So, uh… the Chiefs are kinda good, huh?
After an offensive explosion in Tampa Bay, Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill have turned their sights to a much weaker foe: the Denver Broncos.
There was a lot of hope for this squad to be a fringe playoff contender, but after multiple unfortunate injuries and a brush with COVID-19, it looks like yet another lost season at Mile High.
Drew Lock hasn’t inspired confidence when he’s been on the field, and the Broncos may look for a QB change in the upcoming offseason. But that’s well ahead of us, and as long as Lock continues to start for Denver, Kansas City will gladly take advantage of his mistakes.
Denver runs an offense that couples well with the Chiefs struggling defense: Run the ball poorly and throw it deep on third down. Garrett Bolles has played his heart out this season, but Denver just can’t seem to get things going on either side of the ball. How will that play out for KC? Excellent question.
What Denver Does Well
Not very much, but credit where credit is due.
Safety Justin Simmons is clearly the best player on the Broncos current roster, notching four interceptions and seven pass breakups thus far in the season, showing he’s worth every penny of the franchise tag he signed last offseason. Not far behind him are the surprising duo of Bradley Chubb and rookie UDFA Malik Reed, who have totaled 7.5 and 6.5 sacks respectively and a combined 21 TFLs. While Chubb’s performance is expected, Reed has filled in more than admirably for superstar OLB Von Miller, who has spent the entirety of the season on IR.
Outside of those three, it’s hard to point to positives. RBs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay have both rushed for 400+ yards and average over 4.0 YPC, but neither look as good as they did a year or two ago. Rookie WR Jerry Jeudy has embraced his expanded role following an injury to WR Courtland Sutton, but his production has been limited to the performance of his revolving door at QB, including a practice squad WR.
So How Do the Chiefs Stack Up?
Starting in the trenches is where the Broncos will give the Chiefs the most problems. Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have both regressed after having outstanding years during the 2019 Super Bowl run, and the Broncos will look to take advantage of this. The interior of the Chiefs line hasn’t been great either, and if DT Shelby Harris is healthy, it’ll cause real problems for Mahomes.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos have put together a relatively formidable offensive line, with Garrett Boles playing at a Pro Bowl level and LG Dalton Risner shining in his second year out of Kansas State. Playing right into a strength of Kansas City, it could either prove to be a formidable battle, or it could expose the holes in the Chiefs secondary. At that point, it will come down to the Broncos to execute, something they haven’t exactly been able to do well this season.
On the perimeter, we all know the story. Tyreek Hill torched a secondary much better than this one last week, and it should be no problem once again. Watkins, Hardman, and Kelce can all expect to run free.
So What’s the Gameplan?
For the Chiefs, it’ll start with their linebackers making plays at the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs front four as done an excellent job of opening the gaps for their linebackers; the issue has always come down to execution. Forcing the Broncos to pass on 3rd-and-long will be key to generating turnovers and sacks in this game, as Denver has struggled mightily to convert on third downs this year.
WR Jerry Jeudy could absolutely present a problem, which is why I recommend having CB L’Jarius Sneed shadow him the entire game. Bashaud Breeland is like a poor man’s Marcus Peters in that he carries a boom-or-bust mindset while playing, but he tends to bust more often than not. Sneed, however, looked like a star in the making before a broken collarbone sidelined him on IR. His return should rejuvenate the secondary and will make life for safeties Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu much easier.
Speaking of those two, employing a double-high safety game plan will be important to the Chiefs’ defensive success. Not only will it require Drew Lock to pick apart shallow zones, but it will also help mitigate the inside pass and force Lock to throw outside the numbers, an area where he has struggled.
This game plan isn’t very offensive-oriented, and that’s because there isn’t much to write about there. The success of the Chiefs offense is well known, and shouldn’t be a problem against this team. However, their defense has been awful and consistently put Mahomes in bad situations (see: 2019 playoffs.) Stifling the Denver rushing attack and forcing the pass will be the Chiefs’ best bet at avoiding a potential shootout.
I don’t think this game will be the blowout it was last time, but I still expect the Chiefs to win this one-handedly. KC gives up some big plays to restore Elway’s confidence in Lock for at least a few more games, but the Chiefs still walk away with the W. Time to go get a victory cheeseburger.
Final Score: 37-28, Chiefs
(Featured Image Credit: Chiefs.com)