WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
With Damon Huard under center, the Chiefs should have a better chance at moving the ball through the air this weekend. Huard isn't a Pro Bowl quarterback by any means, but in the past he's shown an ability to find both Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe. And he can certainly complete more than two of 12 passes to start a game, as Tyler Thigpen did a week ago in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, the Broncos enter Arrowhead with the league's worst-ranked pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks are completing an astronomical 72 percent of their passes against Denver's defense, with 13 completions going over 20 yards.
The Broncos usually assign cornerback Champ Bailey to cover Gonzalez, but Bowe often victimized Denver's #2 cover man, Dre Bly, at Arrowhead Stadium last season (105 yards). The Broncos' real problem is a lack of a pass rush, as their only true threat in that department is third-year defensive end Elvis Dumervil (21 sacks the last two seasons), but even he is without a sack in 2008. However, expect the Broncos to move Dumervil around to take advantage of KC's weakness at right tackle in Damion McIntosh.
WHEN THE BRONCOS PASS
Simply put, the Broncos are throwing the ball all over the yard this year as few Mike Shanahan offenses have in the past. Quarterback Jay Cutler is second in the league in completions, touchdown passes and yards and has been sacked only once this season due to a vastly improved offensive line that features two new starting offensive tackles (rookie Ryan Clady and second-year man Ryan Harris).
Receiver Brandon Marshall, despite his offseason woes, is flourishing with a whopping 24 catches in just two weeks of play. Tight end Tony Scheffler is finally contributing in the passing game and rookie Eddie Royal, a lightning quick receiver who torched Oakland's DeAngelo Hall in his first pro game three weeks ago, has 18 catches and two scores of his own.
Essentially, Denver is loaded in the passing game and has the weapons to beat the Chiefs deep, intermediate, and short all day long. Kansas City's lack of a pass rush (no sacks from defensive ends Tamba Hali and Turk McBride), combined with the Broncos' great pass protection, means a long day for the Chiefs' rookie corners, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, both of whom will start. The Chiefs have no corner who matches up well with Marshall's massive 6-foot-4 frame.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
Was the 184 rushing yards churned out by Kansas City's offense against the Falcons last week a sign of things to come, or a mirage? If the Chiefs have truly re-discovered their rushing attack, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles should be able to find running room against the Broncos.
Denver upgraded their defensive tackle position this offseason by trading for former Jet Dewayne Robertson. They also moved failed middle linebacker DJ Williams back to his rookie position at weakside linebacker, and have stuck with Nate Webster in the middle. The talent shuffle appears to have worked, at least for now.
The Broncos are allowing a high number of yards per rush (4.4), but shut down LaDainian Tomlinson two weeks ago and did a respectable job of stopping Oakland's running game in Week 1. The Saints were forced to abandon their running game after falling behind 21-3 a week ago.
However, the Broncos have never really stopped Larry Johnson. In five career starts against Denver, Johnson has five 100-yard games and five rushing touchdowns. Look for the Chiefs to run it up the middle, especially on first down – so far that's been a key part of their gameplan every week.
WHEN THE BRONCOS RUN
Because of the success of Denver's passing game, their normally dominant ground game hasn't been required to do any heavy lifting. However, the old zone-blocking and cutback action is still around and still working pretty well. The Broncos are averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per carry.
Mike Shanahan has split the load between Selvin Young, Andre Hall and veteran Michael Pittman, who usually enters the game in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Young burned the Chiefs twice last year with outings of 109 and 156 yards. His speed and quickness gave KC's safeties problems on the perimeter, and so far this year Kansas City's tackling hasn't been good.
If the Chiefs want to have any hope of finding a run defense this season, it starts this week. Young and Hall are good players, but not exactly elite running backs. Will KC's linebackers start showing up, or continue missing tackles?
The Broncos appear to have successfully broken in two young specialists in punter Brett Kern (averaging an impressive 49.4 yards per punt) and kicker Matt Prater (five for five on field goals) this season. Rookie Eddie Royal has given Denver life on punt returns, an area of weakness in previous years. Meanwhile, the Chiefs will cross their fingers that Nick Novak can make a 32-yard field goal this week. Kansas City may be forced to use rookie Dantrell Savage on kick returns due to BJ Sams lingering hamstring injury.
The Chiefs were swept last season by an inferior Broncos team, and now face a confident Denver squad loaded with offensive weapons. Can Damon Huard inject life into Kansas City's offense, or will he exit early again due to a mysterious injury? Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards is 2-4 lifetime against Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan.
The Broncos simply have too many weapons on offense for Kansas City's young defense to handle. Kansas City's offense will look improved against a weak Denver defense, but won't keep pace with Shanahan and Cutler.
Broncos 35, Chiefs 20
The Matchups – Chiefs vs Broncos
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