Initially, it would appear that the Denver Broncos have the best chance at pulling off an undefeated season for the first time since the 2007 New England Patriots. With Manning’s flawless performances and a stacked offensive corps, the Denver Broncos are a seemingly unstoppable scoring machine.
Although the Broncos have a high-powered offense, their defense has been fairly disappointing. In last week’s game against Dallas, The Broncos gave up 48 points on the road to the once finicky passer Tony Romo. While the Broncos eventually won the game thanks to their unwavering attack on offense, they emphatically displayed a key weakness that could be exploited by a more balanced opposition.
The Kansas City Chiefs offense may pale in comparison to the Broncos, but they have a well balanced and perceptive defense that has proven to be immensely clutch time and time again (see week 2 victory over Dallas Cowboys.)
Kansas City’s defensive line has proven to be fairly formidable (12th in the NFL at stopping the rush) and it is their swift and youthful secondary that has been supremely responsible for holding offenses to 17 points per game or less.
What makes this Chiefs secondary so monumentally impressive is their ability to make confident open field tackles while looking for any opportunity to create critical turnovers. Between Brandon Flowers’ instinctual defensive awareness as a shut down corner (24 tackles, 1 INT) and Quintin Demps’ opportunistic mentality when it comes to garnering interceptions (9 tackles, 2 INT’s), the Chiefs are built to anticipate breakout plays while shutting them down before they can be executed.
However, even with the Chiefs smash mouth secondary, it will eventually have to contain the best passer in the league …twice.
Despite Peyton Manning’s 16-year tenure in the NFL along with his most recent neck injury that prevented him playing the entire 2011 season, his gifted instincts and unwavering precision haven’t faltered. In fact, Manning appears to be in the prime of his career as he has thrown for 20 touchdowns and only a single interception. He has also completed over 75 percent of his passes and has thrown for an impressive 1,884 yards in just five games.
With that being said, Manning’s unprecedented passing accomplishments can at least be partially attributed to his team going up against opponents with mediocre secondary’s. Out of the five teams manning has gone up against, nearly all of them have yet to crack the top 20 in terms of stopping the pass (the only exception is the Baltimore Ravens who are ranked 16th at stopping the pass). Granted, the Broncos have the last-ranked secondary in the league as they have allowed 347 yards of offense per game.
However, thanks to Peyton Manning’s sharp quarterback IQ, the Broncos haven’t been forced to rely on their struggling secondary.
With all of that in mind, the Chiefs may have the perfect quarterback who can pick apart the Broncos weak pass protection. Alex Smith may not be the flashiest passer in the league, but he has proven that his methodical style of play can be highly effective when it needs to be. Smith’s accuracy hasn’t exactly been up to par (he has completed only 58.4% of his passes), however, he has only thrown three picks and fumbled the ball only once.
Smith has gone up against better secondary’s than Manning (Tennessee and Jacksonville are both ranked 9th and 10th at stopping the pass respectively), but they didn’t have proficient offenses to back them up. The Kansas City Chiefs eventual match up against the Broncos could prove to be a catch 22 predicament.
On the one hand, they’ll have the advantage of going up against a paper-thin secondary; on the other hand, their defense will have to prevent the best passer in the league from scoring consecutive touchdowns.
In the end, both of these teams well-earned success has been predicated on two entirely differently styles of play. The Chiefs have a physical and tenacious defense that can be consistently oppressive, while the Broncos have a nearly unstoppable offensive attack. Although it’s hard to bet against Peyton Manning and his 16 years of experience within the NFL, it’s hard to doubt the Chiefs believable Cinderella Story and how it has shaped them into an undefeated franchise.