For the first time this season, Denver heads into a game trying to shake off the effects of a loss. The Broncos’ 27-24 loss to Indianapolis brought up some of the old doubts about their offense, not to mention the effectiveness of QB Peyton Manning, who threw two interceptions.
Kansas City, meanwhile, has won two in a row after a five-game losing streak and returns to action after a bye week trying to find its way back into the wild-card hunt. The 3-5 Chiefs have been erratic, looking strong at times but losing games they shouldn’t, like an October defeat in Chicago.
Kansas City at Denver
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Point Spread: Denver -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Still Struggling
After Denver throttled the Packers, people thought the reports of the Broncos’ offensive problems had been exaggerated. But last week’s loss in Indianapolis raised some of the old concerns. Although Manning threw for 281 yards and two scores, he tossed a pair of interceptions, bringing his season total to 13, the most of any QB in the NFL. Denver ran for just 35 yards, and no one other than C.J. Anderson gained more than one. Consistency remains elusive for the Broncos, who can’t hope to make any real progress in the AFC without the ability to produce like they did against Green Bay.
2. Go West, KC
When Jamaal Charles went down with a season-ending knee injury against Chicago, many thought the Chiefs’ ground game was doomed. But the emergence of Charcandrick West has reversed those sentiments and given KC quite a backfield weapon. The little-known Abilene Christian product, who was on the Chiefs’ roster last year but didn’t have a carry, has gained 207 yards the past two games, scored twice and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his success against a Denver defense that ranks fifth in the NFL against the run. If West is successful, Kansas City will be able to use its play-action passing game more easily, taking pressure off quarterback Alex Smith to go downfield repeatedly against a pass rush that has already compiled 30 sacks.
3. Personnel Department
Broncos’ practice early this week was more interesting for who didn’t participate than for who did. Manning was on the sidelines, nursing a foot injury that had been exacerbated by his playing on the Colts’ artificial turf field. DeMarcus Ware’s back spasms flared up during the loss to Indy, so he was taking things slowly, while wideout Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and tight end Owen Daniels (shoulder/knee) were on the sidelines, too. It would be surprising if any of those four players missed the game Sunday, although none will likely be at full speed. One Bronco who won’t be playing is cornerback Aqib Talib, who has been suspended one game for his Three Stooges-style eye poke near the end of the loss to the Colts.
Since it was unlikely the Broncos would go undefeated, the loss to Indianapolis was not catastrophic. The question is how well the team rebounds. A visit from Kansas City isn’t the best way to come back from a defeat, since the Chiefs are well rested and are on a bit of a roll after winning two straight. Denver has to regroup and get its offense in balance, so that it doesn’t need a perfect game from the D to win.
The Chiefs will work for balance, too, hoping that West continues to produce, so that Smith isn’t charged with handling the bulk of the offensive responsibilities. If this game were in Kansas City, the Chiefs would have a better shot, but in Denver, this one looks to be a good bounce-back for the Broncos.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Chiefs 20
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.