It's a quick turnaround for both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, as they play in an intriguing game to kick off Week 7 of the NFL season on "Thursday Night Football." These two teams played twice in the span of a month last year with Kansas City taking both matchups. The one in Denver was a Monday night affair in which the Chiefs scored twice in the last 6:30 to win 27-23. The Chiefs also won at home later on, 30-23, as Patrick Mahomes threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns.
Kansas City's season started out with a 4-0 record with three of those wins coming on the road in Jacksonville, Oakland, and Detroit. The offense was cruising, scoring 28 points or more in all of the victories. The team then hit some adversity in a 19-13 loss to the Colts at home and followed that up with a 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Texans, also at home. The Chiefs even got wide receiver Tyreek Hill back last week, but it wasn't enough as the defense struggled to get stops.
The Broncos' year started out with four straight losses, although three of those came by single digits. One could argue they were hosed out of a victory in Week 2 when a horrible roughing the passer penalty gave the Bears new life on their final drive. In Week 4, they were Gardner Minshew'd out of a victory as well. Since then, Denver has reeled off wins at the Chargers and at home against the Titans. No one can blame the defense for the 2-4 record, as the unit is seventh in the league at 17.7 points per game allowed.
Kansas City at Denver
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 17 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network
Spread: Kansas City -3.5
Three Things to Watch
As always, there are some angles to consider to this matchup, especially with it being on a short week. Kansas City is playing its fourth road game of the season after a stretch of three of four at home. They have to travel, which will wreak a little havoc on their planning schedule, and, of course, they have to deal with the altitude. There's also the matter of a two-game losing streak the Chiefs really want to put a stop to. On the other side, Denver is playing a second straight game at home, which always is a big help when playing on a Thursday. The Broncos have a road game against the Colts lined up in Week 8, but this is a divisional contest against one of their biggest rivals, so neither focus nor motivation should be an issue.
2. Need more offense
Denver's offense has been pretty anemic so far this year. They've scored 20 points or fewer in all but one contest when they put up 24 on Jacksonville. Joe Flacco's numbers aren't great in the box score, but he's completed almost 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns to five interceptions. The signal-caller is still a bit of a statue in the pocket, as he's been sacked 15 times. Emmanuel Sanders will play and he's he's their second-leading receiver with 307 yards and two touchdowns. This means Courtland Sutton can go back to being a pretty solid complementary piece. It's the run game that's been big for the home team. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have combined for nearly five yards per carry with three touchdowns. This team can't get into a shootout so they will have to get into a ball-control contest.
3. Can KC become two-dimensional?
There's no doubting how good Mahomes is as a quarterback, but the best teams in the league find some sort of balance and are able to run the ball. KC had just 11 rushes to 36 passing attempts in their loss to the Texans last week. LeSean McCoy had eight of those carries for 44 yards and that's not good enough. If you go back over the whole season, this team has 203 passing attempts to just 112 rushes. The run game has had some success, but it's really hard to rely on McCoy, who is past his prime, as well as Damien and Darrel Williams (no relation). Denver entered Sunday's game allowing just over 126 rushing yards per contest, so the opportunities are there. They were fifth against the pass and padded that total a bit against the awful Tennessee passing attack.
The world is doubting the Chiefs right now after these last two losses and rightfully so. There may be a lot of people betting on the Broncos as home underdogs, thinking they can extend their streak. Remember, last year they probably should have beaten Kansas City at home, but they let it go late. I think Patrick Mahomes has a very good game and the Chiefs make just enough stops. I just don't think Joe Flacco is good enough for a game like this.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Broncos 16
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.