The Denver Broncos are 13-14 point favorites this weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, which surprises me. The Chiefs are a playoff team from a year ago, a division opponent, and the other half of one of the more storied rivalries in NFL annals.
I understand that the Chiefs are beat up. Seriously beat up. I understand they had a rough offseason. I understand they lost to a middling Titans team a week ago. But you throw all of that out the window for division games against a half-decent opponent. I would accept a 14-point spread from a visitor like the Raiders. But against the Chiefs, who are far better than Oakland, it feels a bit insulting. It feels too much. It feels like this expectation has created a bunch of football players in Kansas City with their backs against a wall.
Do you know who else recently had their backs against a wall vs. the Broncos? The Seattle Seahawks, in February, before the Super Bowl.
As many of you know, I was in New York for Media Week, covering every angle of Super Bowl XLVIII the NFL and Broncos offered. It was the experience of a lifetime. But I chose to spend one day - just one - covering the Seahawks instead. To get the enemy's perspective on the game. That day turned out to be one of the most memorable, surprising experiences of my week-long Super Bowl trip - in fact, outside of the game itself, and watching in horror as Broncos center Manny Ramirez's first shotgun snap flew past Peyton Manning's head, and not being able to scream in anguish with everyone else in Broncos Country because I'm a member of the "media" in the press box in a suit and tie, even though (don't tell anyone) I was rocking a Wes Welker jersey under my button-up shirt - aside from that, my decision to cover the Seahawks press conferences that Thursday before the Super Bowl was the most memorable experience of my trip.
The Seahawks sounded different than the Broncos had that week.
The Broncos were talking about records. The Broncos were talking about Peyton Manning's legacy. The Broncos were talking about MVP awards. To be fair, it's what the players and coaches were being asked about, so it's what they talked about. The Broncos had thrown for 55 touchdowns - five more than the previous record, and they had Peyton Manning. Surely this offense was unstoppable.
On the other hand, the Seahawks were laser-focused on stopping that offense. They talked about attacking the Broncos' pick plays. They talked about causing turnovers. They talked about disrespect.
People say the Seahawks may have been tipped to the Broncos' signals, but they proposed, days before the game, that Denver's signals weren't too difficult to figure out. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas talked about being able to identify Denver's rub routes before they came.
"You just gotta know when it's coming," Thomas said. "It's in the little details, but it's there."
Why has this been on my mind?
Broncos Country is overconfident heading into this Week 2 battle against the Chiefs. I hope that I am not. Sure, I think the Broncos will win, but it's not a shoo-in-obvious-result just yet. The Broncos showed fatigue in Week 1 and the inability to finish a foe through four quarters. That and a rabid opponent is a potential recipe for disaster.
Respect every opponent. Any given Sunday. Stereotypes, yes. But true nonetheless.
And should the Broncos find themselves with another Super Bowl opportunity, hopefully they do not blow it again with talks of legacies and looking ahead. Hopefully they attack, instead of letting themselves be attacked. Hopefully they take every game one game at a time.
Be it the second week of the season or the last.