It’s time to payback and then pay it forward. Despite the mid-season 2-6 record, the Denver Broncos have a chance for a re-birth to a playoff berth. Five of their remaining eight games are against division rivals, and if the Broncos can hop on the winning train, the final destination may be the post season. It all starts with the Kansas City Chiefs marching into Denver on what is predicted to be a snowy Sunday. The Chiefs are coming off of a disappointing overtime loss to the Raiders while the Broncos had last week off. The last time these two teams met, the Chiefs tallied more yards on the ground than I care to remember. That game sealed the Broncos ’09 season, and made the walk out of Invesco look more like a funeral procession than a football game. The Broncos will look to payback the pain and embarrassment, and then continue on to correct their 2-6 start to the season. A lot rides on this final push: The season and a job or two. My Prediction: Broncos 24 Chiefs 21
Broncos - This is the game for the offensive line to step up. Ryan Harris is back at right tackle and the o-line looks like it should have when the season started. The protection has got to be there for Kyle Orton. Having been sacked 21 times, Orton is the 6th most sacked QB in the league. The o-line will also need to create gaps for the struggling running game. The Broncos will most likely have more success with their 3rd-ranked passing game against the Chiefs 21st-ranked passing defense. The Chiefs run defense is strong and the Broncos haven’t been able to get anything going on the ground all year averaging just 67.3 yards per game. Limiting turnovers is imperative against this Chiefs team because they’re very good at creating big plays on defense and then converting on offense. There aren’t many Chiefs’ drives that don’t get at least a field goal out of the effort. Starting strong and forcing the Chiefs to play catch up will be key.
Chiefs- The Chiefs have the opposite problem that the Broncos have. They can run all day long, but struggle with their passing game. They lead the league in rushing with 179.6 yards per game, but are 30th in passing. Thomas Jones usually gets more carries, but Jamaal Charles (remember him?) is the more productive back averaging an astonishing 6.4 yards per carry. They have some big playmakers on the receiving core with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki. If rookie Dexter McCluster comes back from injury, he’s another solid target for Matt Cassel. Cassel does a great job of taking care of the ball throwing 12 TD passes and just 4 INTs all season. The other QBs that have played in all eight games and have thrown only 4 INTs? Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Credit the offensive line for much of the Chiefs’ success this season. They protect the QB and push defensive lines away from stopping the run.
Broncos - Robert Ayers and Andre Goodman will be the usual starters sitting out of Sunday’s game. Perrish Cox is back after suffering a concussion against the Raiders, so he will take Goodman’s place as usual. This is the ultimate test for the Broncos 31st-ranked run defense. The squad has seen very good backs this year in Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, and LaDanian Tomlinson, but never have they had to face two great backs in one game. This is the part of the game that could most likely sink the Broncos’ ship. The Chiefs’ offense does a great job of keeping drives alive and killing the clock. They pound opposing defenses into the ground, and by the end of the game, defenses are so tired that the pass is there for Cassel and Co. The Broncos pass defense is ranked 8th in the league, but that hasn’t been able to save games for them. Here’s hoping that the 5,280 feet above sea level slows the Chiefs ground game.
Chiefs- The Chiefs play the 3-4 very well. They’re effective in stopping the run as their 9th ranked rushing defense shows. Their total defense is 8th in the league allowing 18.1 points per game. They have the playmakers whether it’s intercepting the ball, forcing fumbles, or getting to the QB. This is a defense that can stop one-dimensional teams. Derrick Johnson is one of the premier linebackers in the game and he leads the team in tackles. Their young secondary has come up big this year. Both Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry have 2 INTs on the season with Flowers running one of those back for the score. Tamba Hali has been a stud with 8 sacks on the season while Wallace Gilberry has 4 sacks. The Broncos must secure the ball against this young and aggressive defense or the nightmare from the Oakland game could resurface.
Broncos - This game is the story of the punter. Brothers Britton and Dustin Colquitt will be playing the field position battle. If you look at the stats, they are pretty much neck-and-neck. Matt Prater continues to be one of the few bright spots on the team. Kickoff coverage has got to be spot on.
Chiefs- Making the Chiefs use the entire field is essential. Their offense will score with a short field. Their running game is too good and Cassel takes good care of the ball. There’s a slight chance that Dexter McCluster will play and he’s a big playmaker in this department. He’s already returned a punt 94 yards for a TD this year, and he’s averaging 21.5 yards per kick return.
Broncos - Josh McDaniels knows the Chiefs’ offensive and defensive coordinator like the back of his hand, and he’s had extra time to prepare for them. McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis all coached together in New England. McDaniels pulled one over on Bill Belichick last year at home. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets two more coaches with New England blood.
Chiefs- Todd Haley’s team has very complex offensive and defensive schemes. Haley’s not afraid to put his young guys in big roles. After many years of rebuilding, this Chiefs team is finally coming together. Will youth be a double edged sword and cause the high-energy Chiefs to fall apart in the second half of the season?
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