Denver Broncos (1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
This line moved from a pick em last week to now Kansas City being favored by 3, a significant line movement from a toss up to expected to win by a field goal. The Chiefs being favored by a field goal here at home suggests that these two teams are essentially even. That big change was likely as a result of Peyton Manning’s struggles week 1, as Manning completed just 24 of 40 for 175 yards, didn’t lead the team to the end zone, and threw a pick six. He looked just as bad as he did to end last season, as he completed 120 of 201 (59.7%) for 1380 yards (6.87 YPA), 6 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in the final 6 games of the season, including an embarrassing 24-13 home loss to the vastly inferior Indianapolis Colts.
It looked like the off-season didn’t do anything for him, that he’s just as old and tired as he was after 14 weeks last season. Going into the season, there was debate about whether or not Manning could still play at a high level, going into his age 39 season, after the way last year ended and the off-season retirement speculation. Would he be 39-year-old Brett Favre, who led league in turnovers with the Jets, 40-year-old Brett Favre, who led the Vikings to the AFC Championship, or 41-year-old Brett Favre, who couldn’t make it through the season? After one game (especially behind the porous Bronco offensive line), he certainly looked more like 39-year-old or 41-year-old Favre than 40-year-old Favre.
But, then again, the Broncos won. They had arguably the best defensive performance in the league last week (except maybe Buffalo, who shut down that overrated Indianapolis offense) and they have good playmakers on offense around Manning in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and CJ Anderson. Their defense was good last year and now seems to have been made great by a healthy Danny Trevathan and the addition of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. They had their strong week 1 performance even without suspended safety TJ Ward, a key stopper.
Now, the Broncos did play a Baltimore team that has a weak receiving corps, but the Ravens still have a strong offensive line and running game and the Broncos’ front 7 handled them easily. Plus, the Broncos’ secondary seemingly didn’t allow an open receiver all day, a dominant performance overall. And shouldn’t strength of opponent be taken into account in evaluating Manning’s performance as well as the defense’s? Manning was facing a Baltimore defense that was one of the best in the league coming into the season, before Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles late against Denver.
There’s still a chance he could put up another overall solid season even with his arm strength diminished. Remember, he completed 68.1% of his passes for an average of 8.05 YPA, 34 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions through 11 games last season. And even if he isn’t great, the Broncos have the supporting cast to still be one of the top teams in the AFC, something the Chiefs aren’t. The Broncos just knocked off another top AFC team and are simply on a different tier than the Chiefs. It’s hard to be too confident in a 39-year-old quarterback on the road on a short week, but he’s still a brilliant veteran and going against a Bob Sutton defense that he knows well and that he’s had good success against in the past. He should be able to move the ball with Thomas and Sanders against a weak Kansas City secondary that is without top cornerback Sean Smith. It’s really hard to pass on the field goal here now that it’s available.
Denver Broncos 19 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Denver +3