By Rich Kurtzman
The Kansas City Chiefs are somewhat an enigma. At first, it was tough going for K.C., as they lost multiple starters on defense and started the season 2-3, including a loss to the Broncos, before their bye. After the rest week, the Chiefs ran off five straight wins and sat tied with the Broncos at 7-3 last Sunday.
But when they played the Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football, the “black hole” spelled doom for Kansas City. The Raiders were winless, 0-10 on the season, but they put it all together and found a way to beat the Chiefs even though K.C. knew they had to win to stay in contention for the division.
The Chiefs’ defense allowed rookie Derek Carr to lead a last-second drive to win the game – he celebrated as though he’d won the Super Bowl – and they’ll certainly be anxious to erase those memories and prove to the football world they can still compete.
Kansas City is led by head coach Andy Reid, who’s clock management leaves much to be desired. He doesn’t seem to understand how to use timeouts to save the clock during end of half and end of game drives, which must be quite frustrating for fans of the red and yellow.
When he was hired, Reid traded for quarterback Alex Smith, who has performed OK, but not great this season. His 13 touchdowns thrown are tied for 17th best in the NFL, though his mere four interceptions make Smith one of the most efficient QBs in the game today. What makes Smith special is his ability to move the pocket, roll-out and even run for first downs if needed. Though, he’s also a risk to give away the ball when he tucks it to take off, with four fumbles on the year. One of the best ways the Broncos can nullify Smith’s effectiveness is by putting pressure on him with consistency, and both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will look to do just that on Sunday night.
Of course, the most effective runner and offensive player on the team is Jamaal Charles. Charles is an electric running back, utilizing neck-breaking juke moves to be elusive and dart through tiny holes in the offensive line. He’s racked up 772 yards and eight touchdowns, while his 5.1 yards per carry average is spectacular. Charles is also a talented pass-catcher, with 26 receptions for 130 yards and three scores through the air. He’ll be a focal point of the Denver D, a unit that calls themselves the second-best in the NFL at stopping the run.
On the Chiefs defense, the Denver offensive line has to look out for Justin Houston and his 13 sacks, as he’ll be coming after Peyton Manning, no doubt. Houston’s an animal, incredibly fast around the edge, and he’ll give right tackle Louis Vasquez a definite test. The Broncos can’t forget about Tamba Hali, either, who has five sacks of his own as well as a team-leading three forced fumbles. The Chiefs will almost certainly try to pin their ears back and pressure Peyton, because that’s the way to disrupt Denver’s high-flying passing game. If the Broncos offensive line can stand up and control the line of scrimmage like they did against the Miami Dolphins, it will only increase Denver’s chances of winning a tough, divisional road game on Sunday Night Football. And if they bring a balanced offensive attack again, they’ll be incredibly difficult to stop.
This one’s shaping up to be a classic AFC West battle and the Chiefs are notoriously good at home in November and December; Denver must remember that this week.
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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. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.