Not a lot has changed since my breakdown of our first match-up with KC. Both teams have the same strengths and weaknesses as before.
Given the quality of each team, DEN was able to win in KC, so it is reasonable to assume that the advantage goes to DEN even more so at Mile High. There is still room for planning this game differently (due to injuries changing the complexion of the game).
First, you might want to review the Xs and Os breakdown I gave for the first meeting of the teams. This will give you a good starting point for knowing how the teams match up:
There are some notable changes.
- Will we use run-contain? We haven't been lately, but with the influx of new players and the season pretty much out of reach, now would perhaps be a good time to start practicing it.
- The loss of KC OLB Donnie Edwards is a crippler for an already poor KC Def. His usefulness as a coverage OLB in the Tampa-2 is critical, and his abilities allow flexibility with play calling for the OLB on the other side of the field.
- Will Stokely be at WR? How is Walker progressing? Their health affects our game planning too.
KC weakness at OLB
With Edwards out KC will have to rely on the pass rush of the front four. This is one area that KC can feel good about. With Edwards in, KC could blitz the other OLB here and there. Right now they must depend on the front four for all of their pressure.
Denver can scheme more passes to this seam, since none of Edwards' back-ups have coverage speed (including former Steeler and Colorado resident Bell).
KC is not good at stopping the run, but I don't think the loss of Edwards hurts them here. Expect a heavy dose of Scheffler in the zone seam on passes, and Graham blocking on runs. Confusion will work for Denver on some rare Graham passes out of run looking plays.
To compensate for the loss of Edwards, the key for KC is an effective pass rush (their strength). For DEN the key for the Edwards injury is to pass early and often to that seam.
Potential injury issues with Stokely & Walker
We have become so used to Stokely doing so well as our #1 WR that we forget he is really our slot receiver. If Walker plays well we will be fine at WR. Schef has lined up at slot and done excellent there.
If that scenario happens (Stokely out, Walker in) expect to see a lot of Schef in motion before the play starts. Schef lines up (or Graham for that matter) against the OT showing run, but then motions into slot. This won't confuse KC for mismatches like it would many teams (KC will stay in zone and keep their people where they are). But it willthrow the safeties, who now have to weigh where they plan on going to for their cover-two. Schef could even line up slot, then motion to the OT (showing run), but the play still goes pass. Lots of cute varients can go in here.
If both players are in expect a lot of three receiver sets, one TE, and single back. As good as DEN receivers run block, the Broncos can run or pass out of this formation. In this case the TE may motion from the OT to a FB position (a Denver trademark), since the KC front four likes to blitz the center of the line more than the outside.
Here again, Denver has more flexibility to scheme and adjust than KC, but KC can compensate for anything DEN does if the front four gets the pressure they are known for.
Walker should play either way, the only question being whether he is back 100%. If he isn't 100% he can "dummy" plays, pulling defenders to his zone to allow other players room. If he doesn't get the coverage in his area Cutler can use him as a safety valve near the sideline where Walker can avoid hits.
KC QB situation
Not listed as one of the main changes for this game, it is still worth considering. Croyle and Huard are both injured. One or both might not be ready for the game. It doesn't take a former coach to know that we want to hit these guys as often as we can. Forcing a third string QB onto the field effectively ends the game.
Other than what I've put down above, the only other thing I'll mention is that both teams have poor STs recently.
KC has three keys to the game:
- Protect their QB
- A great pass rush from the d-line
- Stay in position (don't be fooled out of zone assignments by players in motion, or by Denver's misdirections like the boot)
- Even though the Xs and Os don't call for it, the injuries to the KC QBs begs the Broncos to blitz
- Prevent the KC d-line from an effective pass rush, so that KC has to take players out of critical assignments to assist in blitzing
- Hit the seams heavily in passing. Focus on using the TEs, both in receiving and in QB protection