The Special Teams matchup this week favors the Denver Broncos
This week, the Denver Broncos host the division rival Kansas City Chiefs. These two clubs are on opposite ends of the spectrum, throughout both the league and their division. The Broncos are very close to the top and in fact are Super Bowl favorites at present, while Kansas City has a distinct possibility at the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The oddsmakers believe that their is little chance that the Chiefs will come out victorious with a 16 point spread, but "Any Given Sunday" is as commonplace in the league as parity.
Kansas City used to have one of the best Special Teams Units throughout the league. Part of the reason they have slipped is due to the recent instability in Coordinators. Mike Priefer coordinated Kansas City’s Special Teams from 2006-08 and they had the 13th ranked Unit in 2006. Steve Hoffman accepted the position of Special Teams Coach with the Chiefs in 2009, when Priefer came to Denver as the ST's Coordinator under Josh McDaniel. He inherited the 27th ranked squad and improved it up to #19. Once again there was turnover and Tom McMahon was hired in 2012. While a ST’s Coordinator is limited by his personnel and must use backups and the bottom of the roster to make ends meet, having turnover at the coaching position as well as the roster makes for inconsistency all around. As a result, Football Outsiders have Denver at 14th and Kansas City at 23rd overall. Pro Football Focus lists the Broncos at 5th overall and the Chiefs 28th.
I would also not discount injury and tragedy having an effect to the Chiefs Special Teams troubles this season.
Ryan Succop has been the Chiefs Kicker since 2009. This season, he is 27 for 32 (84.4%) on Field Goal Attempts with a long of 52. His career long is 54 yards. Ryan has made all 17 Extra Point Attempts. In
56 Kickoffs, Succop has 25 Touchbacks (44.6%). The average landing area of his kickoffs is the 1-yard line. 27 of Succops kickoffs have been returned an average of 25.6 yards.
Kansas City’s Punter and Holder on Field Goals is Dustin Colquitt, who as we all know, is the older brother of Broncos Punter Britton Colquitt. Dustin is one of the best Punters in the NFL, although the AFC West clearly has the best Punters league-wide.
Colquitt has punted 75 times in 2012, with a gross average of 46.9 and a Net of 40.3 yards. His longest went 71 yards. Dustin has produced 7 Touchbacks while placing 42 Inside the 20 yard line. 7 went out of bounds, 17 were downed, 25 were returned an average of 14.2 yards and 2 went for Touchdowns.
He hasn’t had any Blocked this year, but the 14.2 return average and 2 Touchdowns have me excited for the Broncos return men.
The Chiefs Long Snapping specialist is Thomas Gafford, a 6-2, 250 lb. product in his 5th year out of Houston. Gafford signed with Kansas City in August of 2009 and has appeared in 72 career games with 15 Special Teams Tackles and one Fumble Recovery on punt coverage during that time. Thomas has 1 Tackle this season.
Javier Arenas is and has been, the primary Punt Return man for the Chiefs. He has fielded 38 punts this year, returning 34 of them an average of 8.7 yards with a long of 27 yards. Rookie Devon Wylie and Dexter McCluster have both taken snaps at returning punts, but haven’t been nearly as effective (6 PR, 3.5 avg)
The Kick Returners are a different story. Shaun Draughn has the most touches with 23 and has a 23.3 average. Javier Arenas has returned 10 kickoffs for a 20.4 average and Devon Wylie, 6 returns at a 20.3 yard clip. In all, the Chiefs returners are averaging 21.5 on 46 touches.
Linebacker Edgar Jones leads the Chiefs Special Teamers with 7 Tackles. Overall, he ranks as their best coverage player. Against the Buccaneers, Edgar had a blocked punt return for a Touchdown during Week 6 in Tampa Bay. Linebacker Cory Greenwood is next with 6 Tackles and 2 Missed Tackles. Linebacker Brandon Siler (5 TKL, 1 Ast), Wide Receiver Terrance Copper (5 TKL, 1 Ast, 1 MT), Cornerback Jalil Brown (4 TKL, 1 Ast, 1 MT) and Linebacker Andy Studebaker (4 TKL, 1 MT) round out the leaders on the Kansas City Coverage teams.
The Chiefs 25.6 yard average allowed on Kickoffs is the 7th most in the league and their 14.2 yards allowed on Punt Returns are the 2nd most allowed this season according to ESPN stats. They are tied for 1st (Buffalo, Detroit) having surrendered 2 Touchdowns in 2012.
Those two TD’s were the Bill's Leodis McKelvin had an 88 yard punt return in Week 2 in Buffalo. Then in Cleveland, during Week 14's contest with the Browns, Travis Benjamin had a 93-yard Punt return for a Touchdown.
The Special Teams matchup this week is a wash with the Kicking game, but Denver has the edge in the Coverage and Returns. And that could have an effect on the outcome, especially a big play early in the game.
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