Broncos fans are a lucky bunch this week. Not only do we get a second game at Mile High in opening weeks, we get to play a division rival - the Kansas City Chiefs.
And it's only fitting that Zach Eckels is here to take the Ultimate Fan Guide reins this week and help us get even more excited than we already are. Zach lives and works among the enemy every day, fighting the Broncos fight and keeping the record straight with any Chiefs fan who dares to challenge him - the Broncos have and will continue to dominate this ever so lopsided rivalry.
But before we get to the Chiefs, the "ultimate fan" from the previous week will get a chance to react to the game he/she previewed.
In "Around the Horn" style, here's Peyton Manthing's parting shots from the Indy game:
I won't complain about beating a conference contender, even if the second act was a poor performance.
I don't like the Virgil Green-heavy offense, but that's what you get when you combine a new commitment to running the ball with no Wes Welker. On that point, the Welker absence affected us more than even I thought it would; we didn't look in rhythm calling or executing those two-tight end sets.
Our new defensive additions really flashed, especially Aqib Talib, who played a really outstanding football game.
We still don't look as fast, aggressive, or physical as I had hoped we would - on either side of the ball. That should improve on defense as they get used to playing together and as Chris Harris, Jr. and Von Miller get their conditioning back.
In fact, the game sort of went the opposite as I would have expected (started fast, ended slow) but the result didn't surprise me. The Colts are a good team with a nasty mindset. It's one of the reasons they gave San Fran and Seattle problems last year.
Oh, and lastly: I don't blame the coaching staff or the play calling for the second half malaise. We just stopped blocking, tackling, and catching the football.
So there - case closed (except in the comments, of course!)
Now get out your nachos with a good pale ale and read just why Zach's favorite team to play, to beat and the worst to lose to are all the same one...and it's the team we're playing on Sunday!
MHR: If you were Coach Fox, what three things would be your main take-aways from the Indy game that you'd focus on in practice this week? Which of those would be the most important to you and why?
Zach Eckels: The most important to me is that we need better conditioning. Harris and Miller were both gassed against Indy. Coming off of injuries, there's a bit of an excuse. The length of time that our defense was on the field also offers them a bit of an excuse.
But the motor I was expecting disappeared after our early success. (And even when it was running, it wasn't as powerful as I expected.) Maybe it was just "Fox-ball," but I still want a lot more energy on the field. This game was in Denver! That's our biggest home field advantage. USE IT!
#2 - Our passing game needs to survive getting out of rhythm. We could just not let that happen in the first place, but as long as Fox is here, I'm not going to bet on that. With "Fox-ball," there will be more instances where we turn off the pass and then need to turn it back on. Maybe this isn't something that'd be good to introduce to practice right now, but we have to figure out a way to get back on our feet after we're pushed onto our heels.
#3 - Ball handling. The fumble by Julius Thomas could have changed the game. His mishandling of the onside kick did change it. Burse not calling for the fair catch could have ruined us. (Anyone else have Holiday flashbacks?) We got very lucky to survive those three plays.
MHR: Kansas City Chiefs are a division and AFCW rival who the Broncos have owned for years, even last year when KC had the best record in the league going into our first matchup. What makes you think the Broncos are going to keep that streak going?
Zach Eckels: The Chiefs are toast. They were lucky last year and faced easy opponents at the right time. When the schedule toughened up, they showed their true colors.
Add an offseason where they lost some of the good pieces they had, and you see why they started this year in a bad place. Losing Derrick Johnson at this point is just salt in the wound. In fact, the only thing that makes me even consider that the streak isn't going to continue for both games this season is that they could be traps.
With the Seahawks on the horizon and the Chiefs with nothing left to lose right now, this might not end up being the big blowout many of us are anticipating. They're a wounded dog that's backed into a corner. This game can't be taken lightly.
Blast from the Past: Broncos vs. Chiefs
Best game between the division rivals was just two years ago when Broncos won 38-3. Worst game was nearly 50 years earlier when Broncos lost 59-7. Ouch!
MHR: Andy Reid said this week that he didn't do a "very good job" with the Chiefs' game plan in Sunday's 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, specifically could have used the short passing game better and run the ball more. What do you expect from his game plan for the Broncos next week?
Zach Eckels: More Jamaal Charles. After that game, someone deserves a bonus in Tennessee. Charles barely got any touches at all, and the few he did were completely lackadaisical. That won't happen again. I expect many screens, drop down passes and anything else they can think of to get the ball in his hands.
I also expect to see more of their tight-end, Travis Kelce. This guy barely played against the Titans (they preferred to keep in Fasano to help block). Kelce still ended up with three catches for 49 yards. He looked like Gronk rolling down the field and that potential is not a good thing for us. But since Ware destroys tight ends, the Chiefs may not be able to get Kelce in the game as often as they'd like.
MHR: Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles was limited to seven carries for 19 yards, and four receptions for 15 yards inSunday's game - hardly a Pro Bowl-type game. Was his low output a result of great Titans D or a poor game plan in your opinion and how do the Broncos hold him to similar low production?
Zach Eckels: I think it was a terrible game plan. The Chiefs don't trust their offensive line at all. (Who can blame them?) And without Bowe, they had no one to pass to. Despite that, they never expected the Titans to load the box with guys spying on Charles. The Titans dared them to do anything but give Charles the ball and the Chiefs weren't prepared to do it.
MHR: Arrowhead Pride commented in its post-game recap that the talent is there for the Chiefs "but the heart isn't." Do you expect the Chiefs to come out on fire next week or fall flat like they did at home?
Zach Eckels: The Chiefs will be full of heart this week. Living in Chief territory, all I've been hearing on the radio and from their fans is that the Chiefs season is already over. They all marked this week off as a loss before Week One's pitiful performance. Now they've lost the heart of their defense (Derrick Johnson) and they're preparing for a slaughter. I can't imagine any pro athlete who wouldn't want to completely dismantle their opponent after hearing what's being said throughout Chief's "Kingdom." Beside, the heart wasn't totally missing last week. Berry was still slobber-knocking every Titan he could find when the stadium was already empty. The rest of the Chiefs will be looking to follow his example against us no matter what the score is.
Andy Reid was asked if his new DT Kevin Vickerson told him meaning of "Omaha!": "He said it was a city in Nebraska."— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 10, 2014
MHR: Kevin Vickerson was signed by the Chiefs today. What kind of factor do you think he'll have on our offensive line and on Manning?
Zach Eckels: I'm definitely looking forward to seeing if he'll play or not this week. With so little time between his signing and the game, I wouldn't be surprised if he's just depth this week. However, if he does make it in the game, I expect things to get a little chippy.
We all remember how he can react when he has his buttons pushed. And after our training camp, we know our offense and defense have no problems going at it. When one of them is now on a different team, I expect that to be intensified. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see our line trying to squeeze an easy 15 yards out of him. If it happens, at least Kansas City will see a little bit of the nasty that their players have been lacking for awhile.
As far as the familiarity factor, as always that goes both ways. I don't think he'll have any more of an edge on Manning or our line than our guys have on him.
MHR: What do you most want to see from the Broncos offense this game, particularly in light of its uneven play against Indianapolis?
Zach Eckels: I want to see us step on the gas and not let off. I want to see the passing game hitting on all cylinders on every drive. I want to see Ball looking better than Moreno (like he should). As a statistic: I want zero three and outs.
MHR: What do you think will be the key match-ups in this game for the Broncos' offensive line?
Zach Eckels: Without Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs still have one major weapon against the run: Dontari Poe. We have to focus on their nose tackle and take him out of the game. Their other main weapon is linebacker Justin Houston. As long as our line stops those two, we should have an amazing game.
MHR: Do you anticipate the two Tight End sets being an important part of this game again while Wes Welker sits on the bench for the second game of a four-game suspension?
Zach Eckels: As I'm writing this, I'm still hopeful that Welker will play on Sunday. I seriously doubt that will happen though. If Welker is out, the two tight end sets will definitely remain a big factor for us. Heck, even if he's back I'd expect to see quite a bit of it. Giving some support to blocking Houston while still getting JT out in a route is always a good thing.
Manning on Julius- I had an early appreciation for his talent. 6'4" TE that can run are hard to find. #9NEWS pic.twitter.com/69ibJ1eyS5— 9NEWS Sports Denver (@9NEWSSports) September 10, 2014
MHR: How important do you anticipate the run game being in this game and what needs more improvement - better O-Line blocking or better route running by the RBs?
Zach Eckels: Derrick Johnson was a huge part of Kansas City's run defense. I'm hoping we exploit their unfortunate loss and give Ball a huge game. I'm having a hard time deciding between who's to blame on our difficulties running last week. It seemed like Ball didn't have many holes... but Anderson seemed to find them just fine. I think they both are needing some improvement at this point.
MHR: Which defensive match-ups will you key in on for this game?
Zach Eckels: I'm most interested in our front seven. I want to see Miller and Ware destroy the Chiefs like they should be able to. I want to see them stopping Charles and rushing Smith like he's never been attacked before.
Since Ware wants this duo to become legendary, I want a record. Derrick Thomas' record. I want one of them to beat his 7 sacks in one game. If the other guys want to add 5 or more as well, then the single game record for sacks (12) would be a great cherry on top. But in all honesty, I just want to see them turn the motor on. The Chiefs O-Line is about as weak as it gets. If we can't have constant pressure and hits in the backfield, then something isn't right.
MHR: Now that Dwayne Bowe should be back in the Chiefs' lineup, how do you think the Broncos' secondary will do against him and Donnie Avery?
Zach Eckels: I love our secondary so much! Roby was able to keep up with Reggie Wayne! Bowe won't be an issue. Hilton was held to 5 catches for 49 yards. Avery can't catch with his hands and doesn't know how to play defense when Smith puts the ball in the wrong place. Our secondary is the least of my concerns about this squad. I just hope that they can make the Chief fans regret Smith's new contract even more than they already are!
MHR: How much of a factor do you anticipate fans being at this second game at Mile High this season - will they be as loud and into the game as Sunday afternoon?
Zach Eckels: The fans better be a HUGE factor in this game. I want a gif of Alex Smith doing something like this.
MHR: Give us some game predictions:
- Full stat line for Manning - 400 yards, 26 completions, 5 TDs, 1 INT (off of a tipped pass)
- Number of yards total by the running backs? 120 yards.
- Number of sacks on Alex Smith by the defense? 5. Although I am still hoping for records!
- DT/DE/DB with the most tackles? Roby. He was everywhere last week. I'm still trying to tell my brain not to anoint him as the second-coming of Champ this soon.
- Player with the most INTs (and how many)? Talib, 2
- Number of penalties on the Broncos? 5
- Final Score? 42-6. We'll be frustrated that we're not doing better after the first half. The second half will make us forget that the Chiefs were managing to keep up with us a bit.
MHR: And now just for fun:
- Favorite team to watch the Broncos play? The Chiefs. The game is always guaranteed to be televised in my area.
- Team you most hate for the Broncos to lose to? The Chiefs. I've lived my entire life in their territory. You're a "terrible person" for talking trash after a win, but you'll never hear the end of it after a loss. People who never even watch them play will go out of their way to let me hear about it!
- Team you enjoy beating more than any other? The Chiefs. I'm a "terrible person" and I remember everyone who has given me grief.
- Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Chris Harris. My wife is a Jayhawk and I'm a Wildcat. When I heard we picked up a KU scrub, I rubbed it in my wife's face that we signed on a lousy Jayhawk to beat up in training camp. My wife loves that he proved me wrong... and to be honest, so do I. Always have to love those underdogs.
- Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway. He's the reason I love football. Growing up with him was the biggest gift I could have ever received. Having him come back and be a total front office wizard doesn't seem like it should be possible. Fact is definitely stranger than fiction. The man deserves to be reinducted into the Hall of Fame and get a second bust in the managerial wing.
- Best Broncos game ever played? Super Bowl XXXII. My dad has always been a Packers fan. (He also grew up in Chief territory and automatically went for their opponent in Super Bowl I.) Seeing my favorite NFC team with Brett Favre go up against my favorite team with John Elway was magical. Seeing our horrendous streak come to an end was even more so. I still get chills and a little teary eyed thinking of Elway holding up that first trophy.
- How you felt after the Broncos beat the Packers in the greatest Super Bowl win ever? Shock... Awe... Magical... I honestly couldn't wrap my head around what just happened. The rollercoaster ride from that game can never be matched. Plays like the helicopter. Watching Green Bay driving back down the field to attempt to send the game to overtime. Seeing Atwater knock himself and Hilliard out cold on that third down before Mobley ended the game on fourth. The whole thing was just completely overwhelming. I do recall that I was a bit peeved that Elway didn't get MVP (even though I fully admitted that Davis deserved it). I honestly expected Elway to retire after that moment though and wanted his walk off to be perfect. Little did I know that it soon would be!
- Favorite thing to eat/drink while watching a game? Nachos: Velveeta cheese, cream cheese, Ro-tel, 1 lb hamburger, 1 lb bacon chopped into bits. I always make it for big games. A nice Pale Ale can't be beat. Sierra Nevada is my favorite (really original I know).
MHR: If you could field a team with any Broncos player - past or present - who would be your: QB? Top two WRs? Top two RBs? Best offensive linemen? Defensive squad? Kicker?
QB: Despite my blasphemous belief that Manning is the best quarterback of all time... I'd still go with Elway. Isn't it amazing that this question no longer has a sure answer though?
WR1: Ed McCaffrey. I loved watching him play. I always worried that he was going to break his neck and I'll never forget when he broke his leg.
WR2: Demaryius Thomas. I love his story. I love his work ethic. I love his attitude. Top 5 receiver in the league who just does his job and stays hungry. Please, please, please pay this man.
RB1: Terrell Davis. No brainer. Put him in the Hall of Fame already!
RB2: Floyd Little. Dude was a homicidal maniac.
TE: You didn't ask, but Shannon Sharpe talked his way on the list anyway.
O-line: LT: Ryan Clady & Gary Zimmerman, G: Mark Schlereth, C: Tom Nalen, G: Keith Bishop, RT: Ken Lanier. How can you choose between those two left tackles?
Defensive Squad: DE: Demarcus Ware & Simon Fletcher. DT: Trevor Pryce & Terrance Knighton. Linebackers: Karl Mecklenburg, Randy Gradishar, Al Wilson, Von Miller. CB: Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams. S: Steve Atwater & Dennis Smith.
Kicker: Jason Elam.
GO BRONCOS - Beat the CHIEFS!!!