ENGLEWOOD, CO — The Denver Broncos continue to progress in their game preparation this week as they prepare for Sunday’s AFC West showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs. Can Denver’s offense bounce back against Kansas City after they sputtered out in their first matchup?

Denver Broncos offense faces tough test vs. Chiefs defense

The Kansas City Chiefs defense in 2023 might be the best defense they’ve had in the last seven or eight years. Their secondary features talented and athletic ballhawks, and their defensive line contains stubborn and physically dominating talent, including Chris Jones.

“Wherever he is, he’s a challenge,” Broncos OC Joe Lombardi said of Jones. “I know when they first started doing that, it was like, ‘Oh, good. I want him at the edge. I don’t want to have to block him at the three-technique.’ He’s certainly disruptive everywhere he goes. He’s one of those guys. It’s not every week that you put a jersey on your scout team to know where the interior defensive lineman is. When you’re playing him, it’s a lot like [Rams DL] Aaron Donald. We have to know where he is every play.”

In Denver’s first matchup against Kansas City, they finished the game with 197 total yards of offense while the Chiefs’ defense took away the Broncos’ passing emphasis and pressured Russell Wilson consistently.

After being sacked four times in their Week 6 loss, Wilson has to hope that Denver’s offensive line can find a way to hold up against Jones and George Karlaftis. The Chiefs defense is getting an even bigger boost on defense with the return of defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who registered a sack last week in their win against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kansas City sacked Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert five times last week and hit him eight total times. Denver’s game plan has to be sharper than it was in the last matchup.

Denver’s offense ranks 21st in yards per game (311.0), 7th in yards per play (5.61), 19th in points per game (21.1), and 24th in sacks allowed (20).

Kansas City’s defense ranks 7th in yards per game allowed (294.6), 8th in yards per play (4.91), 2nd in points per game (15.0), and they’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times, ranking them 7th overall.

Whoever wins the battle of the trenches will walk away on Sunday with a win.

Broncos run game a key emphasis vs. Chiefs

The Broncos offense has been efficient running the football this season, but they’ve faced several games where they either had to abandon it or chose to abandon it unnecessarily.

After a 145-yard group effort in Sunday’s win against the Green Bay Packers, Denver has a chance to build on the run game even further against Kansas City if the score remains close.

“Abandon it?,” Broncos offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said on Thursday. “Hopefully you never have to do that. If it happens, it’s usually because the score has gotten out of hand. You’re trying to stay balanced and not be predictable. When the run game has been efficient—as it’s been for us—it’s a lot easier to stick with it. Hopefully we can continue that.”

With Javonte Williams appearing fully healthy, he, Jaleel McLaughlin, and Samaje Perine could help establish balance for a Broncos offense that has been pass-centric to start the season.

If Denver finds a way to be effective rushing the football, having that balance will allow Russell Wilson and the offense to open up things in the passing game, which Kansas City did a great job making that element difficult during their first matchup on Thursday Night Football.

Denver’s defense will have their hands full against Travis Kelce

31 other teams around the NFL haven’t figured out how to stop Travis Kelce, and it’s unlikely that Denver will find the solution on Sunday. Kelce and Mahomes’ connection often, at times, leaves the opposing defenses in a blank space.

“They have great chemistry,” Vance Joseph said of Mahomes and Kelce. “In all zones, you have soft spots, and they seem to find them quickly. It starts with keeping the QB in the pocket and obviously when the second play occurs, getting attached to [Chiefs TE Travis] Kelce as best as we can.”

While Kelce will see his fair share of targets, Denver’s defense’s primary focus should be mitigating large gains, especially in third-down situations.

In the Broncos’ last game against Kansas City, Denver held Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to 4-of-13 on third down.

Last week, the Broncos made a personnel change, starting veteran cornerback Fabian Moreau over second-year cornerback Damarri Mathis.

The Chiefs will look to take shots opposite of Patrick Surtain with players like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and the readdition of Mecole Hardman adds an additional wrinkle into Denver’s gameplan defensively.

“He played very clean,” Joseph said regarding Moreau’s emergence into a starting job. “That’s his role. When you’re a corner opposite of [CB] Patrick [Surtain II], you have to be ready for all kinds of looks and different concepts and routes. He’s a veteran guy who has played a bunch of football at a high level. He played clean for us. It was fun to see.”

Broncos injury report and status update for October 26

For the most part, the Denver Broncos are relatively healthy ahead of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. A few new additions popped up on the team’s injury report following Thursday’s practice.

Full Participants:

  • Safety Justin Simmons (hip) upgraded from limited to full on Thursday.
  • Outside linebacker Baron Browning (wrist) was a full participant for the second consecutive day.
  • Running back Dwayne Washington (knee) upgraded from a DNP to full participant on Thursday.

Limited Participants:

  • Offensive tackle Garett Bolles (hip) popped up on the injury report on Thursday and was limited.
  • Wide receiver Brandon Johnson (hamstring) popped up on the injury report on Thursday and was limited.

It’s worth monitoring how Johnson and Bolles progress in Friday’s practice.