After two prime-time thrillers in 2016, Denver and Kansas City are set to square off once again under the bright lights of Monday night.
After losing seven straight games to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, Kansas City has had Denver’s number in the last three games. Andy Reid’s offense averaged 31 points per game en route to three straight wins, by a 14-point average margin.
Things do look a bit different for Kansas City this year, as heroes from last year’s meetings, Cairo Santos with the game winning kick off the upright and Dontari Poe with a touchdown pass, no longer dawn the red and gold.
Denver will line up with similar personnel as in 2017, but this year it’s Joe Woods heading the defense instead of current Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips. The Chiefs offense deployed its speedy weapons, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, to exploit a vulnerable man-coverage defense in 2016, and will likely face similar secondary coverage this time around.
The man coverage scheme bodes well for Kansas City, as the only time the Chiefs offense really struggled this year was against Pittsburgh’s cover 2. The passing attack will be key for Kansas City, since the Broncos boast the NFL’s second best run defense.
Defensively, the Chiefs pass rush has the opportunity to make up for a poor showing in Oakland against Trevor Siemian and a banged up offensive line. Denver has not shown the ability to play from behind, so striking first and forcing Denver to pass on second and 10’s, third and longs, will lead to more pressure and potentially more turnovers.
The backfield of C.J. Anderson and former Chief Jamaal Charles has performed well at times, but are coming off a game with a combined 14 carries and 46 yards, en route to Denver’s first shutout loss since 1992.
Not helping Siemian’s cause, Pro Bowl wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will not play against Kansas City, essentially forcing Demaryius Thomas to play with a lingering leg injury suffered two weeks ago.
How Charles performs in his return to Arrowhead will be a factor watch, but Denver has started to include Devontae Booker more in the backfield after battling injuries earlier this year. The second year back out of Utah has showed flashes, with 100 receiving yards in two games, and could spoil Charles’ homecoming.
As always third down will be key for both teams, something the Broncos will key in on after converting just three of 16 third and fourth down attempts last week.
Chiefs’ rookie kicker Harrison Butker has been almost perfect taking the place of Santos, and may even have the edge over established Denver kicker Brandon McManus. After back to back seasons knocking through 85 percent of field goal attempts, the most accurate kicker in Bronco history has already missed five field goals in 2017. He only missed five all of last year.
Both Denver and Kansas City enter the game after a disappointing couple weeks, but both teams showed potential early in the season, with quality wins on each resume.
The Broncos are still ranked number one in total defense, with pass rusher Von Miller leading the way with seven sacks in six games. Losing on Monday would officially put Kansas City in a free fall with a third straight loss, while a win would keep the Chiefs’ division lead at a comfortable two games.
Kickoff from Arrowhead is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday.
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