Thanks to the NFL’s flex scheduling, we should have a great game on Sunday Night Football. It will be a division rivalry between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. The AFC West looks to be the best division in football, so a win this week is crucial. The Broncos and Chiefs are very similar, as they both rely on a strong defense and running game to compensate for the poor passing game. This is going to be a real challenge for Kansas City. If they have any hope of beating the defending Super Bowl champions they will need to be firing on all cylinders.
Kansas City Chiefs Week 12 Keys to Victory
Grab an Early Lead
The Denver Broncos are not a team built to put points on the board quickly. Instead, they run the ball down your throat and try to eat up clock. Trevor Siemian, the second-year quarterback from Northwestern, has performed adequately as the starter. While he doesn’t turn the ball over much, his tendency to overthrow receivers downfield has forced Denver to rely on short crossing routes. This leaves you with an offense that lacks big-play ability.
If Kansas City can get and early lead, they will force the Broncos out of their comfort zone. Much like the Chiefs, Denver’s offense can be successful only under the right conditions. Being behind is not one of them. If Denver falls behind early they will be forced to throw the ball against the Chiefs’ fourth-ranked passing defense.
Smash Mouth Football
While Denver’s defense is still good this year, it has taken a dip from 2015. With the losses of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, the Broncos have seen their run defense slip. In fact, they rank 29th overall in rushing yards allowed per game. The Chiefs should be able to find success running the ball between the tackles. The interior defensive line has been the weak point of this defense, which has only been magnified during the absence of Derek Wolfe. Wolfe was in practice this week but is still listed as questionable for Sunday. Even if he plays, he won’t be 100%. There’s no doubt the Chiefs will be running the ball early and often to take advantage of this.
Use Two and Three Tight End Sets
It’s no secret the Broncos have one of the best pass rushes in the league, with the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe. While Kansas City has protected Alex Smith well (only pressured on 24% of his drop-backs, ranking fourth in the league) they may need to bring in some extra help. We saw the Oakland Raiders have success with six offensive linemen a few weeks ago against Denver. Kansas City already has multiple formations where three tight ends are on the field at once. This not only gives extra blockers for Spencer Ware but could also provide some mismatches for Alex Smith to exploit through the air.
Wade Phillips’ defense is able to play tight man coverage so often because of its speed. They close in quickly on screens to running backs out of the backfield or to out wide to receivers. However, if Kansas City comes out with multiple tight ends they will have a serious size and strength advantage. Small defensive backs like Chris Harris will have trouble bringing down someone like Travis Kelce by themselves.
Convert on Third Down
Kansas City has only been able to convert on third down 35% of the time this season. This puts them 25th for the year, but in the last three games, they rank dead last, only converting 20% of the time. The Chiefs especially have struggled with this while in enemy territory. Their red zone touchdown scoring percentage is at 41%, putting them ahead of only the Jets.
Drives come to a screeching halt and Andy Reid is forced to send out the field goal unit far too often. This offense has looked absolutely anemic the past couple weeks due to these issues. It’s impossible to develop any sort of rhythm when you are unable to put together a scoring drive. If Kansas City wants to have a chance Sunday night, they’re going to need to be able to keep the Broncos defense on the field.
Honestly, I don’t like the Chiefs chances this week. The offense has just looked abysmal as of late. I don’t see them getting out of their slump against one of the best defenses in the league. Spencer Ware will need to have a big game, and the Chiefs will need to avoid three-and-outs while forcing Siemian to throw the ball. It will certainly be an uphill battle for Kansas City.