DENVER- Since Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos in 2012, they have swept the Kansas City Chiefs each year. In 2013, a much improved Chiefs team put up a couple of good fights, but succumbed to the Broncos' elite offense in the end.
Today, I'm focusing on 5 keys to a Broncos victory. As we've mentioned earlier this week, this Chiefs team is very different from the squad they fielded in 2013. There has been a lot of roster turnover, especially on their offensive line. The new-look Broncos defense should be able to contain Alex Smith and company convincingly.
1. CONTAIN JAMAAL CHARLES
I use the word "contain", because Charles is an elite back. He can only be completely stopped by coaching decisions made by the Chiefs. If Andy Reid learned from his mistake last week, when he only gave Charles 11 touches vs the Tennessee Titans, and I think he will, then we can expect a heavy dose of him.
Last week vs the Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos only allowed 54 yards rushing. However, the context of that statistic must be kept in perspective. When the Broncos got out to a 24-0 lead, it forced the Colts to essentially abandon the run game, in an effort to play catch up. The Chiefs rushed for 67 yards in week 1. Factoring in that they only returned 2 of their 5 starters from last year on the offensive line, they will have a difficult time fending off the likes of Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams. The Broncos linebackers should be able to feast on the Chiefs running game on Sunday.
2. GET OUT TO AN EARLY LEAD
Since Manning arrived in Denver, the Broncos offense has traditionally been slow starters. They've made most of their hay in the 2nd half of games. Last week, it was the opposite. They had a lighting quick and deadly 1st half, but stalled in the 2nd. If they can duplicate their 1st half success with the Chiefs, and get out to an early lead, it'll put the onus on Alex Smith. Trust me when I say, Andy Reid does not want that burden on the former 1st overall pick of the 2005 draft.
The $17M man is not equipped to carry a team on his shoulders, which is one of the reasons I questioned the Chiefs paying him like they did. Last week, when put in a hole early, Smith folded, throwing an uncharacteristically high 3 interceptions. If Smith is down multiple scores, it'll force him to press, which is exactly what the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller feed on.
3. SHUT DOWN DWAYNE BOWE
Bowe missed week 1, as he served out the term of his 1-game suspension. But he's back in the saddle for week 2. Alex Smith's security blanket will be facing a relatively new nemesis in Aqib Talib. Talib is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL at taking away the opposition's #1 target. See what he did last year for the New England Patriots when they played the New Orleans Saints. He essentially neutralized tight end, Jimmy Graham. However, defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, ran a lot cover 3 last week. We'll see if that trend continues.
Matching Talib up on Bowe will force Smith to look at his other options. Namely, Donnie Avery, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. The combination of Chris Harris, Jr and Bradley Roby, should be able to handle Avery. We'l likely see safety, T.J. Ward lined up on Kelce and linebacker, Brandon Marshall, covering Charles in the outlet. I like the Broncos chances here.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHIEFS PATCHWORK O-LINE
DeMarcus Ware had nice performance in week 1, notching 1.5 sacks. This week, he'll be lined up against the Cheifs left tackle, Eric Fisher. Fisher had an up and down rookie campaign in 2013, but held his own vs Von Miller. However, Ware's elite pass rushing skill-set will be too much for the 2nd year pro.
Although he played well, Miller had a quiet game in week 1. As he told Troy Renck of the Denver Post:
"I've got to get back in the lab. They started running a lot of hurry-up. To be honest, for me, I just couldn't breathe," Miller said. "I am going to address that and get that fixed in my conditioning. ... I don't like to compare last year, but I believe you are going to see a better Von this season."
Miller is still getting his game legs under him, and it's a process. But expect him to return to form vs the Chiefs.
5. FEED MONTEE BALL 20+ TOUCHES
Last week, Ball carried the rock 23 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also had 2 receptions for 16 yards. That's 25 touches; music to fantasy football owners' ears. All throughout the off-season, the Broncos have been focusing on being more balanced on offense. Ball's week 1 workload is a reflection of this new commitment.
The Chiefs lost their star inside linebacker, Derrick Johnson, for the year with a torn achilles. Their other starter at ILB, Joe Mays, was recently put on IR with designation to return. Adding insult to injury, they also lost one of their key cogs in stopping the run on the defensive line, Mike Devito.
This will make it very difficult for them to stop Ball between the tackles. They still have their 2 elite edge players, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, but expect the Broncos to show no mercy running inside. Nose tackle, Dontari Poe, can only do so much. Put a double team on him, and block him out of the game.
You can find Chad Jensen on Twitter @CJ_Broncos.