Wes Welker, WR3. (photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
I should probably start off by warning you that I am partially writing this to assuage my own fears of Manning taking an early, low hit in Sunday's game, knocking him out for the season, and consequently collapsing the hopes and dreams of a Denver organization (and fan base) that has been rebuilding since the Elway era. But putting that disastrous possibility aside, here's the main reason Broncos fans have nothing to worry about this Sunday versus the undefeated Chiefs.
The Denver receiving corps creates a match-up nightmare for the Chiefs defense.
I refuse to be that guy who says of the Chiefs, "they haven't faced anyone decent this year so therefore we should discredit their perfect record". Because at the end of the day 9-0 is 9-0. So I won't do that. What I do want to highlight though, is the receiving corps for the Broncos and how they compare to other teams the Chiefs have faced.
Here are the teams Kansas City has beaten thus far: Jacksonville, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York Giants, Tennessee, Oakland, Houston, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Out of that group, the top receivers are Justin Blackmon, Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks, and Andre Johnson. Johnson and Bryant being arguably the best of these, both nearly managed to take down the Chiefs losing by merely one point. (17-16 in both games) The real problem here is that no team the Chiefs have faced this year has had more than one serious receiving threat in the passing game. Denver just isn't that way.
Take a look.
Demaryius Thomas, last weeks AFC Player of the week, has 9 touchdowns (tied for 2nd most) and 793 receiving yards (8th in the NFL) on the season. Okay he's their number one guy, you might say. Just double him up with some safety help, problem solved.
Not so fast. On the other side of the field you have Eric Decker. Only 3 touchdowns on the season (not a huge red zone threat) but wait, he has 721 receiving yards of his own, that's 14th in the NFL. So two main threats. One, not so much in the red zone. That's manageable.
Still not done. In the slot we have a real "scrappy guy", "great route runner", by the name of Wes Welker. You might have heard of him. Let's add another 576 receiving yards and another 9 touchdowns (tied with DT for 2nd in the league) on the season. I don't care how many star corners you have, (do you have any Kansas City?) stopping these three guys every time Manning drops back is no easy task.
For the fun of it, why don't we add one more to the mix. Tight End Julius Thomas, can tack on another 547 receiving yards and, you guessed it, 9 more touchdowns. (Yes, tied with his two teammates for 2nd in the NFL). This means 4 out of the top 32 receivers in the League (yardage wise) are on the Denver Broncos. And 3 out of the top 5 receivers (touchdown wise) are on the Denver Broncos.
So the matchup problem isn't really a one-on-one matchup problem with the Kansas City secondary like you see when facing Calvin Johnson of Detroit, instead its a "wait we have to cover all 4 of these guys on the same play" problem. Eerily similar to the situation that the Miami Heat present in the NBA.
The obvious solution is to ensure that the ball never gets to any of these 4 play-makers. Aka getting to Manning. Denver knows this, thanks to the wake up call San Diego provided last Sunday. Undoubtedly Jack Del Rio has focused on little else this week in practice. Keep Manning standing and Kansas City doesn't stand a chance.
What do you think about the Chiefs chances this Sunday?
Let me know in the comments section below.