The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are near mirror images of each other through ten games. Same number of wins. Winning through good defense and a just good enough offense. We caught up with Joel Thorman over at Arrowhead Pride to get the lowdown on the Chiefs.
1) I'm seeing a lot of similarities between our teams as we meet for the first time in 2016...very good defenses with strong pass rushers and very lackluster offenses for instance. What advantages and weaknesses do you see for KC in this week's game?
Yeah I mean you said it right there. The Chiefs want to rush the passer, force turnovers and not screw it up on offense. Sound familiar? The Chiefs have been up and down this year due to injuries and other inconsistencies. The pass rush was so bad early on this year that I thought it would ruin the Chiefs season. Then Dee Ford stepped it up with the start of his breakout year. We're hoping he can play with his hamstring injury. Justin Houston is back too. So put the pass rush under a strength.
The offense looks good on paper and has had its moments but for the most part they have taken a step back, and that's headlined by Alex Smith. He doesn't seem as comfortable this year on third down and the red zone and the offense bears that out. It's been a problem all year if we're being honest but the Chiefs loss last week really magnified it.
2) Our teams haven't met in a long while. Last year I feared your strong run game behind Jamaal Charles. Can you tell MHR about what you've seen from your RB corps this year?
Spencer Ware has stepped in as the replacement for Jamaal Charles and he's doing a solid job. He got off to a really hot start before a concussion derailed him for a few weeks. He's not the same type of athlete as Jamaal but they can do similar things - catching the ball, pass blocking, etc. They're both complete backs. Where Jamaal had the speed, Ware has the between the tackles power. Behind Ware is Charcandrick West (you might remember him) and the recently re-acquired Knile Davis. If either of those two are getting significant carries, something has gone wrong.
3) Denver as a team is getting healthy for this week's match up. What are the key injuries on the Chiefs and how significant are they?
Injuries have been a big problem for the Chiefs this year. Justin Houston is back. That's the good news. Marcus Peters missed his first career game last week and solidified his spot as the team MVP because the Chiefs missed him quite a bit. He's not only good at forcing turnovers but also brings an energy. They're hoping to get him back this week. Dee Ford left at halftime last week with a hamstring injury. It's fortunate timing because Justin Houston just came back but it's unfortunate because Ford is in the midst of a breakout season. He and Houston have hardly played together in two and a half years. Jeremy Maclin has been out for a few weeks and is another significant injury. His absence certainly isn't helping Alex Smith. I don't know where he stands. Jaye Howard is a defensive lineman who has been out lately but the Chiefs defensive line depth continues to come through with Rakeem Nunez-Roches ("Nacho") with a breakout game last week. They'll find someone to step in there and play next to Dontari Poe and rookie Chris Jones. Derrick Johnson will play but he's been battling an injury. It looks like he's taken a step back this year but perhaps it's just the injury.
4) Justin Houston is leading the charge against an offensive line in Denver that is plainly offensive at times. How did he look against Tampa Bay and what do you expect from your star pass rusher this week?
He played more than 50 snaps which was a surprise to me. I didn't expect him to play that much so his conditioning is in a good spot. The Chiefs still rotated him but I would've predicted he played like 15 snaps. He was solid at playing the run, which has been a strength of his and a weakness of other Chiefs outside linebackers so that was noticeable. The pass rush wasn't quite there last week. It wasn't just Houston as no one got to Jameis Winston but we're still waiting for him to find his groove there.
5) What are your 3 keys to the game and prediction?
The Chiefs key to the game is always turnovers. They can't win in Denver if they don't win the turnover battle. The second key is establishing the run. The Chiefs can not play one dimensional on offense. They need to get some confidence and line up and play smashmouth against the 29th ranked run defense. The final key to the game is winning the special teams battle. I don't usually put that as a key but these two teams are similar. They're both going to be playing field position. It's probably going to be low scoring. The punt units will be important. I'll take the Broncos winning this one, 16-13.