The Denver Broncos start the second half of their 2010 campaign hosting the division rival Kansas City Chiefs. The (2-6) Broncos have stranded themselves in the nether region of the AFC West and their season can't get much worse. Meanwhile, the (5-3) Chiefs are a team on the upswing and are making a serious effort to win the division, something that hasn't happened for them since 2003. Denver needs a win coming off their Bye week and Kansas City looks to rebound from a tough overtime loss to Oakland in the Black Hole last Sunday.
Weather and Conditions
The weather forecast for the game calls for a touch of winter, but it shouldn't mar the field conditions since the Broncos have a heater hidden beneath the turf.
|Precip: 10% Spectator Index: 4|
For the current up-to-date conditions you can visit here.
Injuries and external factors
WR/RB Dexter McCluster has sat out the last two games with a high ankle sprain. His absence has been felt in the passing game, where his speed is something opponents must account for in their defensive plan. He participated in individual drills on Thursday. McCluster ran, planted and cut through wide receiver drills for the first time since injuring his ankle against Jacksonville last month.
Brian Waters (shoulder) went through drills as well, although he is listed as a limited participant after practicing for the second consecutive day.
FS Kendrick Lewis missed the game in Oakland due to a right hamstring injury. He was able to do some light practice work last week, and has been limited this week as well. He should be near ready to go Sunday in Denver. If Lewis can play, he will likely start.
The Chiefs also added Jon McGraw to the injury report on Thursday with a knee injury. McGraw practiced with the rest of the defensive backs in a limited capacity and was inside the locker room after practice, but the situation is one worth watching considering that Lewis was inactive last weekend.
Kansas City is getting a premium return off of their 2010 Rookie class. Eric Berry is the starting SS, Kendrick Lewis is pushing for the starting FS spot, Dexter McCluster has a Return touchdown and is a threat anytime he touches the ball. Javier Arenas is the starting Return man and Tony Moeaki is their leading receiver.
Todd Haley has a habit of going for it on fourth downs and the Chiefs have been successful in half of their attempts.
The Kansas City Offense is ranked 11th in points with 22.9 per game average. They are 14th in Total yards (348.5), 30th in Passing yards (168.9) and are the most productive in the league when it comes to running the ball, putting up 179.6 yards per contest. They are 33.6% (36/107) on 3rd down conversions and 50% (6/12) on 4th downs. The Line has allowed 11 Sacks.
The Quarterbacks are starter Matt Cassel and number two guy Brodie Croyle. Cassel is 125/214 for 1412 yards, a 58.4% Completion rate, 12 touchdowns 4 interceptions for a 89.2 QB Rate. Brodie Croyle has yet to make an appearance this year.
The league's best rushing attack is led by the Running Back tandem of Jamaal Charles (113 carries, 719 yds, 2 TD's and 21 Receptions, 238 yds) and Thomas Jones (137 carries, 570 yds, 3 TD's and 4 Rec, 21 yds). Jones has rushed for 500 yards for five different teams. Jackie Battle (8 carries, 24 yds, 1 TD) is there to contribute where he can.
The Fullbacks are Tim Castille and Mike Cox. They mostly lead the way for Jamaal and Thomas, but both can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.
The Wide Receiver Corps consist of Dwayne Bowe (26 Rec, 420 yds, 7 TDs), Rookie speedster Dexter McCluster (15 Rec, 147 yds, 1TD and 11 carries for 60 yds), Chris Chambers (8 Rec, 82 yds), Terrance Copper (6 Rec, 57 yds) and Verran Tucker (1 Rec, 11 yds, 1 TD).
The Tight Ends are Leonard Pope (4 Rec, 43 yds), Rookie Tony Moeaki (30 Rec, 344 yds, 2 TDs) and Jake O'Connell. Moeaki leads the Chiefs Offense in receptions.
KC has already improved on the 4-12 record the team posted last season. The Chief reason for this is the Offensive Line. LT Branden Albert, LG Brian Waters, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Ryan Lilja and RT Ryan O'Callaghan are the starters. Rookie OG Jon Asamoah, OT Barry Richardson and C Rudy Niswanger are the backups.
Defensively, the Chiefs rank 8th in points against (18.1), 15th in Total points against (331.2), 21st in Pass Defense (232.9) and 9th against the run (98.4). As a matter of fact, they have yet to surrender more than 90 yards to an opposing rusher. They have sacked the opposing quarterbacks 18 times and allow their opponents a 35.9% (42/117) conversion rate on 3rd downs.
The starters on the Chiefs 3-4 Defensive Line are DE's Tyson Jackson (6 TKL, 9 AST) and Glenn Dorsey (22 TKL, 10 AST, 0.5 SK). The Nose Tackle is Ron Edwards (7 TKL, 5 AST, 2 SK). Shaun Smith (14 TKL, 16 AST), Anthony Toribio (3 TKL, 2 AST) are backups and Wallace Gilberry (12 TKL, 1 AST, 4 SK, 1 FF) is a pass rush specialist.
The Outside Linebackers are Mike Vrabel (18 TKL, 14 AST, 1 FF), Tamba Hali (17 TKL, 8 AST, 8 SK, 2 FF, 2 Pass Defensed), Andy Studebaker (10 TKL, 4 AST, 1.5 SK) and Charlie Anderson. The Inside Linebackers are Jovan Belcher (31 TKL, 16 AST), Derrick Johnson (49 TKL,16 AST, 3 FF, 8 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD), Corey Mays (3 TKL), Demorrio Williams (9 TKL, 1 AST, 1 FF, 1 PD), Mark Simoneau, Rookie's Justin Cole and Cory Greenwood (6 TKL, 1 AST). Tamba Hali needs a half Sack to tie his career best (8.5 in 2009).
The starting Cornerbacks are Brandon Flowers (31 TKL, 6 AST, 1 FF, 10 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD) and Brandon Carr (25 TKL, 7 AST, 8 PD). Rookie Javier Arenas (15 TKL, 2 AST, 1 FF, 4 PD) is contributing well. Travis Daniels (2 TKL, 1 PD) and Jackie Bates are the backups.
5th overall draft pick Eric Berry (34 TKL, 11 AST, 2 SK, 1 FF, 4 PD, 2 INT) is the starting Strong Safety and is the second leading Tackler for the Chiefs. Donald Washington (11 TKL,7 AST) and Reshard Langford (3 TKL) are the backup options. The Free Safety position is manned by a platoon of Jon McGraw (18 TKL, 7 AST, 5 PD, 2 INT) and Rookie Kendrick Lewis (11 TKL, 6 AST, 3 PD). McGraw has been playing a Safety/Linebacker hybrid role for the Chiefs this season. He will also come in on the Nickel package and covers the opposing Tight Ends. Lewis is more of a Ball Hawk who began his college career as a Wide Receiver.
Ryan Succop does the kicking chores for Kansas City. He is 12 for 15 (80%) with a long of 45 yards and has made all 21 extra point attempts. He has 5 touchbacks on 40 kickoffs that routinely land at the 9 yard line. 33 of his kickoffs have been returned an average of 20.6 yards.
The Long Snapping Specialist is Thomas Gafford.
The Punter and Holder is Dustin Colquitt. He has punted 44 times for a 43.9 yard average, with a net of 37.5. Dustin's longest punt this year is 60 yards. He has placed 14 Inside the 20 and has 6 touchbacks. Nine of Colquitt's punts have been Fair Caught and 20 have been returned for an average of 8.2 yards.
Rookies Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster are the Return men for the Chiefs. Arenas has returned 19 kickoffs for an average of 21.0 yards, with a long of 33 and 1 fumble. He has 18 Punt Returns for an average of 9.2 yards, with 3 Fair Catches and his longest return is 36 yards. McCluster has 10 Kickoff Returns for a 21.5 yard average and a long of 33 yards. He has also returned 7 punts for a 20.9 average, the longest being a 94-yard touchdown return.
Other notable Special Teamers are Terrance Copper, with 7.5 Tackles, Cory Greenwood (5.5), Andy Studebaker (5), Thomas Gafford (3.5, 1 FR). Jackie Battle, Javier Arenas, Corey Mays and Donald Washington have 3 Special Teams Tackles each.
THE FIRST SIX WEEKS
The Chiefs started the 2010 season with 3 victories. They beat San Diego (Week 1) and San Francisco (Week 3) at Home and overcame the Browns in Cleveland during Week 2. After their Bye in Week 4, KC traveled to Indianapolis and were beat 19-9. Week 6 brought a 35-31 loss in Houston.
Chiefs 42 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
Hoping to change their two game losing streak the Chiefs returned home to host the Jaguars. In the first quarter the Chiefs took the lead on a RB Jamaal Charles 4-yard TD run. The Jags replied with a Josh Scobee 35-yard field goal and an 18-yard TD pass from Todd Bouman to Maurice Jones-Drew. That lead didn't last as Thomas Jones rushed for a 1-yard TD. Then Scobee hit an 18-yard field goal. The Chiefs scored again when Matt Cassel completed a 53-yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe. The Jaguars responded with Bouman connecting with Mike Sims-Walker on a 9-yard TD pass, but the Chiefs pulled away for the win after Derrick Johnson got a "Pick Six" from 15 yards out. Matt Cassel hit Bowe once more for a 6-yard TD pass, and Jackie Battle finished off the game with a 1-yard TD run.
KC was running on all cylinders in this contest. Matt Cassell went 13 of 18 for 193 yards with two TDs and no INTs. That's a completion percentage of 72.2 percent and a 144 passer rating. The Chiefs' offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and pounded out all sorts of room for Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles to the tune of 236-yards. Thomas Jones had 125 yards and one TD on 20 carries, including a 70-yard run following a Jacksonville turnover. The Defense held Maurice Jones-Drew to 47 yards on 16 carries and got two INTs, putting one of those in the end zone. On Special Teams, the coverage unit gave up 35- and 29-yard returns to the Jaguars on kickoffs and then the 49-yard return on punt coverage. Javier Arenas had two kickoff returns for a mere 22-yard average and took fair catches on three punts.
Chiefs 13 Buffalo Bills 10
Coming off their win over the Jaguars the Chiefs stayed at home for a date with the Bills. The teams battled scoreless until late in the 2nd quarter when Matt Cassel got a 1-yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe. Buffalo scored in the 3rd quarter with a Rian Lindell 43-yard field goal. Ryan Succop kicked a 28-yard field goal and the Bills tied the game with Ryan Fitzpatrick's 4-yard TD pass to Steve Johnson to take the game into Overtime. Succop won the game on a 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left in OT.
KC ran for 274 yards against the league's worst rush defense. Jamaal Charles put up 177 yards on 22 carries and 61 yards on four catches. Thomas Jones had 77 yards on 19 carries as the Chiefs went over 200 yards for the third game in a row. The only thing the Chiefs didn't do on the ground was score. Matt Cassel threw 26 passes, was sacked three times and Dwayne Bowe caught his 6th TD pass of the season.
The Chiefs Defense had three sacks and an interception by Rookie Safety Eric Berry on an overthrown pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick. They held Lee Evans to five catches for 56 yards. Fred Jackson was the leading rusher for Buffalo with 64 yards on 20 carries.
The return game wasn't too special. Javier Arenas averaged just 23 yards on kickoff returns and nine yards on punt returns. The Coverage teams were good, but Dustin Colquitt's net punting average was an atrocious 29.7 yards because of a 33-yard return and two touchbacks.
Chiefs 20 Oakland Raiders 23
After beating Buffalo in OT, the Chiefs made their way to the Black Hole (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) for divisional match-up with the Raiders.This one went into Overtime as well. Kansas City took the lead in the 2nd quarter when Matt Cassel completed an 11-yard TD pass to Verran Tucker and Ryan Succop added a 43-yard field goal. In the 3rd quarter the Raiders narrowed the deficit on Jacoby Ford's 94 yard Kick Return for a touchdown. The Chiefs got a 25-yard field goal from Succop, but the Raiders responded with a 2-yard TD pass from Jason Campbell to Khalif Barnes. Oakland grabbed the lead on Sebastian Janikowski's 23-yard field goal. Then the Chiefs took the lead back when Cassel found Dwayne Bowe on a 20-yard TD pass. KC couldn't hold the lead and Janikowski booted a 41-yard field goal. Campbell threw a 47-yard pass to rookie Jacoby Ford in overtime to set up a 33-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski to give Oakland the win.
All season long the Chiefs had been able to run the ball, but they were unable to get the running game going with any consistency in Oakland. The Black Hole sucked all the substance out of the league's best rushing unit as the Raiders held the Kansas City to just 104 yards on 34 carries. Oakland Rookie wideout Jacoby Ford caught six passes for 148 yards. Chiefs Cornerback Brandon Flowers got burned for most of those catches. Nobody else hurt the Chiefs in the passing game, and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was held without a catch.
The Kansas City rush defense allowed 112 yards and gave up only one long run, a 34-yard scamper by Darren McFadden. Otherwise, the Raiders averaged just 3.2 yards. The Special Teams gave up a kickoff return for a TD, had a punt return TD of their own erased by a penalty.
As is normal in a contest featuring the Oakland Raiders, there were plenty of penalties. In fact, there were 27 all told, and the Chiefs were called for a dozen of them. Six on the Offense, five on Special teams and One on the Defense. All that, plus five turnovers and two blown fake punts sealed their fate.
This will be the 100th regular season match-up between the Division Rivals. The Chiefs lead the series 54-45. Who can forget the last match-up where Kansas City got two pick sixes and Jamaal Charles had a career day putting up 259 yards on the Broncos in a 44-24 romp in Week 17.
The Broncos have a 31-19 home field edge over the Chiefs and are 8-1 at home against Kansas City since INVESCO Field at Mile High opened in 2001. The Broncos have won 11 of the last 16 regular season meetings in Denver.
Las Vegas has the odds favoring the Chiefs by 1.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Denver has a golden opportunity here. Even still, they need to be careful. Kansas City is smarting from an OT loss to the Raiders and will be looking to take it out on someone -- namely the Broncos. By the same token, the Chiefs are reeling just a bit. After ripping off three straight wins to open the season, they have lost three out of their last five games, and all of those losses have come on the road. In fact, Kansas City is a mere 1-3 on the road so far this year.
Denver needs to play careful and play smart. They also need to play with a balanced defense -- if they cheat up too much to stuff the run, Cassel and company can pick them apart with high percentage, low risk passes. The defense also needs to find a way to pressure Cassel at least some of the time -- he is not as effective when he's on the run. On the offensive side, the Broncos need to pass to win, but they must also sell the run well enough (by getting more than 1 or 2 yards at a time) to keep the Chiefs defense from simply "teeing off" on Orton and using him as a human pinball.
It's time to take charge of the season and that begins with beating the division rivals.