There is a great Twitter account out there called @NFLMatchup by ESPN that gives brief snapshots of the best and worst for any given situation on the football field. This week, I honed in on what the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs both do well and poorly against to see if there were any matchups either could exploit.
- Play Action. Trevor Siemian is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when utilizing play action, but the Broncos defense is the league’s worst when defending it. The Broncos defenders bite hard on the play action and it costs them to the tune of 8.42 yards per play, which is a full yard more than the next worse team. Alex Smith will likely capitalize heavily on those miscues.
- Nickel Defenses. Both the Broncos and Chiefs are the NFL’s worst defenses when utilizing nickel formations. The Chiefs give up a whooping 8.1 yards per play, while the Broncos are second worst giving up 7.0 yards per play.
- First Down Defense. The Broncos are among the best first down defenses in the NFL, while the Chiefs are among the worst. The Broncos will have a huge test in defending Kareem Hunt who leads the NFL in first down rushing averaging 6.5 yards per carry. The winner in this battle will be the one that tackles after first contact. Hunt ranks fourth in the league, while Jamaal Charles is sixth and C.J. Anderson is ninth in yards after first contact.
- Shotgun Running. Again, all three running backs excel when running out of shotgun formations. Charles ranks sixth, Hunt seventh, and Anderson ninth.
- Stopping Travis Kelce. The Broncos defense sports one of the weaker matchups when defending against opposing tight ends, while the Chiefs are one of the better units. However, that might be more of a challenge for them with Eric Berry out.
- Explosive Plays. This is where Siemian needs to shine. The Broncos defense leads the league in fewest explosive plays given up with just 30, while the Chiefs defense has given up the most this season with 78. Both quarterbacks, Siemian and Alex Smith, have some of the lowest percentages of drops by their wide receivers in the NFL. So if the plays are there to be made, their wide receivers will likely be sure-handed enough to make the play.
- Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. Both defenses will want to create pressure and force offensive blunders. The Broncos defense is among the leagues best at creating pressure, but has relied heavily on that through their blitz packages. Smith also commands the fourth best passer rating when pressured, so the Broncos defense will need to get some turnovers when they do get to Smith. On the other side, Siemian is, by far, the worst quarterback in the NFL when pressured, so they will need to keep his jersey clean in this game.
The game could go either way depending on the outcome of just a few of these matchups. If the Broncos can execute their offense like they did in the first two weeks then this game is going to come down to the wire. If not, we could see Brock Osweiler in the second half.