A week after losing a heartbreaking, last-second thriller in Oakland, the Chiefs are back home to take on the Denver Broncos.
The saying “time heals all wounds” will certainly be put to the test in one of Week Eight’s most pivotal games. Kansas City, with a win, can take a three game lead on the Broncos, who have already lost to AFC foes twice this season. The Chiefs have won their last three against Denver, but after their latest loss, it may be best not to consider streaks when determining the outcome of this game.
Much has changed about these two teams since they last faced off on Christmas Night of last year. Gone is the ball-control offense that Kansas City has been known for. They are one of just two teams in the entire league to have two players among the top fifteen in receiving yards, and average over thirty points per game. Alex Smith is the only starting quarterback this season who has yet to throw an interception (with 15 TD). In the past, his low pick totals have resulted mostly from conservative play-calling and decision making. This year, it’s resulted from excellent decision making and surprising performances from lesser-known targets in the passing game. The Broncos “No Fly Zone” secondary plays mostly man-to-man coverage, and the Chiefs offense succeeds against teams who play this coverage. I think the passing offense will have a chance to make a host of big plays. Gone from this defense is the hard-hitting safety TJ Ward, and not coincidentally, the Broncos are one of the league’s worst in stopping opposing tight ends this season. Travis Kelce has had an outstanding start to this season, so the middle of the field could be his playground come Monday Night.
The Broncos defense is still one of the NFL’s best, but struggles from Trevor Siemian may doom their season after a fast start. If the Chiefs are going to get back to their winning ways, it’ll be their defense that needs to set the tone.
The Chiefs defense is unquestionably terrible this season, the first time I’ve had to type that line in the Andy Reid era. A healthy Justin Houston has positively impacted their run defense, but the secondary cannot defend anyone. Corners Terrance Mitchell and Phillip Gaines have been sore spots all season long, and Eric Murray being forced into action with Eric Berry’s achilles injury, has only made the secondary worse. It isn’t entirely their fault, though, as Derek Carr dropped back 52 times and was hardly hit, walking away with a clean uniform last Thursday. However, I believe that this could be the game where the secondary gets it right. Siemian has the worst passer rating under pressure this season among quarterbacks, and Houston (not surprisingly) is one of the league leaders at doing exactly that. In their amazing overtime win in Denver last season, Houston recorded three sacks and a forced fumble that led to safety. With 5.5 takedowns this year, he’s back to his old self, and I believe it will be his performance that can turn this game.
While we haven’t seen it often this season, pressure from both Houston and Dee Ford can have a massive impact on the cornerbacks for the Chiefs. In their Week 3 win at Los Angeles, Phillip Rivers was pressured on all three of his first-half interceptions. If not for a bad call on Murray, Houston would’ve had a strip sack against Oakland. The Broncos tackles are once again one of the league’s worst, and I believe the Chiefs defense has what it takes to dismantle them again.
Prediction: The Broncos have the front seven to make Kareem Hunt look like a rookie, but the Broncos man-heavy preferences in the secondary will allow some big plays to be had for the Chiefs passing attack. Smith continues his MVP-caliber season as the Chiefs win a close one, 28-23.
Primetime in Kansas City!
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