The Denver Broncos have a chance to rise from the dead Thursday night against the Chiefs.
After starting the season 0-4, the Broncos could enter their Week 8 game against the Indianapolis Colts with a 3-4 record and tiebreakers over two of their three division rivals, while being just a game back in the division.
How can the Broncos make that dream scenario a reality? Let’s take a look.
1. Run the Football
If the Broncos want to win on Thursday night against the Chiefs, they’ll have to run the ball often with consistency.
In past weeks, offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has been hesitant to fully lean on the run game and he can’t be on Thursday. In games where the Broncos have had fewer carries than their opponent this season, Denver is 0-3. When they have more rushing attempts than their opponent, they’re 2-1, with the lone loss coming against Green Bay, a game they could’ve won if not for losing the turnover differential battle by three.
Although, the Broncos should have no trouble running the ball on the Chiefs, as their run defense is historically terrible. Over the last four games, the Chiefs are allowing more than 190 yards per game on the ground, allowing opponents to control the ball for 36 minutes of the clock on average.
If the Broncos can go over 200 yards and hold the ball for 35 or even 40 minutes (like Houston did this past week), their odds of winning will greatly improve.
2. Avoid turnovers at all cost
This is an obvious key and could apply to any week, but this time it’s especially true.
Denver will play a type of ball control offense against Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes, just like they did against Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers. Chewing up clock, controlling the ball and playing tough defense is an excellent way to pacify a high-flying offense to keep the game low scoring, but it also makes every individual possession more valuable.
That means you can’t afford to give the team extra possessions, especially not in good field position or things can quickly spiral out of control. The Packers game was the worst loss of the season for Denver by the margin of victory, but the Broncos were tied at 10 before their first turnover. They ended up losing the game 27-16 with 14 of the Packers’ final 17 points coming off turnovers.
The Broncos can beat the Chiefs, but only if they commit to protecting the football and controlling the clock.
3. Shutting down Chiefs’ weapons
Few if any teams have the offensive firepower the Chiefs possess, making shutting them down a tall order. That being said, the Broncos will need their injury-riddled secondary to step up in a big way.
That starts with Davontae Harris, who will be starting opposite of Chris Harris Jr. as De’Vante Bausby and Bryce Callahan will be out and Isaac Yiadom continues to struggle.
Davontae Harris has been a huge upgrade on Yiadom, as his 58.3 reception percentage (the percentage of targets that ended in a reception for the player being covered) is third-best on the team behind only Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons. Also, his opposing passer rating allowed when targeted (74.0) is fourth-best on the team behind Simmons, Harris Jr. and Alexander Johnson.
That being said, the second-year corner out of Illinois State will face his toughest matchup as a pro when he’s forced to match up against Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins or Travis Kelce.