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WEEK SIX CRYSTAL BALL - THURSDAY: Tough Times in Denver
My friends, these are dark days for the Denver Broncos (1-4) and the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train with a 300-pound conductor named Andy Reid.
As Sean Payton’s squad travels to Kansas City, they face a team that has beaten them 15 consecutive times. Eight of those games have been decided by a TD or less but this does not look like a contest that’ll be close.
The franchises first met on in 1960 as American Football League opponents and the Chiefs, then known as the Dallas Texans, started the series by winning the first eight games against Denver and 25 of the first 27. And many of the games were straight-up beatdowns. Check out the scores.
We’ve got 34-7 in 1960, 49-14 in 1961 and 24-3 in 1962. In 1963, the Texans moved to KC and became the Chiefs and the massacres intensified with whippings of 59-7 and 52-21. The games were close for a couple of years before Kansas City resumed the spankings: 37-10 and 56-10 in 1966, 52-9 and 38-24 in 1967, 34-2 and 30-7 in 1968, 26-13 and 31-17 in 1969. The Chiefs were the class of the AFL and the Broncos, clearly, were not.
The worm began to turn a bit in the 1970s with the Broncos winning 12 of 20 games and, when John Elway came along in 1983, Denver had the rivalry’s marquee player. In fact, he may have been the biggest name in the game.
In fact, in my lifetime, I view Elway as the most important and most exciting player in the rivalry and one of the greatest clutch performers in the history of the sport. He made Denver games “must watch TV” and developed a unique habit of rescuing the Broncos in late-game situations.
Critics will look at his career TD:INT ratio 300:226 and say he wasn’t great but, trust me, if you watched this guy play in real time, you knew you were watching an elite player.1 One of the absolute best to ever do it.
Our family was living in Denver with Elway was traded to the Broncos in 1983 and the level of media coverage and fan interest was like nothing I’ve seen before or since, and that includes the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce drama. He was a football Hercules coming to a town that worshipped the sport yet had never tasted true NFL glory.
Fast forward 16 years and Elway retired as the winningest quarterback in NFL history with five Super Bowl appearances and two titles to boot. Throw in the fact that old #7 could throw an apple through a brick wall and we’re talking about a legend’s legend.2
Like Elway, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes II is a generational performer and may be on his way to becoming the most decorated quarterback in the history of the game. And that means the Broncos are in for a long night beginning at 8:15 pm ET on Amazon Prime Video.
Let’s take Kansas City to roll against a Denver defense that couldn’t contain the Jets or Washington. Call it 29-20, Chiefs, and that may be kind.3
Elway was one of those rare athletes who passed the “I’m not leaving the room when this guy has the ball late in the game” test. If Denver was down by seven points or less with a few minutes remaining, you wouldn’t dare get up from your seat if you had a king cobra clinging to your jugular and the antidote was in the next room. When he retired after the 1998 season, Elway was tied with 1983 draft classmate Dan Marino for second all-time with 31 career comeback wins, trailing only Johnny Unitas.
We could go on and on about the velocity of Elway’s fastball but understand this: there has never been a QB in the history of the game with a gun like him. Not Marino, not Namath, not Herbert. No one. His right arm is one of the singular treasures in the annals of the sport and, when he goes to the heavenly Hall of Fame, they should detach the limb, bronze it and send it via FedEx to Canton. It’s that important.
THE GURU’s season record stands at 49-29 (.628) after last week’s middling 7-7 effort.