There is no such thing as a guaranteed win in the NFL.
But this game – at least on paper – suggests the Denver Broncos should handily defeat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs are 1-9 with their lone win coming in September. Kansas City is the NFL’s lowest scoring team and the highest turnover team. Meanwhile the Broncos have scored at least 30 points in each game during a five-game win streak, and boast a suddenly frightening, game-changing defense.
Records aside: The Broncos and Chiefs have split the series eight of the last nine seasons. Kansas City has won 12 of the last 17 games at Arrowhead against Denver.
When the Chiefs have the ball: Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel named ex-Broncos quarterback Brady Quinn as the starter Sunday. Quinn spent two seasons with Denver and never played, backing up the media circus that ultimately surrounded Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow.
If the Chiefs are to reverse their losing ways, running backs Jamaal Charles and company will collectively need a huge game. As bad as Kansas City is offensively – both in terms of scoring and turnovers – the team ranks fourth in the NFL with 145.4 rushing yards a game, best in the AFC. And let’s not forget Kansas City has made it a habit as of late to beat Denver teams with superior records by running the ball:
2008: 213 yards (Chiefs record that season was 2-14)
2009: 317 yards (Chiefs record season was 4-12)
Charles rushed for a career-high 259 yards against a porous Broncos’ defense in January 2010. Something tells me Denver’s talented linebackers will have none of that in 2012. The Broncos’ rush defense allows an average of 93.8 yards per game, good for sixth in the NFL. Von Miller is now seriously in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year with 13 sacks, 45 tackles, and four forced fumbles so far this season. Linebacker teammate Wesley Woodyard leads the team with 88 tackles. D.J. Williams, who returned to action last week following suspension, had four tackles against the San Diego Chargers.
Remember, the Chiefs lead the league in turnovers this season, so expect Denver’s defense to capitalize at least once. Woodyard leads the Broncos with three interceptions and defensive end Elvis Dumervil has six forced fumbles in 2012.
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is slated to play, but is recovering from a neck injury that limited his practice earlier this week.
When Denver has the ball: Perhaps curiously, the Chiefs have allowed just one 300-yard passing game this season, and that wasn’t against Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, or even Philip Rivers. It was Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.
It seems opposing quarterbacks are struggling at times against the Chiefs’ bread and butter of zone coverage schemes and four-man pressure formations. And with nothing to lose this season other than fan frustration, don’t be surprised if Kansas City puts the pressure on Peyton Manning early and often.
With leading rusher Willis McGahee out until late in the playoffs, assuming Denver makes it that far, the Broncos will rely Sunday on Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and Knowshon Moreno. Though McGahee was the alpha running back, he was also responsible for five fumbles (four lost) this season, and fumbling has been the Broncos’ ongoing nemesis this season.
Maybe Denver curtails those turnovers in McGahee’s absence, but will in all likelihood sacrifice rushing yards…
Which brings us back to applying the pressure on Manning. Kansas City’s best hope of winning is keeping the Broncos offense from hanging its typical 30 points a game, thus easing the scoring burden on an anemic Chiefs offense. Kansas City must knock Manning around, or at least force him into ill-timed passes to stall drives or create turnovers.
Denver is a pass-oriented offense and shouldn’t miss a step with McGahee sidelined, but still needs some production from its committee of running backs. If not, the Chiefs will predictably expect pass, pass, and some more pass, and close up whatever space would otherwise be around wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley and Denver’s tight end tandem of Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme.
Denver’s passing attack is among the best in the NFL, averaging 289 yards a game. Manning has 2,975 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in his 2012 comeback season.
Denver 33, Kansas City 17
The Broncos should leave Kansas City still unblemished within the division and riding a six-game win streak for the second straight year.