Just in case anyone cannot remember, the Broncos are currently on a two-game winning streak! Consequently, I am looking at Super Bowl tickets because the Broncos are going. Yes, I’m kidding. The Broncos are not going to the Super Bowl, but they do have a significant AFC West battle against the Chiefs in primetime. Thursday Night Football this week features the two AFC West teams that have owned the division over the past few years. Indeed, the Broncos have work to do. So, we will discuss the keys to victory on both sides of the ball, the player(s) to watch, and give the prediction.
Keys to Victory for Offense
In this AFC West battle, the Broncos have to take advantage of the biggest weakness of the Chiefs, which is their defense. Specifically, the Chiefs rushing defense is second to last in the league. Coming into Thursday, the Chiefs have allowed 971 rushing yards. Compare that to the Broncos rushing attack, and it’s something the Broncos should be able to attack. Also, it’s a two-fold mission to get the running attack going.
The Broncos currently rank 13th in the league in rushing. Denver has rushed for 696 yards and average 116 yards per game. This week, the Broncos have to step up their rushing attack. Phillip Lindsay and Royce should have at least 15 rushing attempts apiece. If they successfully run the ball, they will keep the ball out of the hands of Showtime Mahomes. Denver must do whatever it can to keep Mahomes off the field as long as they can. It has to be the best offensive performance of the season for the Broncos to have a chance to win.
Keys to Victory for Defense
For the Broncos to win this AFC West battle, the defense will need to have a repeat performance of last week. Blitz. All. NIGHT! It almost seems counterintuitive because Mahomes is such a wizard outside of the pocket, but that’s the key. No matter who the quarterback may be, you cannot give them time to survey the field. Well, unless it’s Baker Mayfield, but that’s a different story for a different time.
It’s not, though, just the pass rush that has to be on point. The Broncos front seven need to rush and sack quickly. As I said, Pat is a wizard outside of the pocket. The Denver defense must collapse the pocket quickly and cut off the escape routes. As good as the Broncos secondary can be, Mahomes still can shred them on broken plays. So, the name of the game is rush the quarterback, quickly collapse the pocket, and cut Mahomes off from escaping the pocket. It’s a tough task, but it’s what they have to do.
Players to Watch
Listen, we’re not going to stat the obvious here. We’ve already discussed the trouble that Pat Mahomes presents a defense. Instead, let’s talk about the weapons around him, and there are plenty. Firstly, there is the man with the speed that will slap you silly: Tyreek Hill. We can have a conversation about whether or not Hill should be on the field or not. It’s a valid conversation, but it’s not one we’ll have here. Whether it is on a simple screen, slant, or Go route, Tyreek is dangerous. I imagine Chris Harris will shadow him all night, but safety help over the top will be crucial.
Secondly, the Achilles heel of the Broncos defense has to hold, which is the linebackers and the middle of the field. The best offense of the AFC West is lethal due to the presence of Travis Kelce. In the two games against the Broncos last season, Kelce only had 13 total receptions and 157 total yards. Still, Travis scored a touchdown in both games. In the previous year, Kelce had a ten reception, 133-yard game. He can be a thorn in the side of the Denver linebackers in this AFC West matchup. They will need to step up.
Following the Denver win on Sunday, the spread in the game changed. The Chiefs are still the favorite, but only by three points. The ESPN Football Power Index gives Kansas City a 63.7% chance to win. My heart tells me to call for the upset, but I will be picking with my head today. I think the Broncos will be a tougher opponent than the Chiefs expected, but the Chiefs still win this game 41-27.
Now, it’s on the Broncos to prove me wrong, which I hope they do. Check back in soon for the recap of Thursday Night’s game!