By Rich Kurtzman
When the Broncos and Chiefs kickoff in Kansas City this Sunday, it may be the most lopsided match-up of the year.
Denver has grown into a true contender, sitting atop the AFC West at 7-3, with a three-game lead. They boast the NFL’s second-best offense (30.1 PPG) thanks to Peyton Manning under center connecting with a new crew of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. But the Broncos aren’t a one-trick pony; they boast the most destructive defensive line in all of football. They’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks a league-high 35 times, with Von Miller second nationally with 13 on the season. Denver has even had success on special teams, scoring touchdowns on a punt a kickoff in recent weeks. Simply stated, the Broncos are one of the best teams in the NFL.
Conversely, the Chiefs are one of, if not the worst teams in all of football. They are historically horrendous this season, unable to even gain a lead during regulation through the first eight weeks, setting a new record for football futility. One look at Kansas City’s offense gives a glimpse into how bad this team really is. The Chiefs are the lowest scoring offense (15.2 PPG); they’ve scored the lowest amount of touchdowns (6), while tossing the most interceptions (15) and losing the most fumbles (16). Certainly, starting quarterback Matt Cassel’s injury has hurt matters, but he was playing at an extremely poor level when healthy, too. Now, according to NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus, Cassel may have permanently lost his job with Kansas City do to some of the worst quarterbacking play today.
That means Brady Quinn will get the start. Denverites should remember Quinn, the Broncos’ backup and then third string QB over the last two seasons that hardly ever saw the playing field. Quinn has a strong arm, but his decision-making has always been a weakness. Quinn went 9-14 for 95 yards after replacing Cassel last week, not notable numbers. It means the Denver defense will have the advantage and they’ll be looking to force turnovers.
On their five-game winning streak, Denver’s forced 13 turnovers, and with the Chiefs giving the ball away an NFL-high 31 times, everyone in blue and orange will look for their opportunity to steal the football. Kansas City is one of the worst passing teams too, averaging only 198 yards per game through the air. Dwayne Bowe is an amazingly athletic receiver, but when his QB can’t get him the ball, he can’t catch it. And it’s not like Bowe is infallible, he’s got a history of dropping passes. Plus, Bowe’s injured neck kept him out of last week’s game, and he’s questionable to play this Sunday.
The Chiefs actually do one thing well on offense; run the ball. Kansas City is fourth in the NFL with their 145.4 yards per game on the ground. Jamaal Charles, a smallish speedster in the backfield, leads the team with 821 yards and three touchdowns this season. Shaun Draughn will likely receive some carries this week as well, and he’s gained 193 yard with two scores on the year.
Surprisingly, Kansas City is solid in their pass defense, giving up only 215 yards per contest through the air, though they’ve only picked off six passes in 2012. Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense specializes in passing the ball better than nearly any other team in the NFL, and they’ll almost certainly attack primarily through the air with running back Willis McGahee placed on Injured Reserve Wednesday morning.
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. MT and can be seen on CBS.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.