NFL 2019 (Week 7): Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 7): Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

For the last two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos have been moving in opposite directions. After a 4-0 start, Patrick Mahomes has been brought back down to earth by the AFC South’s Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans in consecutive games. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins have been hampered by injuries, and the Chiefs’ offense has been much less troublesome for opposing defenses without the two star receivers. The Broncos, meanwhile, now have a winning streak going to counteract their 0-4 start. Denver surprised the football world with a road win against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5, only to follow it up with a shutout home win over the Tennessee Titans. Can Vic Fangio’s team defend their Mile High home turf against the suddenly-reeling AFC West favorites?

Chiefs: Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns last season on the way to his NFL MVP trophy, and how teams choose to defend him is a veritable “pick your poison” proposition: rushing four and playing zone coverage helps prevent him from scrambling, but he is surgical in picking apart gaps in zones; blitzing and playing man coverage forces quicker throws, but if a receiver shakes free of his defender, it is an explosive play waiting to happen. Indianapolis chose to play man coverage on a staggeringly high number of passing downs, and without Watkins and Hill in the lineup, Mahomes’ backup receivers were unable to get open. Even All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce couldn’t bail out his quarterback consistently. Hill’s return to action against Houston sparked a 17-3 first quarter lead, but turnovers, penalties, and questionable officiating doomed the host Chiefs to another loss. Mahomes has also been hobbled by an ankle injury, which greatly reduces his ability to extend plays by any means necessary. 10 days of rest after this game should allow Kansas City to regain some of its fire, but will they be 5-2 or 4-3 at that point? One game makes a huge difference in playoff contention.

Broncos: Of Denver’s nine remaining games (excluding the Chiefs), five are on the road, and only two opponents currently have losing records: Cleveland and the Chargers. If they hope to spring a playoff run, they absolutely need to beat Kansas City tonight. Only the 1992 San Diego Chargers have made the playoffs after a 0-4 start, so the odds are against them. More puzzling than the team’s poor start was its complete lack of pass rush: in those four losses, Fangio’s defense only conjured up two sacks! Bradley Chubb has been lost for the season, but Von Miller and Co. have exploded for 10 sacks in their two victories (three against Los Angeles and seven against Tennessee). At this point in his career, Joe Flacco seems incapable of carrying a team by himself, so a dominant pass rush will have to pair with second-year running back Phillip Lindsay to hold the Chiefs at bay and keep Denver’s season alive.

Prediction: A banged-up Kansas City squad struggles with Denver’s pass rush and home crowd for most of the game, but the Broncos simply lack the firepower to steal this one.

Kansas City Chiefs 21, Denver Broncos 17

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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