Scott Shapiro's Thursday Night Football preview: Chiefs-Broncos
Week 6 was another good one for road teams and underdogs, as leaning on both continued to be a winning strategy through the first part of the 2019 NFL season.
The Week 7 slate once again features four teams on bye week and kicks off Thursday night, with an AFC West battle between two teams that have had opposite starts to their campaigns.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs popped out of the gate and looked like one of the top two teams in the NFL after four games, but they have come back down to earth with a pair of home losses. Some of that can be blamed on Patrick Mahomes' ankle issues and head coach Andy Reid’s refusal to run the ball, but most of it must be put on one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
The Chiefs were able to outscore the opposition in their first four contests, but their inability to stop the run has been a killer over the last two games. In their Week 5 loss to Indianapolis, the Colts ran the ball for 180 yards and won the time of possession battle (37:22 to 22:45). Indy only scored 19 points but was able to keep Mahomes off the field. The Kansas City run defense had an equally poor performance last week in Arrowhead, where the Texans ran the ball for 192 yards and maintained possession for nearly two-thirds of the game (39:42).
"It's time to be at least a little worried about the Kansas City Chiefs. ... The defense is terrible, they can't stop the run, they can't get off the field. This was a demoralizing loss. It was the most concerning loss for the Chiefs in the entire Mahomes era." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/3wG3pHC4AA— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) October 14, 2019
The Kansas City rush defense has yielded 5.2 yards per carry and 161 yards per game. The Chiefs will need to turn things around in a short work week against a Denver rushing attack that has been mediocre (an average of 116 yards on the ground per contest). The good news for the Chiefs is they have not lost to the Broncos since September 17, 2015.
Denver started the season with four consecutive losses, but two of those were extremely tough ones at home to the Bears and Jaguars. To their credit the Broncos have pulled it together. Denver won its last two behind a defense that struggled to live up to expectations through the first quarter of the season but has been much better of late. However, the last two efforts have come against teams that have struggled on offense.
Vic Fangio’s defense will face its toughest task of the year against a Kansas City offense that has scored at least 27 points against Denver in six consecutive games. The Broncos have been able to overcome the loss of pass rusher Bradley Chubb so far, but that was against a Chargers’ offense that is plagued with injury and a Tennessee attack that ranks 29th in passing yards per game. The Chiefs bring the No. 1 passing offense to town and obviously present a stiffer challenge.
Reid's refusal to run the ball and protect his defense is concerning, as is how poorly the Chiefs D has been at stopping the run, but Denver has not defeated Kansas City in Colorado since 2014. I expect the Chiefs to find a way to avoid a third straight loss.