Broncos Matchups: Coaches and quarterbacks in the spotlight on SNF

Dec 6, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Denver Broncos faceoff with the AFC West front-runner Kansas City Chiefs. This game is for first place in the AFC West and was flexed as a  Sunday night primetime matchup.

Both clubs come in after finding recent success. The Broncos, winners of three of their last four, while the Cheifs have won four in a row.

The Chiefs come in at 7-4 and sit on top of the AFC West. As expected, the Chiefs look a lot like the Super Bowl team they have been over the last two seasons. Their ability to win in all three phases of the game makes this matchup the toughest of the season.

Additionally, the Chiefs have talent falling out of the pockets and have mismatches at nearly skill position.

Like the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs will challenge the Broncos defense in various ways. This puts the defense in a predicament each and every play while simultaneously putting pressure on the Broncos offense to score possession after possession.

The Chiefs defense has played their best as of late. Their personnel is gelling at the right time, and taking pressure off the offense which has led to their undefeated four-game stretch.

With a win Sunday, the Broncos not only will keep their playoff hopes alive but most importantly end the ugly run of 11 losses in a row to the Chiefs. A win Sunday will give a young Denver team the belief it can play with anyone in the NFL.

This week, the Broncos need big performances from the two men who lead both sides of the ball.

Vic Fangio must frustrate Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and Co.

Expect head coach Vic Fangio to implement a similar defensive game plan from their two matchups last season. The formula for Fangio has always been to bend but do not break.

Against the Cheifs, it can be successful by making them dink and dunk downfield. In years past, this has frustrated Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. That frustration has caused overaggressiveness on 3rd down leading to defensive stops.

If successful, this game plan could again limit the Chiefs and provide the offense with a window to strike.

Game plans against the potent Cowboys and Chargers show Fangio’s ability to coordinate against the best passing teams in the league remains top-notch. The Broncos dominated both clubs recently utilizing a lightbox and match quarters principles to maximize coverage players.

Neither L.A. nor Dallas had much success on the ground and with success rushing four, Fangio was able to mix and match coverages. With maximum coverage players and quarterback pressure, the Broncos were able to get multiple turnovers against in their last two wins. This again will be necessary to throw off the timing of Mahomes and Co.

Lastly, Fangio has been able to disguise coverage looks by beginning most plays in a two-high safety look. Keeping both Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson deep before rotating allows Denver to make Mahomes hold the ball for an additional second. That could be the difference between a big play for the offense or one for the Broncos.

If Fangio can continue to have success similar to the games against Prescott and Herbert, the Broncos should see some turnover-worthy plays. Mahomes has been turnover prone this season, throwing 11 interceptions while also fumbling the ball six times.

Now, this is easier said than done. Mahomes ranks at or near the top in passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating in the NFL. Fangio must have a few moves up his sleeve, as Reid and Mahomes hide cards up their own.

Let the chess game begin.

Teddy Bridgewater must outplay Mahomes

Quarterbacks do not play against the other quarterback. In big games like this, to win against a premier opponent, Teddy Bridgewater must outplay the unicorn that is Mahomes for the Broncos to get a win.

Now, that does not mean that Bridgewater finishes this game with a better stat line.

However, Bridgewater must continue to make smart plays and take advantage of big shot plays when they present themselves.

Even though the Chiefs defense has played well overall, checking in as the 13th-ranked scoring defense in the league, they will likely give up a big play opportunity or two as their pass defense ranks 21st in DVOA.

Though talented, there are significant weaknesses in their defense and the Broncos must take advantage of them to win.

The Broncos will lean on the run game often, but cannot forget about their array of talented playmakers. With a healthier offensive line than weeks past, Bridgewater should have some time to make throws to his receivers.

Getting Javonte Williams, Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Courtland Sutton the ball in space on early downs may keep the Cheifs defense guessing.

Additionally, Bridgewater must continue to build on his gutsy performance against the Los Angeles Chargers. Bridgewater, made plays with his feet while managing the offense to 8 of 11 conversions on 3rd down. The ability for the Broncos to extend drives shortened the game and limited the opportunities of a powerful Chargers offense.

For Denver to win, Bridgewater must repeat that performance and then some this Sunday night.

How he does it, might look very similar to the recipe for success Denver has used against the Chargers and Cowboys.

Expect Bridgewater to utilize play action quite a bit as the Chiefs give up 4.6 yards-per-carry. They will load up to play the run first and make Bridgewater beat them, and he must do so.