If you've been paying attention to the national pundits, the Kansas City Chiefs are a team on the rise. Many believe that 2015 is the year Andy Reid and company de-throne Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as the AFC West champs.
Based on what we saw from the Chiefs in Week 1, they're backing up that hypothesis. They'll get their first swing at the champs on Thursday Night Football. It's a short week for both teams. The early divisional narrative will be shaped by the results of this game.
I sat down with Warpaint Illustraited Publisher Nick Athan to get a better picture of what the Broncos can expect from the 2015 Chiefs.
Find Nick Athan on Twitter @ChiefsInsider.
MHH: There's been so much scrutiny on Alex Smith not throwing touchdowns to wide receivers. With the arrival of Jeremy Maclin, will that change? Is the onus on Smith to feed that signing, so to speak?
Athan: Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid spent much of the off-season trying to give quarterback Alex Smith more capable options at the receiver position. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin and third round draft pick, Chris Conley, each scored touchdowns in the pre-season and that will likely be the case in the regular season. Though the streak began in December of 2013 it hasn't ended yet but I do suspect that will change Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.
Even during the streak, Smith has done a terrific job of spreading the ball around to a multitude of receiving options. Fortunately, with the development of tight end, Travis Kelce and his ability to find the end zone, it's just a matter of time before Smith ends one of the most mind boggling regular season streaks in the NFL.
MHH: The Chiefs defense finally have their pieces back together—Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry—how has their return to the fold impacted the unit? Is this a top-5 defense?
Athan: The Eric Berry story is one for the ages. I've been around this game a long time and I don't think there's a better story in the NFL the last decade. Berry's fight through Hodgkin Lymphoma was remarkable. Playing again at a high level on the NFL stage is another badge of honor for the young man. His impact has been seen all over the locker room. He's their undisputed leader this season and he's making the most of this opportunity to play football again.
To a lesser degree, Derrick Johnson is doing the same thing for the Chiefs. His play Sunday against the Texans was one year removed from a horrific Achilles injury. After the surgery last September, some felt he'd never play football again but D.J. never stopped pushing himself to get back on the field. Considering the way he played against the Texans on Sunday, I'd say he's come back as good as ever.
MHH: The Chiefs are 0-6 vs. the Peyton Manning Broncos. Many national pundits see that changing this year. Do you?
Athan: Well, I certainly believe the Chiefs will win at least one matchup against the Broncos this season. Peyton Manning has owned the Chiefs, not only in Denver but Indianapolis, so this is a big game for the Chiefs. They understand that Manning isn't quite the same, but when a player has your number, he keeps it until you take it away from him.
Will that finally happen Thursday night on the national TV stage? It remains to be seen but much like the wide receiver touchdown madness that hovers off this franchise, nothing is as bad as the Chiefs overall inability to defeat Peyton Manning on the field of battle.
MHH: Who wins Thursday and what's the final score?
Athan: Final Score Chiefs 31 - Broncos 17
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