Broncos vs Chiefs: Battle For The AFC West

The (8-3) Broncos will travel to take on the (7-4) Chiefs on Sunday Night Football (NBC). With first place in the AFC West currently a one-game margin between three teams, there is no room for error. MHH Analyst, Ray Roybal, examines the matchup.

The Denver Broncos are coming off of a much needed victory at home, beating the Miami Dolphins 39-36 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos are now a perfect 6-0 at home in 2014. The game didn’t come easy, but it did have a few bright spots.

The Broncos came into the game with questions surrounding their offensive line. Multiple local and national reporters were calling out the line and their lack of effectual run blocking, questioning their cohesiveness and seeming refusal to own up to their poor play.

They came together and helped produce a 201-yard rushing performance by the team. While in pass protection, they did their job as well, only allowing 1 sack (in which Peyton Manning went down himself) and gave their quarterback the time to deliver 4 touchdown passes.

Throughout the game, Manuel Ramirez (RG), Orlando Franklin (LG) and Will Montgomery (C) were frequently spotted blocking down-field, allowing C.J. Anderson to explode into his second gear.

Will this unit be up to their week 13 challenge? That's the question. The Kansas City Chiefs boast the No.1 passing defense in the league, but were dealt a big blow Monday after the team announced that three-time Pro Bowl safety, Eric Berry, was placed on the season ending non-football illness list. It’s believed that Berry has a form of cancer called lymphoma.

Kurt Coleman could replace Berry, although this will be a tough task. Berry is without question the leader of the Chiefs defense, and a huge reason the Chiefs have had success this year. Berry didn’t play when the Chiefs lost to the Broncos earlier in week 2, and it showed. Manning had 242 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The Chiefs run defense hasn’t had as much success this year, as they're giving up an average of 129.4 yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league. In their last two games, they have given up 204 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks and 179 to the Oakland Raiders, respectively. Neither team has a passing offense as proficient as the Broncos, but the Chiefs were able to limit Russell Wilson to only 178 passing yards and the rookie, Derek Carr, to 174.

If the Broncos can impose their will in the running game, as they did against the Dolphins, the Chiefs could be in for a long day. The Broncos hold the #2 rated passing offense in the league, which can be lethal if the Chiefs are forced to stack the box with 8 defenders, in order to slow down Anderson.

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs offense has become significantly more efficient over the past few weeks. Even though they lost to the Raiders last Thursday night, their offense was clicking on multiple cylinders. Tight end, Travis Kelce, has been a huge addition for Alex Smith and the passing game, averaging 13.2 yards per catch.

When the Chiefs came to Denver in week 2, Kelce averaged 20.3 yards per catch, with 4 receptions for 81 yards. Elite TEs who have faced the Broncos this year have done very well and have become a focal point in those games.

Kelce (4-81), Dwayne Allen (4-64, 1 TD), Jace Amaro (10-68, 1 TD), Antonio Gates (5-54, 2 TDs), and Rob Gronkowski (10-105, 1 TD) have all been huge factors in the way opponents have played the Broncos defense. This game will be no different. Defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio and staff, will be focused on taking Kelce away.

The Broncos run defense took a step backward in week 12, giving up 97 yards rushing, while allowing 2 TDs on the ground. Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis create a great one-two punch and are featured often in the run-first Chiefs offense, which could give the Broncos fits.

Terrance Knighton leads the Broncos interior defensive line and stops anything that comes close to him. This will be a huge task come Sunday. In the second game of the season (in Denver), Davis ran for 79 yards and 2 TDs, while Charles only rushed twice for 4 yards, although in total, the Chiefs ran for a total of 133 yards. The Broncos have the opportunity to give the Chiefs a long night, if they can contain the run.

The Broncos are approaching this game as the biggest of their season. There is a lot riding on Sunday night’s outcome. If the Broncos can get a win in Arrowhead Stadium, they will distance themselves from the Chiefs and turn their focus on to the San Diego Chargers. A loss in Arrowhead, wrapped with a Chargers win in Baltimore, would create a three-way tie in the AFC West. The Broncos want no part of this and will look to take care of business on Sunday Night Football.

Prediction

Broncos 31 Chiefs 23

Ray Roybal is an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @RoybalSportTalk.

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