After a restful and quiet bye week, the Denver Broncos enter the final third of the season this Sunday against the divisional foe Kansas City Chiefs. With both teams at 7-3 and looking up at Oakland in the standings, playing each other twice within the next six weeks adds more layers to a rivalry that has produced many a hard-fought win and a heartbreaking loss.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... The two teams split last season's series, with the Broncos winning a come-from-behind tilt at Arrowhead on late Jamaal Charles fumble that Bradley Roby scooped up and took back for a touchdown.
The Chiefs returned the favor later in the year, sending the great Peyton Manning to the bench in a ugly loss at Mile High. With such an important game, one loss could mean the difference between having to be on the road to start the playoffs or worse, not make them at all.
Here are three ways that Denver not only wins this week’s game Sunday night, but sweeps the Chiefs in 2016.
Be The Better Team
If talking heads like Cris Collinsworth want to go out of their way to call the Broncos a “flawed” 7-3 football team, by proxy they would need to include the Chiefs in that category as well. With 10 games in the books, Kansas City currently ranks 25th in total defense, giving up a whopping 373.3 yards per game, with 121.1 of those yards coming by way of the rush.
In fact, just by taking a quick glance at where the Kansas City offense stands in league ranking makes one think of how fortunate they are to be in the thick of the playoff race at all. As of Sunday’s games, the Chiefs are 22nd in passing offense and 21st in rushing offense, despite Spencer Ware filling in admirably for the injured Jamal Charles.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1730268-broncos-top-5-mid-season-... Ware himself has been the best offensive player this year for the Chiefs but has struggled since coming back from a concussion and hasn’t cracked 70 yards rushing since.
Outside linebacker Dee Ford is having a monster of a year and leads the team with 10 sacks but the Chiefs as a whole don't have another player on the defense with more than 2.5. It’s safe to assume that if the Broncos keep Ford in check and make someone else along an ordinary defense beat them, it will give Denver a great chance at winning both games against Kansas City.
Denver has their issues on offense, whether it be running the football consistently or by loading too much responsibly on the shoulders of Trevor Siemian. With 10 days to get ready for a key divisional game, along with Kansas City losing in surprising fashion to Tampa Bay at home, the Broncos will have the opportunity to, at the very least, move the ball with a degree of efficiency come this Sunday.
Capitalize On Injuries
With one team gaining key pieces back and the other losing them, Denver and Kansas City are heading in opposite directions when it comes to the overall health of each squad. As Denver enters the contest after a bye that saw several players heal some nagging bumps and bruises, the Chiefs are coming into Denver with players that are either on the mend or not at 100 percent.
Barring any setbacks, Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib will make their return to the lineup this Sunday. Talib’s presence in particular will be a huge lift for the defense that didn’t appear to have the same passion or drive without him on the field and lacked a playmaker with the ability to turn the momentum quite like Talib does.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, did not have cornerback Marcus Peters for the loss against the Buccaneers, along with other prominent players that watched the game in street clothes like Jeremy Maclin. As a player who's been a thorn in the side of the Broncos, a diminished Peters provides an opportunity for either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders to have a big game at Mile High and at Arrowhead Stadium.
Don’t Beat Yourself
Despite having a pedestrian offense and defense, where Kansas City excels is at creating turnovers in crucial moments. In the game against Carolina and down by 17 points, Eric Berry was able to take an interception back for a score by, while Peters came up with a strip-fumble on Kelvin Benjamin to seal up the win.
The stat of Kansas City being a +13 in turnover differential, while turning the ball over just 10 times themselves, is very telling about how important it will be to play a mistake-free game here in Denver and away in Kansas City.
Calling quarterbacks “game managers” smacks as a back-handed compliment and means that someone like a Trent Dilfer, or even a Alex Smith, is good enough to not lose a game on his own. For Denver to win both games in the series, Trevor Siemian needs to be a game manager.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1730640-romo-in-2017-only-one-opi... Stare down a route or throw a prayer up in the air against Kansas City, like he did against New Orleans before the bye, and they will make Siemian pay dearly. The same goes for running back Devontae Booker and Demaryius Thomas, who have both had costly fumbles take points off the board for the Broncos.
Although Kansas City gives up a good deal of yardage between the 20’s, they still manage to be respectable in giving up just 18 points per game on average. When Denver does have the ball in the red zone, the burden is on main play-caller Gary Kubiak to push the envelope and avoid being predictable on offense.
If Denver can turn just one field goal per game into a touchdown, putting pressure on Alex Smith and company to keep up in the process, it plays heavily into Denver's ability to attack the QB late in games.
Denver has the potential to be efficient on the offensive side of the ball for both games against the Chiefs but they will need to be diligent about cleaning up the hiccups in the turnover department. The Chiefs are a foe adept at making those mistakes hurt dearly.
Down the stretch, losses carry heavier consequences. Compound that with losing just one game to an opponent in the division like the Chiefs and these two games will serve as close to a must-win as you can get.
Both teams are resilient, still within striking distance of the division crown, should Oakland falter, and neither team is particularly found of the other. If Denver can keep it simple and be efficient moving the ball, while not turning it over, look for them to take both games versus the Chiefs.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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