The clock has struck midnight on the Kansas City Chiefs' Cinderella season.
At 9-3 and nearly a lock to make the playoffs, the Chiefs still remain one of the best stories in the NFL this season after bouncing back from a 2-14 record last year.
However, as the Denver Broncos showed for the second time in three weeks, this is a story that won't go very far once the playoffs begin.
The Chiefs' 9-0 start fooled many people into believing that they were a team capable of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium.
Dilan Ames, a Bleacher Report featured columnist, called the Chiefs "legitimate Super Bowl contenders," while Jonathan W. Crowell of Rant Sports gave his five reasons why the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl.
These are all nice fantasies and all, but it's time to wake up.
The harsh reality for Chiefs fans is that Kansas City's undefeated start was in large part thanks to the fact that it had one of the easiest schedules of all time, according to footballoutsiders.com.
Now that the schedule has gotten a bit tougher, it's no surprise that the stretch limo the Chiefs were riding in on their way to a 9-0 record has turned back into a pumpkin.
The dominant Chiefs defense that was allowing 12 points per game over their first nine has allowed 34.3 points per game in their last three.
The Broncos offense racked up 62 points and 962 total yards in their two victories over Kansas City, with Peyton Manning throwing for 403 yards and five touchdowns on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs defense may be elite when they are playing Blaine Gabbert, Terrelle Pryor and Jeff Tuel, but they have quickly learned that it's an entirely different ballgame when going up against the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world.
If the Kansas City defense can't slow down elite offenses, that means it's up to Alex Smith and the rest of the Chiefs offense to carry the load.
While Smith has actually been putting up solid numbers as of late—throwing for 272.3 yards per game and seven touchdowns over his last three—he is not capable and doesn't have the weapons to go toe-to-toe with some of the high-powered offenses in the league.
Against the Broncos on Sunday, Smith and the Chiefs got off to a rousing start, scoring touchdowns on three of their first four drives to go up 21-7.
However, they quickly showed that their offensive output was unsustainable, totaling just 97 yards and three first downs on their next five drives. Meanwhile, Manning led the Broncos on touchdown drives of 80, 92 and 95 yards to give his team a 35-21 advantage.
If the playoffs started today, the Chiefs would be traveling to Cincinnati in the wild-card round. With the inconsistencies the Bengals have shown, that is anybody's game to win.
However, the Chiefs are simply not good enough to go into Foxboro or Mile High Stadium and take down Tom Brady or Peyton Manning come playoff time.
Don't get me wrong. It would be a great story if they did. But unfortunately, not all stories can have a happy ending.
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