It should be a great game in the early hours of Tuesday morning between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. I am a huge Kansas fan and I always tread carefully where my heart is concerned, so with that in mind I
think the play tonight is R2,000 to win back R3,750 that Denver score at least 25 or more points at home against arguably the most porous defence in the league. Although Kansas are undefeated at 3-0 they have given up an
average of over 30 points per game and I am expecting another shoot-out tonight in the thin Denver air.
It’s primetime action on Monday Night Football as we close out the Week 4 slate with a clash between a pair of teams battling for supremacy in the AFC West. The high-octane offense of the Kansas City Chiefs heads west for the thin air of the Mile High City as they take on the Denver Broncos. Kansas City comes into the game as one of just three unbeaten teams left in the league entering Sunday. Denver is 2-1 on the season as they look to bounce back from their first loss of the year. The line opened with the Chiefs as 3.5-point favorites and has moved to Kansas City by 4.5 at most sportsbooks. Kickoff from Sports Authority Field at Mile High is scheduled for 8:15 pm ET and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
A Quick Review of the Season to Date
Kansas City Chiefs Review
It’s been full speed ahead for the Chiefs, who have been piling up offensive numbers by the truckload in the opening three weeks of the season. Kansas City is the frontrunner in the AFC West mainly because of their offense, something that they’ll look to utilize against the Broncos. The Chiefs opened the season with a 38-28 road win over the Chargers and followed that up with a 42-37 shootout win over the Steelers, also on the road. In that game, Kansas City jumped to a 21-0 lead only to see the Steelers tie the game twice. The Chiefs regrouped and managed to come up with the win behind the arm of second-year QB Patrick Mahomes.
In Week 3, the Chiefs rolled to a 38-27 win over the 49ers as a 5.5 point home favorite. Kansas City jumped to a 35-7 lead with 34 seconds to play in the first half and then managed to hold San Francisco at arm’s length as the closest the 49ers got was 11 points in the second half. The Chiefs’ defense must tighten up however as they’ve been outgained in all three contests. Sooner or later, the big plays will dry up: can the Chiefs play methodical football when the situation warrants it? Kansas City is 4-1 ATS in their last five Monday night contests.
Denver Broncos Review
Denver is 2-1 on the season, but they’ve been fortunate in a pair of close wins. The Broncos opened the season with a 27-24 win at home over Seattle in a game where the Seahawks failed to protect Russell Wilson in the passing game. Denver sacked Wilson six times, but Seattle was still in the game as Case Keenum tossed three picks. Against Oakland in week 2, the Broncos trailed 19-7 with under three minutes to play in the third quarter and 19-10 with under six minutes to go in the game. Denver rallied, scoring 10 points in the final 5:58, capped by a Brandon McManus 36-yard field goal just inside the right upright with six seconds to play.
The Broncos seemed to run out of magic in Week 3 against the Ravens. Denver led 14-10 after one quarter as they scored on their first two drives. Baltimore looked to figure the Broncos out after that as their final nine drives of the day ended with seven punts, an interception and turning the ball over on downs. Denver’s first scoring drive was set up by a blocked punt inside the Baltimore 10-yard line. The Broncos also blocked a field goal, but the fact remains that the offense was held in check for most of the day. Meanwhile, the defense was suffering with Adam Jones out at corner: Tramaine Brock joined him on the sidelines during the contest. The Broncos are just 2-7-2 ATS in their last 11 Monday night appearances.
Chiefs Offense vs. Broncos Defense
Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?
Kansas City Run Offense
Kansas City has been more of an aerial assault offensively in the early going of the season, which is strange considering Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie last season with 1,327 yards plus eight scores. The Chiefs ran the ball 28 times against the 49ers but didn’t have a ton of success. They mustered a total of 77 yards on the ground for a 2.8 yard-per-carry average. Hunt had 18 carries for 44 yards and a pair of scores, both coming from a yard out in the opening quarter of the game.
The Chiefs enter the game 7th in the league in total offense with 398.3 yards per game. On the season, the Chiefs come in 15th in the league with an average of 103.3 yards per game on the ground. Kansas City is tied for 19th in yards-per-carry as they average 3.9 yards per attempt this season. Hunt has run the ball 52 times for 169 yards, leaving him with a meager 3.2 yard-per-carry average, along with two scores.
Denver Run Defense
Denver has been led defensively by LB Todd Davis, who has totaled 21 tackles (16 solo) in the first three games of the season. Safety Justin Simmons has 18 tackles (16 solo) while Von Miller has 14 tackles (11 solo) on the season. Denver held Seattle to 64 yards on the ground on 16 carries in the opener and followed that up by holding Oakland to 27 carries totaling 92 yards on the ground in Week 2. Against Baltimore, the Broncos run defense was stout again as they held the Ravens to 77 yards on 28 carries, a 2.8 yard-per-carry average.
The Broncos have been stable enough defensively, ranking 13th in the league in total defense by allowing 340.3 yards per contest. Denver is an impressive 4th in rushing defense as they allow just 77.7 yards per game. The Broncos are tied for second in the league as they allow only 3.3 yards per carry.
They are ranked 31st in the NFL right now overall in terms of yards allowed. But they’ve been very good against the run, giving up just 3.6 yards per attempt and 67 yards per game to rank second in the NFL.
Kansas City has been high powered on the offensive side of things, but the run game hasn’t clicked for them so far this season. Facing a Denver defense that is solid at stuffing the run game isn’t a good matchup for the Chiefs to get things on track in that regard. Kansas City’s only chance of generating much of a run game would be if the Broncos sold out on pass defense to try and stop the passing game. Denver’s ability to contain the ground game gives them the edge in this one. The Broncos are 1-7 ATS in their last eight games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.
Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?
Kansas City Passing Offense
Kansas City has been tormenting the opposition through the air in the early going this season. The Chiefs have weapons all over the field for Mahomes to throw to as he has stepped right in for the departed Alex Smith. Mahomes was solid again against the 49ers as he posted his second straight 300-yard game. He hit 24 of 38 passes for 314 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. In the process, he became the first Chiefs QB that was drafted by the team to win a game at Arrowhead Stadium since Todd Blackledge back in 1987. For the season, Mahomes is 62 of 93 passing for 896 yards with 13 touchdowns against no interceptions while getting sacked just four times for a total of 11 yards.
Mahomes has a trio of talented targets that he works the ball to so far this season. Pro Bowl TE Travis Kelce leads the team with 16 grabs for 229 yards plus four scores. Meanwhile, receivers Sammy Watkins (14 receptions, 176 yards, TD) and big-play machine Tyreek Hill (14 grabs, 310 yards, three TD) are major threats on the outside. Eight of Hill’s catches have gone for at least 20 yards this season. The Chiefs are 7th in the league in passing yards per game with 295. Meanwhile, Kansas City is third in net yards per pass attempt (9.1) and tied for 13th in completion percentage at 66.7 percent. The team leads the league in passer rating with a robust 137.4 on the year. The Chiefs are 5-1 ATS in their last six games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
Denver Broncos Passing Defense
Denver has an elite pass rush that can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Miller has four sacks to his credit already this season: the team has a total of nine on the year. For their ability to get after the passer, when the Broncos fail to get to the QB, they have a tough time preventing big plays from happening. Denver gave up 242 yards and three scores to Seattle in the opening game of the season. The Broncos followed that up by allowing 281 yards plus a score to Derek Carr and the Raiders in a game where Carr hit 29 of 32 passes. Last week against the Ravens, Denver allowed Joe Flacco to complete 25 of 40 throws for 265 yards plus a touchdown.
The Broncos are going to be heavily tested in this one in the passing game. Adam Jones was limited at practice Friday while Tramaine Brock missed his second straight day of practice. Vance Joseph is hopeful that Brock can play in this one because there isn’t a ton of depth in the secondary for the Broncos. Denver had to put rookie Isaac Yiadom out there against the Ravens, and it set Baltimore up for some big offensive plays. The Broncos could be in for a long night in this contest, especially if one or both of the duo miss the game. Denver is 21st in the league in pass defense as they allow 262.7 net yards per game through the air. The Broncos are 25th in net yards per pass attempt allowed (8.2), 25th in completion percentage against (69.5) and 22nd in opposing QB rating at 102.2 so far this year. Denver is 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
This is a significant mismatch on paper as the Chiefs are an explosive passing attack while the Broncos have been carved up if they don’t get to the opposing QB. Kansas City already has 15 pass plays that covered at least 20 yards this season. Denver has given up 13 20-yard pass plays already this season. This screams to be in Kansas City’s favor unless Denver can completely overwhelm the Chiefs’ offensive line. Mahomes has faced Denver before, hitting 22 of 35 passes for 281 yards with an interception in a 27-24 Chiefs win here in week 17 last season.
Advantage: Kansas City
Broncos Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?
Denver Broncos Run Offense
Denver looked like they might take a step back on the ground this season as they let C.J. Anderson leave in free agency after the last season. After all, Anderson ran for 1,007 yards and three scores on the ground last year. Instead, the Broncos have gone with a pair of rookies, and things have worked out pretty well for them so far. Denver had a tougher time than they did in their first two games running the ball against Baltimore but still finished with 120 yards plus two scores on 24 carries for a five yard per carry average.
The two-headed rookie running back duo of the Broncos is based around Phillip Lindsay from Colorado and Royce Freeman from Oregon. Lindsay has run the ball 33 times for 198 yards while catching three balls for 35 yards plus a score. Freeman has contributed 36 carries for 152 yards plus two scores on the ground. To date, Denver is tied for 12th with 382.7 yards of offense per game this year. On the season, the Broncos are 3rd in the league in rushing offense with 144.7 yards per game. Denver is fifth in the league in yards per carry as they average 5.2 yards per attempt.
Kansas City Chiefs Run Defense
Kansas City has been sliced and diced quite a bit defensively, and they’re only 3-0 because of the offense. While some of the Chiefs’ numbers can be chalked up to the fact that they’re giving up yards in garbage time with a big lead, the fact remains that they’re giving up a lot of real estate. Kansas City was gashed on the ground by the 49ers last week. San Francisco ran the ball 29 times for 178 yards plus a score. It marked the second time in three weeks that they have given up at least 120 yards on the ground: the lone aberration was the win over Pittsburgh as they held the Steelers to 33 yards on 13 carries. That was more because of the Chiefs jumping to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, forcing Pittsburgh to throw the ball.
In 2017, the Chiefs struggled to stop the run: they finished 25th in the league by allowing 118.1 yards per game on the ground. Kansas City was tied for 23rd in yards per carry allowed as the opposition put up 4.3 yards per carry last season. So far this season, things haven’t been much better. The Chiefs are tied for 18th so far this year by allowing 111.3 yards per game on the ground this season. Kansas City is tied for the second-worst yard per carry average so far this season as opponents are picking up 5.2 yards per attempt so far this year. Anthony Hitchens has totaled 32 tackles (19 solo, three TFL) and Reggie Ragland has 20 tackles (10 solo) are very good at the LB spot, but they must get help.
Kansas City’s problems at making stops on the defensive side of the ball are concerning. The Broncos are likely to try and attack the soft middle of the Chiefs’ defense to control the clock and try to wear down Kansas City. More importantly, being able to run the ball keeps Mahomes and the explosive Kansas City offense on the sidelines. This one tilts in favor of the hosts as they should be able to move the ball on the ground early in the contest.
Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?
Denver Passing Offense
Denver has been decent in the passing game as Case Keenum continues to get acclimated to the Broncos. He had a career year with the Vikings last season, but when Minnesota added Kirk Cousins via free agency, it meant Keenum had to move on. Keenum threw three touchdown passes in the opening game of the year against Seattle but hasn’t thrown one in either of the last two games. More importantly, Keenum’s passing yards have declined each week, from 314 in the opener against Seattle to 217 against Oakland. Last week, he was 22 of 34 for 173 yards and an interception against Baltimore.
For the season, Keenum is 66 of 108 for 743 yards with three touchdowns against five interceptions while getting sacked five times. The talented duo of Emmanuel Sanders (19 grabs, 269 yards, TD) and Demaryius Thomas (16 catches, 144 yards, TD) continue to dominate the targets. Denver now has to replace Jake Butt, who had eight grabs for 85 yards in the first three games. He suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday and is done for the year. Denver has 16 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards on the season already with Sanders leading the way with six. The Broncos are 16th in the league in passing yards per game with 238. Denver is 15th in the league in net yards per pass attempt (6.3) but stand just 24th in completion percentage at 61.1 percent. The Broncos are just 28th in passer rating as the team has a 71.6 mark so far this season.
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Defense
Kansas City has seen opposing teams move the ball almost at will through the air so far this season. The Chiefs have given up a lot of yards later in games as they’ve run up hefty leads in all three games. Of course, the problem is that the team is eventually going to have to show they can stop an opponent for a full 60 minutes. Kansas City has seen opposing teams post a passer rating of at least 103 in all three games this season. The Chiefs have mustered only six sacks with Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and Allen Bailey each having one. Kansas City saw Philip Rivers throw for 418 yards and three scores in the opener. Ben Roethlisberger gashed the Chiefs for 442 yards plus three scores while the 49ers were more pedestrian, tossing for 228 yards plus two scores in the loss.
The Chiefs’ secondary is led by Eric Murray, who has 20 tackles (12 solo) plus a pass defended. Ron Parker has 19 tackles (16 solo), two pass defenses, plus the team’s lone interception while Kendall Fuller has 18 tackles (12 solo) so far. Kansas City hopes to get Eric Berry back soon as he continues to recover from a ruptured Achilles sustained in the season opener last year. The Chiefs are tied for 30th in passing defense as they give up 362.7 yards per game through the air. Kansas City is tied for 25th in net yards per pass attempt against (7.4) and is 19th in completion percentage as the opponents are hitting 66 percent of their throws. The Chiefs are 27th in passer rating as opposing teams have a 106.3 rating against them this year. Kansas City has given up 17 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season.
Kansas City’s defense has been a sieve this season, and that is going to be a challenge. Ford is dealing with a groin issue and could be limited in this one. The Broncos have been good moving the ball through the air, and they have a pair of veteran receivers in Sanders and Thomas. That’s going to put pressure on the Chiefs’ corners, who haven’t done much in the way of making big plays this season. While the Broncos have to find a way to replace Butt in the passing game, they still have the edge over a weak Kansas City unit.
Special Teams, Coaching, Intangibles
Kansas City has been pretty solid in the special-teams department this season. Kicker Harrison Butker has drilled all 16 extra point attempts and both his field goal tries with a long of 46. De’Anthony Thomas has averaged 19.3 yards per return on his three kick returns this season and had a 48-yard punt return in his lone attempt this season. Hill has four punt returns for 100 yards, including a 91-yard score against the Chargers in the opener.
The punt-game has been excellent for the Chiefs as Dustin Colquitt has averaged 49.2 yards per punt this season. The net average for him is impressive as he has a 49-yard net average this season. Five of his nine punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Football Outsiders has the Chiefs ranked as the top special teams unit in the league.
Denver has put together a good showing on special teams so far this season. The Broncos hope they can keep the Chiefs in check in the return game. Brandon McManus has booted all seven extra point attempts, and all four field goal attempts this season. Two of his attempts have come from outside 50 yards with a long of 53. Also, we’ve seen the Broncos block a punt and a field goal already, which can quickly change the fortunes of a team.
DaeSean Hamilton has averaged 10.3 yards on his three punt returns while Jones has put up only a 3.3-yard average on his three returns this season. In the kick return game, Devontae Booker had a 23-yard return on his lone attempt while Lindsay had an 18-yard return in his one attempt. Marquette King has a 44.6 yard average on his 17 punts. He has a 42.8-yard net average so far with six of his kicks being downed inside the 20-yard line. According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos are ranked 14th in special teams this season.
Who has the Edge?
It’s hard to argue with being the best, and that’s where the Chiefs stand in the special teams game. The dynamic Hill has four punt returns and a kick return for a score in his career. Kansas City has allowed just two punt return yards this season, which has assured that Colquitt has the best net punting average in the league while he ranks fifth in gross punting average. King is just 23rd in gross punting average and 15th in net punting average at 42.8 yards per kick. The return game is slanted toward the Chiefs as well, and that works in their favor.
Advantage: Kansas City
Andy Reid is no slouch as a head coach. This marks his 20th season as a head coach: he spent the first 14 years with Philadelphia, and this is his sixth season in Kansas City. In his career, Reid has compiled a 186-120-1 record as a head coach. His teams have made the postseason 13 times, and he has an 11-13 record in the postseason. Reid led the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX along with NFC Championship Game appearances in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2008. With Eric Bieniemy hitting all the right buttons on offense, the Chiefs are a force to be reckoned with each and every week.
Vance Joseph spent five seasons as the defensive backs coach for the 49ers from 2006 to 2010 after one season as the assistant defensive backs coach. He then was the DB coach for the Texans from 2011 through 2013 and spent two seasons (2014, 2015) with the Bengals in the same role. In 2016, he took over as the defensive coordinator of the Dolphins before interviewing and earning the head coach job with the Broncos. Denver started off 2-0 last season but went 3-11 the rest of the way to record a 5-11 mark, their worst record since the team went 4-12 in 2010. There were rumors that he could be fired after the season last year but he managed to retain his job.
Who has the advantage?
Reid has plenty of experience as a head coach, and he has been involved in five NFC Championship Games along with a Super Bowl appearance. The Chiefs have a well-oiled coaching machine, and it’s led by the epitome of the everyman in Reid. Joseph is still fighting to keep his job, and that leaves plenty to be desired.
Advantage: Kansas City
The Chiefs are piling up points as they lead the league with 39.3 points per game so far this season. Kansas City has turned the ball over just once in the first three games as Mahomes has lit the world on fire. The Chiefs have a ton of skill position players to work with as there are multiple targets to work within the passing game. Kansas City has won each of the last five meetings against the Broncos and will look to continue that run while maintaining their perfect record.
Denver has to prove that their 2-0 start wasn’t a fluke like last season. In 2017, the Broncos started 2-0 then lost to Buffalo in week 3. Denver went on to beat Oakland in Week 4 before losing eight straight games. The team split their last four, but it was far too little, too late. The Broncos won two close games to start the year before getting dumped by Baltimore. Denver won both their home games to start the year: can they snap their slide against the Chiefs and make it 3-0 at home while picking up their second division win of the season?
Who Has the Edge?
Kansas City has owned the series in the last couple of seasons with five straight wins: before that, the Broncos had won the previous seven meetings. With the Chiefs’ ability to move the ball through the air and their recent success in the series, you have to lean their way. Denver has shown a penchant for turning the ball over, which could help the Chiefs as well. The Broncos are trying to work through injuries that could make things difficult for them.
Advantage: Kansas City
Time to place those bets
The Chiefs have been electric offensively, and they’ve carved up Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco so far this season. This isn’t the Denver secondary with Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby in the slot that we’ve seen in recent years. Talib signed with the Rams, and while the other two are still around, they haven’t played to their previous bar. If Jones and Brock are limited, that’s going to make life even more difficult for the Broncos defensively. Denver’s best chance is to pound the ball on the ground to bleed the clock and try wearing down the Chiefs defense while keeping the offense off the field. The problem for Denver is that they haven’t stopped the pass this season and Mahomes has been explosive. Kansas City is 7-1 ATS in their last eight on grass, 7-1 ATS in their last eight overall and 4-1 ATS in their last five after scoring at least 30 points in their last game. Denver is just 1-4 in their last five after being held under 15 points in their last game, 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven at home and 1-8 ATS in their last nine after an ATS loss.
Taking a look at the over/under, this one is pretty cut and dried when you look at things. The Chiefs lead the league in scoring offense and rank just 30th in scoring defense by allowing 30.7 points per game. Denver is 20th in scoring with 20.3 points per game and 16th in scoring defense by allowing 23.3 points per contest so far this year. Kansas City has put up at least 38 points in each of their three games this season. While the Broncos have been decent defensively, they are weak in pass defense, and there are too many weapons to try and contain. Denver will be forced to try and keep up in a shootout, and that doesn’t bode well for a turnover-prone Keenum. The over is 4-0 in the Chiefs’ last four road games, 4-0 in their last four on Monday night and 4-0 in their last four week four games. Denver has seen the over go 4-0 in their last four against teams with a winning record and 5-2 in their last seven on Monday night. The over has gone 5-0-1 in the previous six meetings between the teams. With the explosive Kansas City offense, this one likely follows a similar trend.
Kansas City 38, Denver 26