The Chiefs own a seven-game winning streak against the Broncos, but in the last 14 games the series between the two clubs stands dead-even. Head coach Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City amidst a Denver dynasty in the AFC West, but since 2015 the fortunes have shifted toward the Chiefs. Can Kansas City extend the streak to eight games at Denver Thursday night? Here are the matchups to watch and keys to victory for Patrick Mahomes and company.
Matchups To Watch
Broncos LB Von Miller vs. Chiefs LT Cam Erving & RT Mitchell Schwartz
One of the leaguesâ€™ best pass rushers faces off against a backup left tackle, and an underrated right tackle. The Broncos game plan should focus on Miller terrorizing Ervingâ€™s side more often than not. The real question becomes at what point Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck call for tight ends to chip Miller and help Erving get in position to protect Mahomes.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.
Harris ranks one of the top corners in the league and normally shadows the opponentâ€™s top receiver. Last year the Broncos held Hill to 124 receiving yards and no touchdowns in the two contests against KC. With Sammy Watkins out, Demarcus Robinsonâ€™s production declining, Mecole Hardman still trying to a consistent role in the offense and Travis Kelce held in check the last two week, Hill needs to find a way to win this matchup regularly to help the Chiefs offense move the ball.
Kelce has been jammed, chipped, held and bullied all through his routes the last couple of weeks, and his frustration with the way he's being covered is starting to show on the field. He should use all that pent-up aggression and channel it into becoming the bully instead of the victim. His ability to beat man coverage relies solely on his will to out-physical the player across from him.
Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay & RB Royce Freeman vs. Chiefs Run Defense
Lindsay and Freeman form a two-headed monster in the rushing attack for the Broncos. Lindsay serves as the speedy, shifty back that looks to hit the hole fast, but he prefers to bounce everything either to the outside or the backside at the first sign of the initial hole closing. Freeman runs with good vision and can attack a hole, allowing linebackers to get lost in the trash while he cuts to an abandoned gap. The Chiefs' linebackers must bring their A-game and remain aggressive when trying to shut down this potent rushing attack.
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders & WR Courtland Sutton vs. Thin Chiefs Secondary
The Broncos ask Sanders to run shorter crossing and out-breaking routes, while Sutton provides more of a downfield threat. With Kansas City cornerback Kendall Fuller out with a thumb injury and Bashaud Breeland questionable for personal reasons, Charvarius Ward, Morris Claiborne, and rookie Rashad Fenton must shut these two receivers down. Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill could also play corner in a pinch if needed.
For the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era, the Kansas City Chiefs are struggling. Losers of two in a row, the Chiefs still hold possession of first place in the AFC West, but their grip on the division is far more tenuous than anybody would have expected after they got off to a 4-0 start.
Meanwhile, the division rival Denver Broncos are on the rise. The Broncos have had the exact opposite season as the Chiefs, starting 0-4 before scoring victories in each of their past two games. Denver is still on the outside looking in of the playoff race, but after getting off to such a slow start, they're closer than we thought they'd be at this point.
Denver's victory lifted them to 2-4 while Kansas City's defeat dropped them down to 4-2. Two numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: Denver comes into the matchup boasting the fourth fewest passing yards allowed per game in the league at 207.5. But Kansas City enters the contest with 350.7 passing yards per game on average, good for best in the NFL. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.