1. RB Jamaal Charles – When you have the games most talented all-around running back, there are games in which your career is remembered by the adoring nation that lives and dies with every snap. Two years ago in Oakland, Sir Charles torched the Raiders for five touchdowns. On Thursday night, he has a chance to show the NFL, that he can carry his offense and deliver the biggest win since the Andy Reid era began in Kansas City.
Charles has been the rock of this offense under Reid. However, this year with the emergence of a playmaking tight end and legitimate wide receiver, Charles becomes even more lethal in facing arguably one of the game best defenses. The Broncos will crash the gate and do everything in their power to stop Charles. Should his plate of armor be stronger than the shields worn by the Broncos tonight, he could have a moment that will cement his induction into the Chiefs Ring of Honor.
2. QB Alex Smith – With the addition of Jeremy Maclin and the emergence of Travis Kelce, KC’s quarterback finally has the weapons to achieve an AFC Championship in the heartland. That might sound far-fetched, and inconceivable to most, but the only thing standing in his way is defeating the Denver Broncos. Of course, that task won’t be defined by Smith’s decisions on the field, but rather the five men up front that Reid has selected to protect the teams’ franchise quarterback.
Smith, despite objections or denials form some NFL experts, is a franchise quarterback. All he does is win games and execute to the best of his abilities the offense that’s presented by his head coach. If we can take anything away from his week one performance against the Houston Texans, it would be the fact the man is on top of his game. To remove doubts about his abilities, he’ll need to play the best game of his career in order to defeat the Broncos tonight. Should he do that, all doubts about his ability to lead this franchise into the playoffs, will be erased.
3. LB Justin Houston – I was a bit skeptical when the Chiefs opened the brinks truck and gave Houston a lifetime of riches. However, after watching his leadership in training camp, throughout the pre-season and in game one against Houston, he’s worth every penny Chairman, Clark Hunt put in his pocket.
Against the Broncos tonight there is no greater stage for Houston to show the rest of the league that he, not J.J. Watt, is the games best defensive player. If he can sack Manning two or three times in key third down situations, then he might be able to make that case. But let’s be honest, the reason he received the coin of riches from the Chiefs was to excel in moments that matter and none is more important than delivering the hard knocks against a Denver Broncos team on the decline.
4. HC Andy Reid – If there is an undisputed leader of this franchise it’s the head coach. Reid has done a remarkable job of changing the culture in the locker room, listening to his players and understanding just how deep the apathy had set in before he took the job.
The fact he’s managed a pair of winning regular seasons is majestic. The fact, he’s rid his locker room of any malcontents (yes Eric Fisher could still be considered one of those but that’s mild compared to others he jettisoned the last two years). In the aftermath of a 53-man overhaul, he’s replaced his squad with hungry, motivated and high character men. In doing so, you can see why he’s giddy about his 2015 squad.
Still within the fan base, defeating Denver is by far his most challenging task to date. If the Chiefs lay the wood down on the Broncos tonight, suddenly the Chiefs could make a statement; that they are the franchise that’s ready to dominate the AFC West, not only this year, but for many more to follow.