Thanks to the way their season ended last January; the Chiefs enter Sunday Night's contest with a chip on their shoulder. They want to make a statement in their season opener against AFC West rival Denver. The pressure to deliver a sound thrashing on the Broncos is one the Chiefs have felt since the NFL announced the 2004 schedule.
Tonight's game can do two things for the Chiefs if they win. One they can get a leg up on the only team in the division that can challenge Kansas City for the AFC West title. Second they can let the rest of the NFL know that they are the team to beat in the AFC in 2004.
All the pre-season prognosticators believe the Chiefs, New England Patriots or Colts will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Indianapolis laid an egg on the NFL opener last Thursday night losing to the Patriots in New England. They showed their defense is still erratic and the offense can't carry the load especially when they turn the ball over in the red zone as they did twice in the game.
The Chiefs play both the Colts and Patriots in Arrowhead this season and this gives them a huge advantage over their AFC counterparts. But in order for those games to mean something in October and November, Kansas City needs to come up big in Denver tonight.
The Chiefs will not play another AFC west game until November when they'll play five of their last six games of the season against division rivals. That means this game is critical to determining the outcome of the AFC West.
The Broncos head into the match-up needing to win this game to set the tone for their season. It appears that Denver and head coach Mike Shanahan spent the entire off-season trying to find ways to stop the Chiefs offense. He added cornerback Champ Bailey to solidify a secondary that had too many holes. By adding one of the best corners in the game, he had to give up one of the best running backs in the NFL that being Clinton Portis.
This was a huge move and huge risk by Shanahan but it makes sense. The Broncos have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and nothing in Shanahan's past would indicate that another running back won't be successful in their system.
Denver needs this game far more than the Chiefs. They are attempting to tempt faith by putting their eggs in Jake Plummer's basket. That's a decision that could backfire. For Plummer he has shown the ability to play good to great football. While other times he's been the reincarnation of Brian Griese. But in order for the Broncos to get in the same class as the aforementioned AFC trio, they have to win their season opener against the Chiefs.
They have more pressure on them as an organization and in order for their season to be a success. That means losing the game against the Chiefs is not an option. The Broncos believe they have a Super Bowl Defense and they know that their offense is depended on their quarterback making good decisions.
In order for the Broncos to get into the post season they must be dominate the first 13 weeks of the season. They face a brutal three game stretch to conclude the season when the play the Chiefs again, Colts and Tennessee Titans to finish out the year.
That's why this game is so critical to having a successful season.
For Kansas City it's truly just another game and even if they lose in Denver, they'll still be in good shape to defend their AFC West title. But a win would serve their chances well and fuel a confidence that they had last year that they can win a big game.
Make no mistake about it this is a big game despite the comments of both coaches. During their respective news conferences this week each downplayed the importance of the game or the potential outcome. They each made it sound like it was ok to lose the game but we all know better.
This game is important to both for different reasons. The Broncos need it for themselves and the Chiefs need it to show the other AFC teams that they are for real this season. That they are ready to take the next step for a serious Super Bowl run.
In the end it won't be about X's and O's but instead about which players step up to make the plays to win the game.
And I believe the Chiefs have the right stuff to do that. They will be the loose team while the Broncos will be playing with a desperation and uncertainty that could be their down fall not only in this game but throughout the season.