The Denver Broncos are at a point in their season where just about every game is a “must-win” if they’re serious about contending for the playoffs, which makes this week’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs the biggest game of Vic Fangio’s career in Denver. To win, they’ll need to have a way to slow down Patrick Mahomes and answers for Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive pressure schemes. They’ll also need Tom McMahon’s special teams to have a mistake free contest.
To get a better idea as to what lies ahead in Kansas City, I reached out to Arrowhead Pride’s Tom Childs. Our conversation follows.
1st and 10
For as scary as the KC offense is, they’re having a down year. What’s going on with Mahomes? Is there anything the Broncos can do to keep the bad times going?
Childs: There is no doubt that the Chiefs offense is having a down year. After being one of the (if not the most) consistent units in the league for a few years, they are undoubtedly in a slump right now. On occasions, we see signs of life but it tends to be in bunches as opposed to every single drive.
It would be unfair to put it all on Mahomes’ shoulders. Yes, he hasn’t played to his ridiculously high standards but he is still been playing at a fairly decent level - certainly well enough to put up more points than the Chiefs have been. I saw a stat this week that no pass catchers have cost their team more points with drops than Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Again, these two are held to similar standards as Mahomes, so any drop from that will give the illusion that they have been ordinary - when it hasn’t been the case.
If these three players can find a way to click at the same time, then we might see the Chiefs of old.
The Broncos should bring the same game plan that they used in Arrowhead last year. It was a beauty of a bend don’t break performance from Vic Fangio that massively frustrated the Chiefs offense. That type of performance paired with the Chiefs misfiring will almost certainly lead to a win for Broncos Country.
But I thought Mahomes was broken?! https://t.co/KUSi6q0JkA— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) December 1, 2021
2nd and 8
The Broncos front has struggled against teams with the personnel up front to pound the rock, especially between the tackles. Do you expect the Chiefs to take advantage? Is there anything Denver can do to slow down the rushing attack?
Childs: I wouldn’t get too worried about the Chiefs rushing attack if I was you. In Trey Smith, Creed Humphrey and Joe Thuney they have an interior line that is flat-out violent. Week after week we see highlight plays from Humphrey and Smith that often end in defensive lineman or linebackers eating the dirt.
Now to go into such detail about the interior while also showing clear excitement about the big men upfront, you are probably are confused by the first line in answering this question. Well, let me explain my skepticism about the Cheifs rushing attack. It doesn’t matter how much success the Chiefs have on the ground, they simply will not commit to running the football on a consistent basis - and to be honest, the Chiefs Kingdom can’t work out why? The Chiefs average a very impressive 4.6 YPR (10th in the NFL) but are down in attempts per game, coming in at the bottom half of the league. I’m guessing it’s something to do with a guy called Patrick Mahomes?
As long as 15 is KC’s quarterback, the Broncos should probably put their focus on slowing him down, because the Chiefs will slow down their own rushing attack for you.
3rd and 6
While the season long stats suggest the Chiefs’ defense is abysmal, they’ve been pretty solid since the loss to Tennessee. How can the Broncos move the ball on Kansas City?
Childs: Your summary is spot on. The in-season swing from all-time bad to very good has been quite remarkable. At first, I thought it was a couple of flash in the pan performances against Daniel Jones and then Jordan Love - nothing to get too excited about. But it was when the Chiefs shut down Derek Carr and Dak Prescott that I really took notice.
The reason for the turnaround seemingly isn’t one particular thing - more so, a number of things all happening at the same time. First, there was the addition of Melvin Ingram; then there was the benching of every quarterback’s favorite punching bag, Daniel Sorenson; and then finally - and probably the most important part - was Chris Jones and Frank Clark both returning to full fitness at the same time. All three of the things have led to a unit that is genuinely exciting to watch.
Most impressively is that this current version of the Chiefs defense has no glaring weaknesses.
That is if they are healthy...
The key thing going into this week is the availability of cornerback, Rashard Fenton. He has been a monster this year for the Chiefs. If Fenton can’t go then it will likely be Mike Hughes stepping in for him. The Broncos should definitely attack that guy - trust me.
4th and inches
One of the scariest parts of this matchup is along the line of scrimmage. The Broncos finished the Chargers game with Lloyd Cushenberry and four backups along the offensive line. How will Steve Spagnuolo test the pass protection on Sunday night?
Childs: Oh did they? In that case, Spags will be licking lips. We see time and again how the Chiefs defensive coordinator likes to prey on backups and inexperience.
With this news, I should imagine we will see a lot of blitzes from the Chiefs, especially if the Chiefs offense manages to hold their end of the bargain early. The Chiefs defense is at its’ best when playing with a lead. Chris Jones, Frank Clark & co. will have free reign to pin their ears back and go.
Likewise, there is a case for the Chiefs just to send 4 players and drop 7 into coverage, trusting their defensive linemen to overwhelm their potentially overmatched opponent.
You just never know with Spags.
The Broncos can of course counter this with quick passes and the screen game. I’m a big fan of Javonte Williams. The Broncos would do well to get him involved early and often.
What’s your prediction for the game? Broncos win if...? Chiefs win if...?
Childs: The Broncos win if they can match their defensive performance from last year in Arrowhead. The 2021 version of the Chiefs offense is not as well equipped to deal with that type of game plan, so maybe the Broncos hold the Chiefs to even less than 22 points.
The Chiefs win if the legend of Andy Reid after the bye continues...And I think - said through Chiefs red-tinted glasses - that it will. The offense is starting to look better and the defense is looking dominant right now (pinch me).
So I am going for a prediction that will no doubt trigger all of Broncos Country and have you all hating on me in the comments: Chiefs win 38-13. The Chiefs are due a true 3 sides of the ball ‘hey look at us, we’re still here’ game. When and where better than a rocking Arrowhead on Sunday Night Football against a hated but also, highly respected foe.
Who wins on Sunday night?
This poll is closed
Broncos by a ton
Broncos by a little
Chiefs by a ton
Chiefs by a little