Nov 25, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) and safety Eric Berry (29) tackle Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (21) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won the game 17-9. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Sometimes it’s not wise to make bold predictions after one week of football but the sample may still be large enough to enhance earlier beliefs. In this case the Kansas City Chiefs look like the only team that can steal the AFC West division from the Denver Broncos. Here’s why.
Alex Smith should not fear Broncos pass rush minus Von Miller
There is no question the Denver offense is going to give teams fits all season long. The same can’t be said for their defense. In the midst of giving up 27 points against Baltimore, the unit showed just how much they’d lost over the off-season, particularly in the pass rush. Elvis Dumervil is with the Ravens and Von Miller is out for another five games thanks to a substance abuse violation. Without them Denver struggled all game to put any heat on Joe Flacco early on. However, as the point gap widened the Broncos finally got to him thanks to veteran outside linebacker Shaun Phillips and former reserve Robert Ayers. Whether they can get home against teams in the future is up for debate. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith shouldn’t worry. His offensive line allowed only one sack last week against Jacksonville, and otherwise dominated the game, rating first overall in run blocking and 3rd in pass blocking by Pro Football Focus. Yes, it was the Jaguars, but it’s clear first round pick Eric Fisher has had a positive impact thus far.
Peyton Manning struggles against 3-4 defenses
So how does Kansas City have any hope of stopping Peyton Manning and that devastating passing attack? The Chiefs defensive scheme is an excellent answer. Over the course of his illustrious career, Manning has one glaring issue attached to his name. He often struggles against teams who employ a 3-4 alignment with three down lineman and four linebackers. For validation of that one merely need look back to 2012. Of the four losses Manning suffered including the playoffs, three of them were to 3-4 teams in New England, Houston and Baltimore. It’s worth noting that the other loss to Atlanta was against Mike Nolan, who is an expert at 3-4 scheming despite running a primary 4-3 for the Falcons. That’s not to say Manning can’t beat the defense. He’s done so for years. The key is that it confuses him just enough allow chances for impact plays.
Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers showcase depth of Chiefs defense
That’s good news because it seems the Kansas City Chiefs front office has done a fabulous job over the past couple seasons constructing their defense. If sending three players from that unit to the Pro Bowl last year in Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry weren’t enough, then a look at the masterpiece of opening week should change the remaining minds. Not only did Kansas City utterly shut down the Jaguars offense for no points allowed, it two players who didn’t go to Hawaii making the big plays. Cornerback Brandon Flowers had one of their two interceptions while linebacker Justin Houston got off to a roaring start with three of his teams 5.5 sacks. The group is young, talented and deep with playmakers at every level. They, more than even Smith and the Chiefs offense will dictate how the 2013 season goes, and how the team can match up with the Denver Broncos.