AP Pro Football Writer
One quarterback comes off a superb opener, the other off a mediocre performance.
The switch heading into Thursday night’s Broncos-Chiefs matchup in Kansas City is that the Chiefs’ Alex Smith had the big game, and Denver’s Peyton Manning struggled.
The Chiefs manhandled the Texans in Houston with Smith going 22 of 33 for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. His passer rating against J.J. Watt and company was an outstanding 118.6.
In the Broncos’ 19-13 home victory against Baltimore, Manning was 24 for 40 for a meager 175 yards and no touchdowns with one interception and a 59.9 rating.
“I’m sure offensively I speak for a lot of guys that we certainly want to play better. I feel like that Thursday probably couldn’t come soon enough,” Manning said.
Nor could it come quickly enough for the Chiefs, who are eager to build off their impressive start by further establishing their credentials against Denver (No. 3, AP Pro32). The Chiefs (No. 9, AP Pro32) are 3-point favorites, yet another change to recent trends in this AFC West series, which dates back to the AFL when the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans.
“I think for us the one thing is win the division,” Smith said. “That’s the focus, right? … We’ve got a chance against the division champions at our place, so it starts with this week.”
Indeed it does.
KNOCKOUT LEAGUE TIP: Green Bay survived last week at Chicago. This week’s choice to win outright — remember, no repeat picks in a knockout pool — is INDIANAPOLIS.
No. 18 Atlanta (plus 2) at No. 22 New York Giants
Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo won’t have brain freeze at the end of this one.
BEST BET: GIANTS, 27-20
No. 26 Houston (plus 3) at No. 16 Carolina
On the theory that the Texans will be better prepared and far sharper and intense than last week.
UPSET SPECIAL: Texans, 19-17
No. 21 New York Jets (plus 7) at No. 14 Indianapolis, Monday
After that stinker in Buffalo, the Colts will be ready for their home opener.
No. 5 Seattle (plus 3 1-2) at No. 2 Green Bay
Hard to believe the Seahawks will start 0-2. Then again, the Packers owe them big time for NFC title game.
No. 1 New England (pick ‘em) at No. 8 Buffalo
Anytime you get the Patriots not giving points, jump on it, even against Rex’s strong defense.
No. 4 Dallas (plus 5) at No. 17 Philadelphia
Eagles probably should have won last week and Cowboys probably should have lost. Does that make this justice?
No. 10 San Diego (plus 3 1-2) at No. 7 Cincinnati
Toughest matchup to figure this week, this could come down to late field goal.
No. 32 Tampa Bay (plus 10) at No. 24 New Orleans
Bucs were embarrassing in opener, Saints were inconsistent. New Orleans has less to reverse.
No. 19 San Francisco (plus 5) at No. 13 Pittsburgh
Steelers are lucky they are so well-rested for physical 49ers.
No. 20 Detroit (plus 3) at No. 25 Minnesota
We’ll give Adrian Peterson a rustiness pass for first game back. Watch out in this one.
No. 6 Arizona (minus 2) at No. 27 Chicago
Bears played Packers tough and might do same against Cardinals.
No. 23 Tennessee (minus 1) at No. 30 (tie) Cleveland
Lots of love for Marcus and the Titans. Just a hunch it’s overdone.
No. 11 St. Louis (minus 3 1-2) at No. 28 Washington
Lots of love for the Rams, especially on defense. Not overdone.
No. 15 Miami (minus 6) at No. 29 Jacksonville
Battle of the Sunshine State. YAWN!
No. 12 Baltimore (OFF) at No. 30 (tie) Oakland
Questions about Raiders QB Derek Carr. Ravens will win whether he plays or not.
2015 RECORD: Against spread: Week 7-8-1, Season (7-8-1). Straight up: Week 10-6, Season (10-6)
Best Bet: 0-1 against spread, 1-0 straight up.
Upset special: 0-1 against spread, 0-1 straight up.