate.
All right, let's do this thing. Laurie. Basically, my understanding is that you're here to tell me why the Chiefs are going to lose to the Broncos despite being better than them (or something to that effect, I don't recall the details). Let's talk about that. Why are the Broncos winning?
Two words - Orange Crush. It's for real. Texans have JJ Watt, and he's a menace, but the Broncos defense will be bringing the heat from every position - Alex Smith will be screaming for days at the site of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the outside; then Sly Williams and (rookie!) Darius Kilgo will stuff "Jamaarles" if he dares to come up the middle; Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall will pounce the second Travis Kelce touches the ball; and Chris Harris Jr, Aquib Talib, Darian Stewart and TJ Ward will just be waiting in the wings to take the ball away.
So what makes Chiefs fans so confident they can break the 6-0 streak Broncos have had over their AFC West rival the last three years?
Well, watching the Broncos play the Ravens certainly helped. Yes, the defense looked great... against an overrated Joe Flacco and... um... Steve Smith and... uh... well, yeah. I'm out. I don't doubt your defense is legit. But Chiefs fans have already heard the "you ain't ready for our defense" spiel this season from, you know, Texans fans. 27 points in a half later, Andy Reid went all vanilla and the Chiefs coasted to a pretty easy win.
Bottom line; the Chiefs have already faced a tough D and done pretty well. The Broncos, on the other hand, were unable to do anything whatsoever on offense Week 1. Knowing now that a tough defense can stymie the "new" Bronco offense, why should there be any anticipation for a better showing on a short week at Arrowhead?
Because Peyton Manning can't really be that bad, can he? (Don't answer that ;) ) But really. At the expense of sounding Defensive (see what I did there? with the capital D? yeah), Manning had a far less than perfect situation with a new offense, his top two receivers not being around consistently in the offseason, and a sieve for an offensive line the first three quarters. That's not to make any excuses. He didn't look great; he knows it, we all know it. But the encouraging thing is that he didn't look great...and we still won. We still converted a bunch of third downs, still scored points and still managed to keep the game in our favor. Have I mentioned our defense?
Since I opened the "Peyton Pandora's Box" let's just get the quarterback question out of the way, shall we? What makes you think your quarterback - who still hasn't thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver (but props for the TE strike in the end zone) - against our defense can be better than our declining-but-still-HOFer quarterback against your defense?
Oh, did Alex Smith not throw a TD to a WR yesterday? I got distracted by his completing 66.7% of his passes over 7.36 YPA while throwing 3 TD’s and no picks against a defense that was just as good as the Ravens were last year. The difference between your current situation and ours is one of fit. Peyton Manning, from all appearances, is a horrible fit in Kubiak’s system (his rollouts are painful). In the meantime, Alex Smith knows exactly how to run Reid’s system, which is built to beat good defenses. Especially overly aggressive pass rushes. That sound familiar?
Smith is no Manning, but he played roughly 10x better than Manning on Sunday. Additionally, there’s no more Terrance Knighton to terrorize Jamaal Charles. I swear, every time we played you guys Pot Roast made more plays than Miller. I couldn’t be happier he’s gone.
Since you’re getting Defensive (well played), talk to me about your defensive scheme. How are your (very good) linebackers going to account for Travis Kelce while at the same time staying close enough to the line of scrimmage to help with the best player on either team (Charles)?
I have another two words - Wade Phillips. (boy, I'm good at this!) But seriously, Kelce, Charles (and dare I say it, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin) are big threats, but Phillips & the D (band name or porn movie - you decide) will have a plan for this (unlike Jack "I’m going to drop my best athletes into zone coverage" Del Rio, who was capable of completely blowing his defense’s potential). Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are animals, and unlike the viewpoint of many Chiefs fans, both are going to be better covering Kelce than the Texans were last weekend. I miss Pot Roast but less for his football and more for his team loyalty, humor and big Twitter mouth. Truthfully, I think Denver got the best years out of him and we're not missing him as much as opposing offenses think we are (if you read this, Pot Roast, I don't mean that. Love ya!)
Phillips is known for getting the best out of his players, and he has said over and over that this group is the deepest talent he has ever coached. If our rushers don’t get to Smith, Sly Williams and Malik Jackson are there to stuff the run. Marshall and Trevathan will be on alert for the screen pass to the running backs or tight ends. And our secondary – which this week will include T.J. Ward – is going to be a nice "Welcome the real NFL" for Maclin.
Chiefs fans seem to be banking a lot on their offense, writing off the Texans' comeback as merely garbage-time points. Are you really going to disrespect Manning and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders that much? Are you still really that mad at Sanders? lol.
I'm pretty sure Maclin doesn't need a "welcome to the real NFL," considering he's been around awhile, but that's generous of you. Sure, Wade Phillips knows how to coach a defense. I know that, you know that... Andy Reid knows that. These two have seen each other plenty of times, and to act like Reid’s going to be surprised by anything Phillips does is... well, it’s doubtful. And I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely hope the Broncos think any of their ILB’s can cover Kelce alone. Because if they do he will have another fantastic week. He’s not a TE any ILB is equipped to deal with solo. And yeah, as far as stuffing the run goes... maybe. Anything can happen. But Jamaal Charles ain’t Forsett.
As far as "disrespecting" the Broncos wide receivers, it’s got nothing to do with that and everything to do with what’s been proven so far. Regardless of the names on the back of the jerseys, the Broncos offense looked horrific against the Ravens. Absolutely horrific. I don’t understand why I would assume that’s solely based on a Ravens defense that, again, the Chiefs outshined last year WITHOUT some of their best players.
Wide receivers can’t do much if the quarterback isn’t getting them the duck (I mean ball, sorry. Freudian slip there). And nah, we're not mad at Sanders anymore now that we've signed Maclin. That would be like being mad at the "OK" gal who dumped you in college after you married a model who writes for the Chiefs as a hobby. We upgraded, baby!
All right, we’ve taken our potshots.Here’s your last word; why is the team with the significantly worse Colquitt going to manage the upset at Arrowhead, and how are the Broncos going to keep Justin Houston from ripping Manning’s head off and eating it?
Child, please. First of all, Manning’s forehead is way too big for Houston’s mouth. That’s just silly. Second, Evan Mathis took blame for the o-line’s inconsistent play that was significantly better by the end of the game, so I don’t anticipate Houston having as easy a time against our RT as the Ravens did when going after Manning.
Also, I am compelled to correct your previous point (ground rules be damned!) – the Broncos’ quarterback looked horrific last week (and even then, "horrific" is a bit dramatic, don’t you think?) But I’ll give it to you just because the bar is set so high with that one. I mean, when you have the five-time NFL MVP who holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes as your quarterback, it’s easy to get anxious when he doesn’t throw a TD and look amazing. I get it. (But word of advice, jealousy doesn’t make anyone look good ;) )
Also, overlook all you want that fourth-quarter drive by our "horrific" QB in which he kept the Broncos offense on the field for 18 plays and nearly 11 minutes, engineering many a third-down conversion and denying the Ravens offense any decent time to retort. No "horrific" quarterback does that. A touchdown would have been nice, sure, but I’ll make you a bet – if a Chiefs wide receiver makes it into the end zone before Manning throws a pass into it, I’ll wear that WR’s jersey to Mile High in November when I go to the rivals’ second matchup (no I won’t).
As to your question about the upset at Arrowhead, I first take issue with the idea that it would be an upset. I’m not one to rest on previous laurels (*cough, owned you the last three years, cough) but giving the Chiefs an advantage based on last week’s games is ignorant at best, delusional at worst. I don’t argue that the Chiefs offense was better than the Broncos offense last week (I’m not an idiot, after all), but our defense was wildly better than yours (seriously, you’re going to tell me the Chiefs’ defensive "game plan" was to let the Texans score in the second half so as not to give away anything for this week? Not buying it). So, I think the Broncos should be considered favorites based on that.
All that said, I never take for granted the fact that any team can lose to anyone in the NFL, and I’m not ashamed in the least to admit the Broncos could certainly lose at Arrowhead Thursday (OK, maybe a little). The Chiefs defense is tough and our offensive line certainly has to get up to speed quick if it wants to make it an entire game without too many miscues that will lead to a sack in a heartbeat. Smith, Kelce and Charles are a formidable trio that will no doubt test our defense and force it to play at its best again if the Chiefs are going to be stopped. Finally, that stadium could easily tip the scales. It’s loud, it’s fun and it’s hard to be the visitor.
I want to thank you, Seth, for a fun exchange. Despite the sometimes bad blood between our fan bases, I actually love the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry more than any other. The Broncos game I try to go to every year is often the Chiefs game – partly because it’s a sure win (kidding, kidding) and mostly because I love the atmosphere of a fun conference rivalry (and who are we kidding, the Raiders suck and the Chargers have like four actual fans). So here’s to a great game with no serious injuries to either team and a lot of fun stuff to trash talk after the game!
OK, I’ll concede the point on Manning’s head. I’m not sure how Evan Mathis playing better helps against Houston, though. Your RT situation is kaput. Justin Houston is the best pass rushing linebacker in the NFL (yes, better than Von if you believe efficiency matters). Having a bad RT is... not great.
Regarding the QB issue, it’s not just that Manning "wasn’t great." He had 4.38 YPA. That’s horrific. He had a terrible INT and could’ve had a few more had the Ravens not been so kind as to drop the ball (kind of a theme from that game, along with Steve Smith). It’s not that he didn’t meet his bar, he didn’t meet the bar of even "decent" NFL quarterback play.
As far as an issue with it being an upset, talk to Vegas, not me. I don’t set the lines. And the lines say it would be an upset (albeit a small one).
And it’s not a "theory" that the Chiefs went pretty vanilla on defense in the 2nd half (outside a few exceptions), it’s a fact. Watch the tape before you say you don’t "buy" it. There’s nothing to buy but truth. Calling the Broncos defense "wildly better" is... a tad excessive. Joe Flacco played an awful game (inaccurate even for him, missed open reads, etc.), and they didn’t have a player to compensate like the Texans have Hopkins. I’d argue the Broncos defense looked better while the Chiefs offense (to borrow your phrase) looked wildly better.
It seems to me like Broncos fans are acting like they beat a powerhouse while the Chiefs beat some kind of awful squad. It’s worth pointing out the Ravens won ONE more game than the Texans last season. One game. Also, and this is an interesting point, the Texans beat the Ravens head to head last season. Sure, an offseason changes things, but I’d argue it was a worse version of the Ravens the Broncos beat Sunday (as well as a worse version of the Texans for the Chiefs, FWIW). And the Chiefs won fairly easily while the Broncos scraped by.
Really, though, we have no idea what’ll happen (that’s the NFL for you, like you said). Since you were willing to conceded the Chiefs could win, allow me to reciprocate. If the Chiefs don’t have another surprising performance from the OL, they could well lose Thursday. The run defense is also a concern for me, as there are still kinks from last season that need to be worked out there. I could see C.J. Anderson doing what he did last year and the Chiefs losing a low scoring game.
My prediction (which will be different from my OTHER prediction here on AP because why not?) is a 30-24 win for the Chiefs. Here’s hoping, like you said, for a great game. Oh, and yeah, the Raiders do suck. I’m glad we could end on a note of agreement.
Laurie, I really appreciate your willingness to spar with me on this in a friendly way. It's always a pleasure working with you, and we'll need to do this again sometime! All the best, and you know, go Chiefs!