As we roll into the final week of the season we have the Denver Broncos (8-7) hosting the Kansas City Chiefs (6-9). The major national headline grabber here is Kyle Orton’s return to Denver whereas for Broncos fans, it’s all about whether the Broncos can win and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The Chiefs lead the series 55-48, but the Broncos won the last meeting 17-10 when the teams met November 13. Let’s go inside the matchup.
Broncos: Broncos Country has turned into turnover country with the team being -7 in the turnover differential in the pass two weeks. We know that as long as the Broncos don’t turn the ball over, they can keep the game within reach with their style of play. A steady run attack coupled with accurate passing and receivers who can actually catch the ball should put the Broncos in good position. It’s basic, but it’s what the Broncos have been missing in their last two losses. The team is still ranked No. 1 in rushing, but 31st in passing. The Broncos put up 244 rushing yards against the Chiefs in their last meeting.
Chiefs: Kyle Orton and Dwayne Bowe are developing a nice connection. The team is 12th in rushing so the play action has worked quite nicely for the Chiefs of late. The Chiefs are 31st in points averaging just 13.7 per game, but against the Broncos that could be enough to get the job done. Jackie Battle is leading the team in rushing, but Dexter McCluster is always a threat on the ground whether he’s taking a handoff or catching a pass. Thomas Jones was quiet in the November meeting with 4 carries for 4 yards.
Broncos: To stop the Chiefs offense, pressuring Orton will be key. When he’s under duress, he’s always good for an interception or two. We saw it way too many times in Denver. Von Miller will still have that cast on his hand but Elvis Dumervil always provides a good pass rush. The Broncos are allowing 25.5 points per game, they are ranked 25th against the rush and 20th against the pass, but they are 7th in sacks. They did a great job holding Bowe to 2 catches for 17 yards in their last meeting. The biggest threat that they had to deal with then was McCluster who was first in receiving and second in rushing.
Chiefs: The Chiefs are still riding high from their win over the Packers. How could they not be? They held the offensive powerhouse to 14 points. Tamba Hali is a beast on the pass rush and Derrick Johnson is third in the league in tackles. Their secondary can be deadly as they are 7th in the league in interceptions with 19 on the season. The Broncos’ turnover vulnerability needs to stop here because the Chiefs will take advantage. The defense only had so much tape on Tim Tebow back in November so you can bet that this defense has more of a leg up. The Chiefs are ranked 23rd against the rush and 9th against the pass.
Broncos: Kickoff coverage has been rough for the Broncos. They allowed a punt returned for a TD last week, and they constantly gave the Bills prime field position.
Chiefs: Javier Arenas is third in the league in punt returns and Dexter McCluster can easily break one lose on any team. The Chiefs had the chance to win the game last week before sending it to overtime against the Raiders, but they had a punt blocked. Expect that this special teams group put in the extra work this week.
Broncos: John Fox has downplayed the whole Orton return all week. His focus is on advancing to the playoffs with this one win. He has plenty of experience in the league, preparing young teams for games like this. Expect him and his team to come out firing.
Chiefs: This will be Romero Crennel’s third game as head coach for the Chiefs. He’s already up for consideration as coach for next year after his team beat the Packers. Crennel has more control over the Chiefs than Todd Haley did.
Prediction: Broncos – 24 Chiefs – 17.