KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs' first true litmus test of the 2013 season has more than the team's perfect 9-0 record at stake - the AFC West division title could ultimately be at stake as well.
Coach Andy Reid gave the Chiefs the full bye week off and hoped they came back relaxed, rested and ready to continue to improve on what has already been a remarkable 2013 season. There is no time for a gradual ramp up from the time off; the Chiefs return to face the 8-1 Broncos in Denver on Sunday night.
Although they had a week to get away, quarterback Alex Smith figures his teammates did not take full advantage of that downtime.
"I think every guy in this locker room, in the back of their head (was) thinking about Denver," Smith said. "It's a big game ahead for us."
Big game for sure - it will be the Chiefs' opportunity to prove their record is not a mirage caused by a weak fourth-place schedule courtesy of their 2-14 finish last season. None of their first nine opponents currently sports a winning record at this point.
But Reid has sold his locker room on the idea that every Sunday is a big game, no matter the opponent or their record. The mantra of "one game at a time, we respect everyone" is practically chanted by the Chiefs' players that have refused to look beyond the next line of the schedule.
"You relax and, well you see it happen every week where teams relax a little bit and boom ... they get picked off," said Reid. "You can't do that, I mean you just can't."
Other than the bye week, the Chiefs have not relaxed, and Smith says that's not going to change with a week off and then a pair of big head-to-head matchups with the Broncos in the next three games.
"You just kind of keep your nose down and do what you've been doing," said Smith. "You don't listen to any of that stuff. The nice thing for us is there is another team in the division that's been getting a lot of attention as well. (We're) neck and neck and we've still got two big games ahead with them. There's no room to relax at all."
The Chiefs' week-long vacation was not a reward for their 9-0 record so far this season. It is what Andy Reid has done for years with his teams in Philadelphia during the bye week. He has never worried about the time away slowing his team's momentum or distracting them for their journey.
"I've had good players and good coaches and I've always given the guys time off, even back when it wasn't popular to do," said Reid. "You try and treat these guys like men. There's a certain amount of responsibility that they need to feel in their team; that's part of the bye week. Rest, relax and take care of any business you need to take care of and comeback ready to go for whatever is left of the season."
-- DE Mike Catapano was on the practice field Monday when the Chiefs had their first workout of the week. Catapano missed the Buffalo game due to a high ankle sprain suffered on Oct. 28. As the Chiefs went to their bye week, Catapano was the only player on the injury report. His status remains undecided for this Sunday's game against Denver.