Three weeks into the NFL season and the Denver Broncos have their most important game yet. This week presents a Monday Night Football home matchup with the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs and MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes.
With a win, Denver will move to 3-1 and be atop the AFC West. However, with a Broncos loss and a Chargers win on Sunday, Denver would fall all the way back to third place in the AFC West. So, let’s look at how the Broncos match up against the Chiefs for this crucial, Monday Night divisional contest.
Ever since the Chiefs hired head coach Andy Reid, they’ve been a perennial playoff team. Andy Reid is probably the second-best offensive mind in the league behind Sean McVay. Reid has always been able to create some exotic offensive looks that no one can figure out for the first half of the season or so.
Just look at last season when the Chiefs came out of the gates by dropping 42 points on the Patriots in New England. Through the first eight games of 2017, Kansas City averaged 29.5 points per game before tailing off down the stretch to finish 25.9 points per game. That was good for sixth-best in the NFL. With Reid at the helm, Kansas City has always enjoyed a lights-out offense, but he’s never had a quarterback as talented as Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes is what the Broncos hoped Paxton Lynch could be. Mahomes is incredibly mobile and is surprisingly adept at making off-schedule plays given his age. He has either the strongest arm in the league or second-strongest behind rookie Josh Allen. Unlike Lynch, Mahomes is able to put all these physical traits together with his high football IQ. Mahomes also has arguably the best weapons to work with in the NFL.
Tight end Travis Kelce should give the Broncos fits on Monday night. Denver couldn’t even cover Will Dissly of the Seahawks, a rookie fourth-round pick who burned the Broncos for 105 yards and a score. Now they go up against arguably the best tight end in the league.
The Broncos’ secondary that has struggled all season will now have to find a way to lock down Tyreek Hill, a better than ever Sammy Watkins and an underrated Chris Conley. Running back Kareem Hunt is a dangerous weapon in the passing game too and gives the Chiefs a great ground attack. All-told, Kansas City’s offense this year is No. 1 in the NFL, scoring 39.7 points per game.
For Denver to stand a chance they’ll have to keep that Chiefs offense off the field as much as possible.
Despite K.C. having one of, if not the most electrifying offenses in the league, they have an anemic defense. The Broncos’ receiving core of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton should be able to feast on the weak cornerback group of the Chiefs.
Lead by Kendall Fuller, Steven Nelson, and Orlando Scandrick, the Chiefs are giving up 362.7 passing yards per game, tied with the Buccaneers for the worst in the league. They’re also allowing an average quarterback rating of 106.3, the sixth-worst figure in the NFL.
The Chiefs’ front seven has had more success lately, but is by no means strong. The Chiefs are 14th in the league in rushing yards allowed. They’re also giving up an abysmal 5.2 yards per carry, tied for the second worst figure in the league. All of those numbers should be better, especially considering that the Chiefs have held the lead at the end of 11 of the 12 quarters they’ve played so far this season.
Kansas City’s pass-rushing numbers should be better as well. They’ve sacked the quarterback just six times, tied for 25th in the NFL. That’s even while going against ideal matchups. Outside of the Steelers, the Chiefs haven’t faced a strong offensive line. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the Broncos will be the best offensive line Kansas City has faced so far, ranking second only to the Rams.
While the Chiefs’ offense is currently the best in the NFL, their defense allows 30.7 points per game, which is 30th.
Monday will be an excellent test for the Broncos. It’ll tell us a lot about how serious a contender the Broncos are this season. Right now the Chiefs are red-hot and the class of the AFC, but Denver certainly has a shot.
For the Broncos to win they’ll have to get an early lead. The Broncos simply don’t have the offensive or defensive talent to play catch up with the Chiefs. With a lead, the Broncos will be able to attack Kansas City’s week run defense and run the clock to keep Mahomes off the field. Playing with a lead will also allow the devastating combo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to tee off on the young, inexperienced quarterback. But, if Denver plays the same way they did against Seattle, Oakland, and Baltimore, it could get ugly in a hurry.