This week, it’s do or die for the Denver Broncos. With a win, and a little help, the Broncos get a chance to keep playing football into mid-January. Lose to the Kansas City Chiefs and the road to the playoffs will most likely result in a dead end.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... The first matchup between the AFC West rivals produced another great game that ended with the Chiefs on the winning side, 30-27. The game is best remembered for Denver blowing an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Still having a chance to win in overtime, a botched 62-yard field goal by Brandon McManus essentially sent the Chiefs home as winners, as their own field goal would be converted on the ensuing possession.
There are huge implications on both sides. If Denver can win the following two matchups, it will have a big hand in helping them emerge victorious.
Tyreek Hill vs. Riley Dixon
Fresh off of being named to his first Pro Bowl, the rookie Tyreek Hill has become Dante Hall 2.0. A threat running or catching the ball, Hill had his coming out party in the first meeting with Denver, rushing for one touchdown, adding another catching the ball and taking back one back on a punt return.
Hill almost single-handedly wrecked the Broncos.
Hill is the type of player that Coach Andy Reid covets in his misdirection-heavy offense. Not a polished receiver just yet, Hill can still hurt a defense any time he touches the ball. Look no further than Kansas City's game last week versus the Tennessee Titans. Despite having only one touch, Hill made it count, taking a gadget play 68 yards to the house.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1739464-week-16-denver-s-path-to-... Hill did snag nine catches in the first matchup with Denver but only managed 52 yards against the No Fly Zone, meaning that his biggest impact on Sunday could be in the return game. Averaging a healthy 14 yards per punt return and 28.2 yards on kickoffs, Hill is a weapon. The Broncos must do all they can to keep the ball out of his hands.
Rookie punter Riley Dixon has been an immense upgrade over the now departed Britton Colquitt. Since Denver's seventh round pick took the starting job, he is averaging 41.4 net yards per punt. Add in the 6.8 return yards allowed, due mostly to the hang time Dixon creates, and you can see that the Denver coverage units have been rock-solid all year.
Save for the Week 12 loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos have done a great job limiting yards on kick and punt returns this year. In what figures to be another knock-down, drag-out contest between the two rivals, special teams will play a critical role and leave a small margin for error.
Tamba Hali vs. Russell Okung
With the news that rush linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford have missed practice recently, the onus will fall on left tackle Russell Okung to contain the best remaining pass rusher for the Chiefs.
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Despite entering his 11th season out of Penn State, Hali is still a force on the right side of the defense. In much the same role that DeMarcus Ware has been for the Broncos, Hali has been the veteran leader of the Chiefs front seven and has chipped in a respectable 3.5 sacks and 32 combined tackles this year.
One of those sacks came at the expense of Okung during Kansas City's Sunday night win in November. Additionally, Hali would help in the run game that night, adding five tackles in a season-best effort. If Houston and Ford miss this week’s game, it will be a spotlight battle for Okung to nullify Hali.
Denver's free-agent signee from Seattle has had a rough go in his first season in a Broncos uniform. Starting the season strong, Okung has faltered as the 2016 campaign has progressed. Still, he is the most experienced and accomplished offensive lineman on the team and his best performance is needed to keep quarterback Trevor Siemian clean, in order for the Denver offense to attack an opportunistic but average Chiefs pass defense.
It's a fitting end to the season that the Broncos will have to win their last two games against the Chiefs and Raiders, if they are to have any shot at earning the last AFC seed in this year’s playoffs. With ill feelings on both sides, it would make the Chiefs more than happy to see the Broncos making vacation plans when the season ends, should Kansas City send them home as losers this Christmas.
Each team enters needing a win. With a victory, Kansas City punches its own ticket to the postseason and Denver needs a win to stay alive and hope for some luck. If Denver can find a way to put together a complete effort in all three phases of the game and win the key matchups, there is no reason to think they can’t leave Arrowhead Stadium with a sorely-needed triumph.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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