Chiefs Kingdom, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is upon us. On Sunday, the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs will face the Denver Broncos in an AFC West showdown on ‘Sunday Night Football.’ Not only are the Chiefs and Broncos sitting atop the division, they’re also the top two teams in conference standings. The game was originally slated to air on CBS, but it became such a huge matchup that it was flexed to the primetime slot on NBC. The division rivals have been on a crash course all season long. The “irresistible force” and the “immovable object” square off this weekend, before a national television audience, in what seems like something taken right out of a Hollywood film.
Alex Smith and Peyton Manning have been two of the most bankable starting quarterbacks in the NFL in recent years. In their last 36 regular season starts, Smith and Manning are 30-5-1 and 28-8 (respectively). The transplanted tandem has changed the fortunes of the new organizations to which they belong. Two proud teams, with storied traditions, are again among the best teams in the league. The fact that they’re the subject of a contentious rivalry only adds to the drama.
The Chiefs are the only unblemished team remaining in the NFL. They have a slim one game lead in the division. It would seem that the pressure to win this game rests squarely on their shoulders. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment though. What I’m about to say might sound crazy, but I’m never one to mince words. This game is being heralded as an AFC “clash of the titans”, but I honestly think that despite that distinction, there’s very little pressure on Kansas City. Please, allow me to explain.
If Kansas City wins in Denver:
A win gives the Chiefs a two game lead in the division with just six games to play. It also keeps them in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. That would be a coup for coach Reid and the Chiefs, but it would also stave off the inevitable for at least another week. The Chiefs are eventually going to drop a game.
You know what they say, “adversity reveals character.” The new-look Chiefs don’t yet know how to recover from a tough loss. Or really any kind of loss for that matter. This game, to no fault of their own, has been made into their Super Bowl. Beating Denver, in Denver, might leave this team feeling satisfied. The Chiefs should be content with where they are as the only unbeaten team in the NFL, but they’re in no position to be satisfied until after they’ve been awarded with the Lombardi Trophy. Contentment applies to the present and leaves room for improvement. Satisfaction deals with the past and the completion of a goal.
If Kansas City loses in Denver:
A loss evens the score in the AFC West and puts the Chiefs in a dogfight with the Broncos for the final six games of the season. It’s also likely to uncover the team’s weaknesses in such a way that it illuminates the specific areas where the team needs improvement. Good teams can’t afford to peak in the month of November. If you can get clear on what you need more or less of going into the home stretch, you have a fighting chance to be ready to peak when the postseason tournament starts.
The team will still have the December 1st matchup to earn a split with Denver. That’s what fans were hoping for when the season began. It’s also likely to put the Chiefs back out in front, but that will depend on what happens in their Week 12 games (Denver at New England, San Diego at Kansas City). At that point, assuming both teams take care of business, the Chiefs could regain the advantage in the AFC West going into the season’s final quarter. They would be out a game and own the highest applicable tie-breaker (“best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference”).
Make no mistake, winning the game is the most desirable outcome for the Kansas City Chiefs. A two game lead in the West forces the Denver Broncos to win four or five of their remaining games to have a chance at repeating as division champions. Losing the game won’t be the end of the line for the Chiefs though. They’ll still have a great shot at winning the West outright and perhaps even securing the #1 seed in the postseason. The Chiefs would be under more pressure if the tables were turned. As it stands, I think Kansas City is in great position no matter what happens. That said, anything less than a drubbing of the Broncos will likely be a disappointment (the hatred is strong).
What say you, readers? Am I crazy to think that all of the pressure is on Denver in this game? Can the Chiefs afford to lose? Use the comment section below to speak your mind. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!