Updated: November 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm
DENVER — Peyton Manning is a football bum in cold weather.
That's the word on the street, right?
If the street is correct, the Broncos will be frozen out of Sunday's game against the Chiefs. They will be frozen out of the AFC West title chase. They will be frozen out of the Super Bowl.
If the street is correct, their $96-million investment in Manning should have included a dome over Sports Authority Field.
It's about to get cold, baby, and the street says the ultimate quarterback morphs into the pedestrian passer when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.
"Toward the fourth quarter Sunday, field temperatures will be between 32-37 with just enough breeze to drop wind chills into the 20s at times," KMGH 7News meteorologist Matt Makens told me.
This AFC West showdown will tell us lots about the Broncos and the Chiefs.
With a hype machine powered by premium gasoline, this game features strength against strength: the NFL's best offense vs. the NFL's best defense, with five decades of rivalry stirred into the pot for extra spice.
But this game is important in Kansas City for different reasons than it is important in Colorado.
For the Chiefs this is a prime-time opportunity to beat big brother and prove they deserve a call-up from the JV table to the Varsity room. If Kansas City can't beat the Broncos at least once with Manning hobbled by a high-ankle injury, behind a beat-up offensive line, it should start researching the Royals' opening-day lineup.
But for the Broncos this season is all about the playoffs.
And these AFC playoffs will be cold.
The NFL's system for seeding the playoffs makes as much sense as suspending players for smoking weed, a performance reducer. But it's the system in place, and the Broncos currently would be the No. 5 seed, hosting the Bengals in the wild-card round.
The second game would be played at Kansas City or New England. The second game would be cold.
The AFC Championship Game probably would be cold. The Super Bowl, in New Jersey, will be cold.
Sunday in Colorado will be cold, the coldest game Manning has played since the Ravens chilled the Broncos in the playoffs last January.
"We feel like we can perform in any weather," interim coach Jack Del Rio said.
Manning is constantly in preparation mode. On a toasty Thursday at Dove Valley, he wore shorts — and a glove on his throwing hand.
"I'm hoping it snows," team captain Wesley Woodyard said.
But are the Broncos built to win in the cold? If this season is all about the playoffs, and the playoffs will be cold, isn't that a more pressing question than whether the Chiefs are for real or just real lucky?
"The weather doesn't matter to me," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "It's whatever Peyton wants. That's what I want."
In the Twitter age, our attention span is as long as this sentence.
So when we see Manning's record when the temperature dips below 40 degrees - 8-6 in the regular season, 0-4 in the playoffs - that's all the proof we need to show he's a bum in cold weather.
Here's the cold truth: That record is broken.
In his past five games in cold weather, Manning averaged a quarterback rating of 102.7. That would be a season-high for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
"If you look at the games since 2006, he (Manning) has almost always played well (in cold weather)," said Scott Kacsmar, a Football Outsiders expert who has researched Manning's cold-weather history.
With temps cold enough to freeze nose hairs, Peyton wasn't the problem when the Ravens chilled the Broncos in the playoffs. He was just warming up.
His performance in regulation, when the Broncos should have put the game on ice, was that of a winning quarterback: 24-for-37 for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
You can point to his overtime interception until your fingers go numb. But if not for the Mile High Mistake, the game never goes to overtime.
Here is Chiefs-related proof: It was 35 degrees when the Chiefs played in Denver last season. Manning scored a quarterback rating of 144.8. The Broncos won, 38-3, their largest margin of victory in a series that spans 106 games.
Take aim at his playoff record, if you must. But Manning's injured ankle should be more of a concern than how many layers he wears.
"There's no statistical proof he cannot play well in such weather," Kacsmar said. "What is available would suggest the complete opposite."
For the Broncos, this season is Super Bowl or Bust.
To reach the big game, they must follow mom's advice: Bundle up.