Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1), Sundays, 6:20 PM MST, Arrowhead Stadium, CBS, 850 AM, 94.1 FM, 103.5 FM
3 things to watch
1. Kansas City firepower. The Chiefs have won six consecutive games early in Sunday’s primetime game, and their offense hits all cylinders behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide Tyreek Hill and tight Travis Kelce. The last two are ranked in the top three of the league in receiving yards. With too many guns to reasonably comprehend, the Broncos’ defense faces a big task in saving Kansas City from an 11th straight win over Denver.
2. The game of Drew Lock. After sidelining last week’s loss to New Orleans for failing to adhere to proper COVID-19 mask protocols, Lock has to bounce back. Lock has thrown 11 interceptions across six games since returning from a shoulder injury, and another pick-laden performance will likely have the Broncos on the wrong end of another blowout.
3. Time of possession. The Chiefs rank first in the NFL in that category with an average of 30:17 per game, while the Broncos are 26th at 28:16. Every minute you can keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands is a significant one, meaning run play in Denver needs to be more consistent (Phillip Lindsay is questionable with a knee injury) and the Broncos need to be better in third ( Denver ranks 30th with 36.1%, Kansas City first with 50.3%).
Who has the lead?
When the Chiefs flee
Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a revelation for the hasty attack in Kansas City, even though he’s only gone over 100 yards once this year. The Denver run D, which lacks the presence of starting nose gear Mike Purcell (seasonal foot injury), went downhill and allowed a season-high 229 rushing yards against New Orleans last week.
When the Chiefs pass
With Hill, Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson – not to mention a few backs that can catch – Mahomes’ arsenal has made him nearly unstoppable for the past three seasons. That won’t change on Sunday, especially against a secondary Denver missing one of his top cornerbacks in Bryce Callahan (foot injury).
When the Broncos flee
With Lindsay in doubt, it’s likely up to Melvin Gordon (team leader 554 rushing yards) to carry the burden. Denver’s O line must exploit Kansas City’s weakness (equal to 23rd in average rush yards allowed on 128.2) and use the ground game to capitalize in the red zone, where the Chiefs score last in scoring percentage on 74.1%.
When the Broncos pass by
Denver’s transient attack has been mediocre in recent weeks. Lock certainly can’t do worse than practice squad-wide-out-turned-starting quarterback Kendall Hinton, who threw more interceptions against the Saints (two) than completes (one). KC’s secondary is in fourth place with 12 tips.
Last week, Brandon McManus’ 58-meter field goal prevented the first-ever shutout in Denver. In addition to McManus and Sam Martin’s directional punting, Denver’s special teams were below par. KC’s units were also inconsistent, competing in the bottom 10 in point return average, point return average against, and kickoff efficiency average.
Ryan O’Halloran, Beat Writer: Chiefs 37, Broncos 24
Kansas City leads with 21 points entering the fourth quarter before the Broncos score two touchdowns for the back door cover.
Kyle Newman, beat writer: Chiefs 38, Broncos 10
Kansas City rolls into the fifth consecutive burst in the one-sided rivalry, with touchdowns in the first half by Hill, Kelce and Edwards-Helaire putting the game out of reach early.
Mark Kiszla, columnist: Chiefs 31, Broncos 20
How sad is the state of Dove Valley? If the Broncos can stay within two Kansas City TDs, it’s considered a win.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Chiefs 28, Broncos 13
New this week: a quarterback! Maybe two! Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.