Tale Of The Tape: Denver Broncos At Kansas City Chiefs
- QuarterbackIt’s been a remarkable season for Peyton Manning, and while he has been the leading candidate for the MVP award all season, he is at the most critical point of the season. When these two teams met in Denver in Week 11, Manning was able to pick apart the Kansas City defense as his offensive line gave him excellent protection. He will need an even better effort from that unit in this game.It’s not necessarily Alex Smith’s fault, but the Kansas City offense does not put enough points on the board to be considered an elite team. Smith is an excellent leader and reads defenses well, but he rarely throws the ball downfield. He did hit a couple of big passes in the first half against San Diego in Week 12, so perhaps head coach Andy Reid will give him a bit more freedom to attack through the air.
- OffenseThe Broncos have a slew of weapons that allow them to exploit most defenses. Running back Knowshon Moreno needs to get more credit as a talented back after ripping the Patriots for 224 yards. Wes Welker can get open on nearly every play, while fellow wideout Eric Decker can stretch the defense or catch the third-down pass. Demaryius Thomas is an excellent deep threat.The Chiefs have been dependent on their big and powerful offensive line all season. That unit has given running back Jamaal Charles the ability to have an excellent season running ball. He can get through cracks in the offensive line and also break plays. Wide receiver had a couple of big catches against San Diego and he is a better alternative than disappointing Dwayne Bowe.
- DefenseThe Broncos give up a lot of yards, but much of that is because opponents have been behind by multiple scores on so many occasions. While the Broncos have some weaknesses on defense as they rank 23rd overall, they also have several playmakers. Linebacker Danny Trevathan is the team’s leading tackler and has great range. Defensive end Shaun Phillips has the quickness and moves to get to the passer.The Chiefs have played stellar defense all season and they are going to have to be at their best against Manning and the Broncos. In addition to the pass-rushing ability of Justin Houston (elbow, doubtful) and Tamba Hali (ankle, probable), they have one of the best linebackers in the league in Derrick Johnson, who leads the team in tackles. Safety Eric Berry is a big hitter with excellent range.
- Special TeamsThe Broncos are a major threat on special teams thanks to the explosive running ability of Trindon Holliday, who has multiple TD returns this season. They also do a good job on punt and kickoff coverage. Matt Prater is one of the most consistent placekickers in the league.The Chiefs are similar to the Broncos because they have their own sensational returner in Dexter McCluster, who has a punt return for a score. Placekicker Ryan Succop has been quite consistent, but he has had some trouble on long FG attempts.
The Chiefs have a huge homefield advantage thanks to their loud crowd, but Kansas City needs to make some key plays on the offensive end. This has been the team’s biggest weakness to this point, so they must show some improvement if they are going to steal a game from the Broncos.