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Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction

Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles

The Kansas City Chiefs will try and tighten up the AFC West race when they host the Denver Broncos tonight on NBC. The Chiefs (7-4) trail the Broncos (8-3) by a game in the win column, but two in divisional play (1-2 vs. 3-0), so a victory tonight would only add to the intrigue over the last month of the regular season.

Denver has defeated Kansas City five straight times and a win in Arrowhead Stadium would definitely put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for a fourth straight AFC West crown. Each of the last two meetings between these teams has been decided by a touchdown. Denver beat Kansas City 24-17 at home back in Week 2.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Denver -2.5

[inline_team_schedule team-id=14 date=20141030 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]

Denver’s Key to Victory: Keep Charles in Check

The Broncos’ defense has done a good job against the run all season. Denver enters this game ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. Ironically, the most yards the Broncos have given up on the ground this season were to the Chiefs, who rushed for 133 in Week 2. In that game it wasn’t Jamaal Charles who did the damage though, as he departed early with an ankle injury. Instead it was Charles’ backup, Knile Davis, who finished with 79 yards on 22 carries (3.6 ypc) and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns. Alex Smith added 42 yards on five carries, as the Chiefs outrushed the Broncos 133 to 88. Charles wound up missing just one game and has re-established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous running backs. Since Kansas City’s bye in Week 6 Charles has averaged 96.2 yards rushing per game. He’s also scored eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving) in these six games. Denver’s defense is pretty banged up, especially at linebacker, but its focus does not change – contain Charles. Even with one game missed because of injury, Charles has accounted for more than a quarter (962 total yards) of Kansas City’s total offense (3,593). Limit Charles and you have taken a big piece away from the Chiefs’ attack.

[inline_team_schedule team-id=15 date=20141030 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]

Kansas City’s Key to Victory: Force Peyton to Pass

Make Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play quarterback, throw the football? At first it probably sounds like crazy talk, but hear me out. As prolific and potent Denver’s passing attack is, the Broncos are a better team when they are balanced on offense. Against Seattle, New England and St. Louis, Manning averaged an impressive 364.7 yards passing per game – and lost all three. Turnovers (5 INTs) obviously played a role, but another common thread was Denver’s inability to run the ball, averaging a measly 35.7 yards rushing per game. Contrast that to last week when C.J. Anderson ran for 167 of the Broncos’ season-high 201 yards, which helped fuel Denver’s comeback (trailed 28-17 with 2:11 left in the third quarter) win against Miami at home. A consistent running game only makes the Broncos’ aerial attack more dangerous, as it opens up play-action and usually results in coverage mismatches Manning can exploit. When you force Manning to throw, it allows defenses to focus on pass coverage and applying pressure. Case in point, despite all of the passing yards against the Seahawks, Patriots and Rams, Manning’s completion rate was 62 percent for those three games and Denver managed just 16 points per game. Compare that to a 72 percent completion rate and 35.5 points per game in the Broncos’ eight wins. As strange as it sounds, the Chiefs’ best strategy tonight may be to focus on shutting down Anderson, a second-year undrafted free agent, and instead take their chances against the five-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. It’s a strategy that has worked for other teams, so why not Kansas City?

Final Analysis

If Kansas City hadn’t lost to Oakland last week, tonight’s game would be a battle for first place in the AFC West. As it stands now, the Chiefs must beat the Broncos at home or the division title could basically be decided. Denver has yet to lose in divisional play (3-0), while Kansas City is just 1-2. By sweeping the Chiefs, the Broncos can essentially eliminate Andy Reid’s team from title contention. What’s more, Kansas City hasn’t beaten Denver since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos in 2012. Some of the games have been close, but it’s been a continuation of the dominance Manning has had against the Chiefs since coming into the NFL. Manning is 12-1 against Kansas City in his career, including 2-0 in the playoffs when he was in Indianapolis. Manning aside, I just don’t think the Chiefs have enough firepower of their own to overcome Denver’s rejuvenated running game or a defense that excels in the same department. Manning won’t have to carry the team in this one, as a well-rounded effort extends the Broncos’ winning streak against the Chiefs to six.

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Prediction: Denver 27, Kansas City 20