Unless you have been completely incommunicado for the past two days, you know by now that the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since Obama was president. In doing so, the team moved to 3-5 and got into contention for a playoff spot in the wide-open race for the seventh seed in the AFC.
The AFC currently has four teams at 6-2, all leading their respective divisions; one team at 5-3; three teams at 4-3; and the almost every other team at 3-4 or 3-5. The only two win team is the Patriots. I love typing that last part. No AFC team has fewer than two wins.
With a two game win-streak, one of which came over KC that had won six in a row overall and 16-straight over Denver, the Broncos moved from contemplating a tank season to contemplating a playoff spot.
Now here’s the rub: neither of those two wins was all that convincing. The Packers are one of the worst teams in the league and the Chiefs did their best to give the game to the Broncos with five turnovers. It’s hard, but not impossible, to win in the NFL when you turn the ball over five times.
In the Super Bowl Era, NFL teams who turn the ball over five times in a game are 204-1435-13. That's a 12.4% win percentage. Only two teams, Raiders and Cowboys, have better than a 20% win percentage. Three current NFL teams have never won a game when they turn the ball over 5x. pic.twitter.com/jhzdPAusUM— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) October 30, 2023
Of course, the push-back is that the Broncos did force three or four of those turnovers with great plays (the muffed punt and the pick on the desperation throw were not really forced, IMO).
The Bronco defense did force a weakened (by the flu) Patrick Mahomes into the second worst game of his career game. His two worst career games by passer rating are both against the Broncos:
- Sunday’s game, in which he had a passer rating of 59.2
- Dec. 5th, 2021 (KC won 22-9). Mahomes had a passer rating of 57.3
Mahomes now has thrown 19 TDs and 11 interceptions against the Broncos on 457 passing attempts for an interception rate of 2.41% and a TD:INT rate of 1.73 . Against the rest of the league he has 188 TDs and 46 INTs on 2840 attempts for an int rate of 1.62% and TD:INT of 4.09. Suffice it to say that even though Mahomes had never lost to the Broncos prior to Sunday, he has not played as well against Denver as he has against the rest of the league.
The much-maligned Bronco defense has shown great improvement with the jettisoning of Randy Gregory and Frank Clark and the return to health of Josey Jewell, Justin Simmons and DJ Jones. Something else that I’ll discuss in more depth in my mid-season snap count analysis is the shake-up in the Bronco secondary which has seen a demotion of Damarri Mathis and promotions to both Fabian Moreau and Ja’Quan McMillian.
The defense (really the team, since the offense and special teams share some of the blame) gave up 181 points in the first five games of the season - 36.2 ppg - which was on pace to be the highest in league history. However, the team has only allowed 45 points in the last three games - 15.0 ppg - to bring the average for the season down to 28.3, which is still bad, but nowhere near worst ever.
Most likely (with one game yet to be played this week), the Broncos will finish the week 29th in points allowed at 226. Currently the Commanders (228) and Colts (229) have allowed more, but one bad game could move the Broncos back into last place, which is the Broncos defense still sits in terms of yards allowed per play at 6.3. The Bengals and Chargers are tied for second worst at 5.9 YPP allowed.
The Broncos are also still dead last in passer rating allowed at 106.3. The Commanders are the next worst at 102.2. The Ravens lead the league at 71.6. They also lead the league in YPP allowed at 4.2, which is pretty sick. They give up 2.1 yards fewer per play than the Broncos currently.
Our defense YPP allowed is one reason why I am still worried that this two game win streak is not sustainable. That being said, the yards allowed against the Packers and the Chiefs on Sunday were the second and third fewest allowed this season by the Bronco D, only the opening game against the Raiders was better.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the offense had been great on opening drives scoring TDs on 4 of 7 and then terrible after that, only scoring TDs on 16% of drives after the opening drive. On Sunday the Broncos scored TDs on their first, third and ninth drive and they should have had a FG on the seventh drive, which opened the third quarter and chewed up 8:26 of game clock. The KC player who blocked the kick was lined up in the neutral zone, but somehow the official didn’t see it.
Even without the FG that should not have been blocked, the Bronco offense managed 24 points and left plenty of points on the field with a couple of sacks that took the team out of field goal range and/or led to turnovers. The Bronco offense is currently 14th in scoring. The Broncos have not finished higher than 19th (in 2015) since finishing second in scoring in 2014. The good part is that the offense seems to be finding it’s stride with a solid ground game that features two dynamic running backs in Javonte “Pookie” Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin. Samaje Perrine is now slouch as the 3rd down back.
When Russell Wilson has had his best seasons, he has had a strong running game and a solid defense. The 2023 Broncos might just have both of those now that Baron Browning is healthy, Nik Bonitto is finding his game and the secondary appears to have gelled despite injuries and suspensions.
With 9 games remaining, how many of those 9 do you see the Broncos winning?
This poll is closed
9 - we’re running the table baby!