Can the Broncos slow down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense?
The Chiefs head to Denver to take on the Broncos for "Monday Night Football." It's a little early to be overhyping a single game, but this will represent a very good test for Patrick Mahomes, who has taken the league by storm already. Kansas City has scored 118 points so far this season, most in the NFL. The Chiefs have also allowed the third-most points, so something has to give eventually.
Kansas City is 3-0 with wins over the Chargers, Steelers and 49ers. Two of those victories were on the road with the third coming last week in San Francisco. Mahomes has thrown for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's the first quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to win a home game since Todd Blackledge in 1987 according to ESPN. Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce have all benefited from the downfield passing attack that has been installed. Lost in the fast start though is that the defense has not been that great. They've allowed more than 400 yards per contest and are just not as stout as they have been in the past.
Denver needed late comebacks to beat both the Seahawks and Raiders at home before struggling at Baltimore last week. In that one, Case Keenum had some issues, and the defense couldn't make the key stops to get them back into the contest. The Broncos have found themselves a good duo in the backfield with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman averaging just over five yards per carry on the ground. The big question is if the heralded defense will finally live up to its hype as it hasn't so far.
Last year the Chiefs swept Denver, beating the Broncos 29-19 at home in October and then taking a 27–24 affair on the road in December. Denver quarterbacks tossed five interceptions in that one.
Kansas City at Denver
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 1 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Chiefs run the ball?
While the Chiefs are putting up big time numbers through the air, the ground game has yet to get on track. Kareem Hunt is averaging 3.2 yards per carry and 56 yards per contest. The team as a whole has just 3.9 yards per carry with Sammy Watkins putting up the best numbers at three carries for 51 yards. Hunt had such a good season last year, but the team has struggled to get much going on the ground. Denver has held each of its three opponents under 95 yards rushing. Hunt has also not been as active out of the backfield as a receiver with just one reception on three targets. Last year, Hunt had 53 catches on 63 targets. With the likes of Bradley Roby and Chris Harris at cornerback, it may not be as easy to get the aerial attack going. Denver has nine sacks while Kansas City has allowed just four. If the Broncos can force the Chiefs to have to beat them through the air, then they'd be playing right into their strength.
2. Can the Broncos pass the ball?
Case Keenum has been a little bit of a disappointment at quarterback for the Broncos. Then again, with some of the team's past signal callers, this could actually be a little bit of an improvement. After throwing for three touchdowns against Seattle in the season opener, the quarterback has no TDs and two interceptions since. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are still pretty good threats, and youngsters Courtland Sutton and Jake Butt are chipping in. Kansas City allowed 418 passing yards to the Chargers and 442 to the Steelers. The numbers would have probably been worse against the Niners, but San Francisco found success on the ground racking up nearly 200 yards there. If Denver can use its run game to loosen things up, Keenum could find some open lanes for his receivers.
This is the third road game over their first four for the Chiefs. There could be a bit of road weariness, although that is not as likely in the NFL. The team is actually entering a really tough stretch of three games against the Broncos, Jaguars and Patriots with two of those away from Kansas City. This won't be Pat Mahomes first taste of the rarified air of Colorado. Mahomes beat the Broncos at their place on Dec. 31 in a game that saw him rack up 284 passing yards. One could be concerned about all the hype the team is getting going to their heads, but having a veteran coach like Andy Reid helps. Denver, on the other hand, is at home for the third time over a four-week span. They play at the Jets next week before hosting the Rams so there really won't be any sort of look-ahead for them. "Monday Night Football" underdogs have been a good bet in the past and you know that place will be rocking.
The Chiefs eventually will have their offensive fireworks end. I think it does on Monday night under the bright lights. Denver will get some pressure and fluster Mahomes into his first interception of the season. The lack of a running game will force him to have to throw a lot and the defense will struggle to stop the Broncos. I think Case Keenum, for one night, shows that the money paid to him was well worth it.
Prediction: Broncos 28, Chiefs 24
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.