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Chiefs vs Broncos 5 questions: Is the No. 1 seed in the AFC still in play for KC?

To preview Sunday’s game, we go “behind enemy lines” to get a feel for the Chiefs and the state of the franchise.

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

At least if Melvin Gordon fumbles in this game it will help the Denver Broncos.

Aside from that, there’s not much to look forward to when it comes to Sunday’s game from the Broncos’ perspective.

Denver has not beaten the Kansas City Chiefs since September 2015. And that’s highly, highly, highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely to change this weekend in Denver.

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as heavy +9-point underdogs. The fact that the number isn’t higher is surprising. Yes, this is a divisional game, but the Chiefs are coming off a tough loss and the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still there to claim. This number should be at least 12. As for the total, that number sits at 44. That number is way too high. If you want a “safe bet,” the under is 11-1 in Denver games this season and that will surely hit again on Sunday, even if Kansas City hits 30 points.

To preview the game, we go behind enemy lines with Jared Sapp from Arrowhead Pride to get a feel for the Chiefs, how the fans are doing after the tough loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and whether the team can still get the No. 1 seed.

MHR: How is Chiefs Kingdom feeling after the tough loss to Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals? What is the thinking on getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC right now?

Jared: It has been a good week to stay off of Twitter for Chiefs fans. There has probably been too much overreaction to a three-point loss to a good opponent where the game turned on a fumble by a future Hall-of-Famer in Travis Kelce. But Chiefs Kingdom really wanted this one. The Chiefs have such an easier five remaining games than the Bills do, so there’s still an expectation the No. 1 seed is realistic. Most rational Chiefs observers acknowledge some major flaws the Bengals game showed. And even if the Chiefs run the table — facing the Texans, Seahawks, Raiders and Broncos twice — those concerns will probably remain going into the playoffs, regardless of winning the top seed.

MHR: What is Kansas City’s biggest liability/weakness? And how can the dumpster fire of Denver’s offense do anything against the Chiefs defense?

Jared: On offense, the Chiefs currently have a lack of speed and home-run ability. Mecole Hardman has never justified being a second-round pick, but defenses still had to account for his speed, which helped the narrative that the Chiefs were fine without Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs offense has been slightly more predictable since he went on IR (and trade acquisition Kadarius Toney subsequently going out with a hamstring injury). The Chiefs were able to take care of business against the Rams even going one-for-six in the red zone. But they could have used the threat of a Hardman jet sweep against the Bengals.

The Chiefs defense looked inept against the Bengals, but they have largely been adequate against most opponents. The Chiefs’ rookie cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams are getting better every week at taking outside passing away, though Williams was burned against the Chargers with a veteran move by Keenan Allen — and Tee Higgins was successful against him a couple of times. The middle of the Chiefs defense looked wide open last week and the Broncos should test it early and often with short passes. But the unit also played really well following both previous losses, so the Broncos will have to be better than they have been to take advantage.

MHR: How do the Chiefs and the fans view Denver at this point? Is this even a rivalry anymore given that the Broncos haven’t beaten KC since 2015 and Mahomes has never lost to them?

Jared: Yeah, I’ll admit Chiefs Kingdom has enjoyed watching the much-hyped Broncos fall flat. Probably more than we should. Our focus has long moved from division opponents to the Bills and Bengals. This week does not feel like a rivalry at all because the Chiefs just lost to the team we currently hate the most. There seems to be a national narrative that the Broncos will be terrible for as long as they are tied to Russell Wilson. Whether that’s true or not, Chiefs fans probably are taking that idea to the extreme.

MHR: What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? And how surprised are you that the spread isn’t higher?

Jared: At the time I’m writing, DraftKings has the Chiefs at -9. It’s probably fair given the quality of play from the Broncos defense even in a lost season — and the Chiefs’ tendency to not blow out opponents when winning comfortably. And after so much prime time exposure to the Broncos, I’d say a nine-point lead against them feels like a 20-point lead over most teams. I like an away field goal being the first score (+280).

The Chiefs’ have scored first on a field goal in three of their five games since the bye. I can see them spending their first drive testing the Broncos defense, and this is a week where they probably will take points where they can and not be too aggressive unless the Broncos offense appears unexpectedly effective.

MHR: What are your expectations/predictions for Sunday’s game?

Jared: Everyone seems to win ugly against the Broncos, and I expect the Chiefs continue the trend. The Chiefs will likely try to win this one in as few plays as necessary. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is also always willing to give up a garbage time touchdown as long as the clock keeps moving. I know Russ has been bad, but Bryce Perkins and the Rams backup receivers managed a meaningless touchdown against the Chiefs, so I think the Broncos can find the end zone late to make the score look more respectable than their performance actually was. I’ll take Chiefs 24, Broncos 13.