The biggest headline for the Chiefs in recent weeks has been the acquisition of former Jets and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. After being released from the Jets during the week, the former All-Pro almost immediately latched onto Kansas City.
Now, how did rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire respond?
By having the best game of his career.
CEH picked up 161 yards on 26 carries to help fuel a rushing attack that totaled 245 yards. Without Bell.
Now the Chiefs take their newfound rushing acumen and look ahead to their next opponent: the division rival Denver Broncos.
Denver has had a shoddy start to their season. With injuries across the board, as well as some off-field antics from Melvin Gordon, they’ve struggled to put consistent play on the field. However, with a seemingly healthy team, Vic Fangio’s crew was able to defeat the Patriots in Foxborough — quite the accomplishment for any team.
Denver used the past offseason to surround second-year QB Drew Lock with the weapons to compete with the Chiefs, and they’ll get their first crack at it on Sunday. How does the new talent stack up with Kansas City? Let’s take a look.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Justin Simmons & Kareem Jackson
Patrick Mahomes will have his hands full, trying to navigate the Broncos secondary. Denver has perhaps one of — if not the best — safety tandem in the league in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. Simmons, after having somewhat of a breakout year in 2019, has continued to build upon his skills and remains one of the top players at his position, totaling a pick and two pass breakups. Jackson, while not as skilled in coverage, is still a threat on the back end of the defense.
This will ultimately come down to Mahomes’ ability to make calls at the line of scrimmage and be able to read the defense. Denver doesn’t necessarily have the corners to stop the horizontal passing game, but Kansas City has built their offense to be much more vertical, which plays into the strengths of Vic Fangio’s defense. I expect there to be some big plays, but much less than what Chiefs fans are used to in this game.
Chiefs Rushing Attack vs. Broncos Front-Seven
This is where I truly expect the Chiefs to thrive this game. CEH is currently the second-leading rusher in the NFL with 505 yards and a score, and the team just added Le’Veon Bell. Denver, on the other hand, has been allowing an average of 110.6 yards per game, good for 13th in the league. The Denver defense, while above average, is about to meet an absolute buzzsaw in the Chiefs. I expect both CEH and Bell to run all over the Denver defense, amassing 200+ yards rushing for the team. Throw in the success Kansas City has had with misdirection and gadget plays to fuel the run game, and this could lead to a very untraditional game for Mahomes and Co.
Chiefs Secondary vs. Broncos Receivers
The Broncos based their entire offseason around building Drew Lock’s supporting cast, and now, they will finally be put to the test. While the injury to star receiver Courtland Sutton puts an asterisk on the matchup, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and K.J. Hamler will have the chance to put their skills on display. Jeudy has already looked like a steal at 15th -overall, despite some early drops. After missing the past three games with a hamstring injury, fellow rookie WR Hamler should also be active and look to see meaningful action. They’ll be facing a Chiefs secondary that started strong, but was hurt by injuries. The group had a bounce-back performance against the Bills, but need to look to stack games. The raw speed on the outside may be enough to overwhelm the Chiefs corners, which will put emphasis on safeties Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu to be assignment sound on the back end. I expect Drew Lock to find success against the Chiefs secondary, at least in the intermediate passing game.
Chiefs O-line vs. Bradley Chubb & Shelby Harris
The Chiefs come into this game with a banged up O-line. After starting LG Kelechi Osemele went down with knee injuries in the Week 5 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders, starting All-Pro RT Mitchell Schwartz has been ruled out with a back injury for the game against Denver. While they still have Pro Bowler Eric Fisher protecting the blind side, Kansas City might have a rough time handling the Denver pass rush. Bradley Chubb, who amassed 12 sacks as a rookie, looks to be in midseason form with 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. DT Shelby Harris, who has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, also threatens with his ability to bat down passes. Harris already has three deflections this season, after collected nine in 2019. With a banged-up and rusty Chiefs line, Harris is a real threat to gain consistent push in the interior of the pocket to block passing lanes. This may cause the Chiefs to look for deeper shots, leading right into the Denver safeties. I think Mahomes gets uncomfortable this game, and we see another version of the Chargers game take place at Mile High Stadium.
I think this game will be closer and messier than people expect, but I think it’ll be high scoring. Denver gets it going through the air, but cannot stop the Chiefs rushing attack, fueled by their two talented running backs.
Final Score: 31-30, Chiefs
(Featured Image Credit: Chiefs.com)