Both teams are 7-3 — tied for second place in the AFC West. The 8-2 Oakland Raiders continue to roll, having won six of their last seven, including four straight.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1730968-inside-the-matchup-bronco... Oakland's remaining schedule is no cake-walk, but neither is Denver's. Counting Sunday night's game, the Broncos still have to play Kansas City twice, and New England and Oakland once, respectively.
Plus, the Broncos have to take on a bi-polar Tennessee Titans team in Week 14. Depending on what version of the Titans the Broncos get, that game could be very tough to win in Nashville.
Oakland will draw Carolina (still a dangerous team), Buffalo, Kansas City (away), Indianapolis, and Denver in the the season finale. The Raiders also have to travel to San Diego, and they're always a threat to steal one.
Bottom line for the Broncos? They can't afford to lose at home to the Chiefs. So let's talk about what the Broncos have to do emerge victorious on Sunday night .
Don't Let Justin Houston Beat You
Kansas City's Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston missed the first nine games of the season, recovering from an ACL injury. Although he didn't start, he did return to action in Week 11 in Kansas City's loss to Tampa Bay.
Houston didn't break the ice in the sack department, but he was disruptive as an edge presence, especially against the run. Broncos fans should know full-well the impact this guy can have on a game.
In his last three meetings with the Broncos, Houston has tallied five total sacks. That does not bode well, considering Denver's struggles at right tackle.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak has yet to commit to a starter at right tackle, but whether it's Donald Stephenson or Ty Sambrailo, the onus is on the coaches — from a design standpoint — to send help, whether it's by keeping a tight end in to block, or a running back to chip.
The Chiefs will be without their leading sack artist Dee Ford. But they still have Tamba Hali, but he seems to have finally lost a step. That means the Chiefs will rely on Houston and the blitz to pressure the quarterback.
The Houston matchup concerns me, because we saw an obstinate Kubiak allow Khalil Mack to steal five sacks from the Broncos in Week 15 last year. The coaches failed to adjust or send help to an embattled right tackle — in that case, Michael Schofield.
Let's hope Kubiak and company learned from past mistakes and have drawn up a game-plan that will eliminate Justin Houston from the equation.
Be Very Careful With The Ball
The Chiefs have taken the ball away a league-high 22 times. As a result, the team is +14 in the turnover differential. They've been very good at making opposing teams pay for even the slightest mistake.
The Broncos have been pretty good at protecting the ball this year, notwithstanding the numerous times a would-be Trevor Siemian interception has been dropped. The Broncos have forced 20 takeaways, putting them at +5 in the turnover differential — good for fifth-best.
Since entering the league as Kansas City's first round pick in 2015, Peters has notched 13 interceptions — the most by any player in the league over that time-span. He has five picks already this year.
The Chiefs also have safety Eric Berry, who has two interceptions of his own, and has always been good at getting the ball out. This Chiefs defense is predatory and they've lived and died by it.
If the Broncos can protect the ball, it will neutralize Kansas City's most potent weapon. The Chiefs offense is ranked in the bottom third of almost every statistical category. Without their defense taking the ball away, and giving them extra possessions and good field position, their offense flounders.
Trevor Siemian will have to play it safe, even if that means staying away from Marcus Peters. There's a reason the Broncos have won 28 straight games when winning the turnover battle.
Time For The O-Line To Rise Against
Enough's enough, right? I don't care who starts, or plays, at right tackle. It's time for this unit to rise against the criticism that's been leveled at them and elevate the Broncos offense.
Russell Okung battled a lower back injury for the majority of Denver's first 10 games. Hopefully the bye week afforded him the opportunity to get healthy. When he was 100 percent, as he was in Denver's first couple games, he's among the best left tackles in the game.
Center Matt Paradis has been the glue that's kept this unit afloat. He's been Pro Football Focus' top-rated center throughout the season. Although he too has battled injury (hips), it hasn't negatively affected his performance.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1731690-myth-busting-the-broncos-... Right guard Michael Schofield has been better than solid at right guard. The Broncos coaches seem to have found the right place to play their 2014 third round pick.
Left guard Max Garcia, to be frank, has been atrocious this year. The Broncos seemingly remain committed to their 2015 fourth round pick, but if he doesn't improve his play coming out of the bye, it's time to see what this year's fifth rounder, Connor McGovern, can do.
Even without Jaye Howard, the Chiefs have two very good defensive linemen in Dontari Poe and rookie Chris Jones. Add to that an excellent linebacker corps, led by Derrick Johnson, and the Broncos will have their hands full at the point of attack.
Last year, the Broncos played their most complete game of the season following their bye. Both the offense and defense fired on all cylinders. The Broncos need a repeat of that collective performance.
But the running back-offensive line relationship is symbiotic. A running back needs his O-line to win their matchups and the O-line needs their running back to create, even when the play isn't blocked perfectly.
To win the time of possession battle and put points on the board, the Broncos will have to not only remain committed to the ground attack, but also be productive. The running back plays a role certainly, but it all starts up front with the Dancing Bears.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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