Only the delusional could ever honestly say that a week 11 victory over Denver is guaranteed. Certainly, with their phenomenal (despite a decrease in sack production) defense, the Chiefs have more than a fighting chance to hand the Broncos another tick to put in their loss column. However; the reasonable see that there is much room for improvement in all aspects of the game for the Chiefs. I've formulated a plan for each of the phases of the game which could be key to maximizing the bye week's positive impact on Kansas City's play.
Offense: Back to the Basics
Don't get me wrong, I will never criticize Alex Smith, mainly because he is everything Kansas City needs in a quarterback--smart, agile, confident, and calm--but some of #11's throws over the last few weeks have been a little erratic. On check-downs to Jamaal Charles or other hot receivers, he's thrown bullet passes where a soft lob would do. On deep throws, he overthrows the majority of his targets. Of course, this ensures that passes fall incomplete rather than being picked, but pinpoint accuracy will be of the utmost importance in big games against Denver, Washington, Indianapolis, and even San Diego.
Kansas City's offensive line has been struggling to hold its own as well this season. Keeping #11 on his feet is the top priority of this offense, because even if none of his receivers are open he can scramble like a maniac. However, allowing Smith to be sacked only sets the Chiefs up to be in more third-and-long situations. Furthermore, with one of the most explosive and talented running backs in NFL history running behind them, the O-line needs to be smart, physical, and extremely technical. Their objective in the run game should be to allow Charles to get to the second level untouched, and thus far they have been decent at best in doing so. As the season progresses, every sack and tackle for loss allowed by this offensive line will be that much more devastating.
The Chiefs' receiving corps is among the most talented in the league, but as was made evident in Buffalo this weekend they are far from perfect. Passes dropped by wide-open receivers are one of the most devastating ways to kill momentum, as they lower morale in addition to not moving the chains.
With these issues in mind, the best way for the Chiefs offense to make use of this bye week is to get back to the fundamentals of football. Smith should throw literal hundreds of passes to his receivers, working through the playbook until muscle memory allows him to put the ball right on the spot every single time. The receivers should concentrate on looking the ball in before turning up-field to score. Finally, the O-line should spend time working on communication, coordination, and being far more physical than they have been thus far. Heading into the stretch of the schedule that will demand the most from this offense, the O-line must be able to manhandle opponents, giving Smith more time to make his reads and deliver the ball, and allowing Charles to run through solid lanes. In other words, the Chiefs offense must be treated like a high school team for this bye week; an emphasis on focus and execution should be made.
Defense: Unbridled Aggression
Bob Sutton should do the exact opposite with his defense during the bye week. With the exception of RGIII, the Chiefs have played every quarterback left on their schedule this year. There will be no surprises from opposing offenses. These next seven games will be old-school football; each team will do their best to play the game according to their plan, daring the other team to stop them. With that in mind, Sutton's defense can revert to their play style of the first five weeks of the season: man coverage with jams at the line of scrimmage, one deep safety, and an aggressive, relentless pass rush. Kansas City defensive backs can do what they do best, running receivers ragged and jumping for the ball. Since Manning will be a fairly immobile target, the DBs must do their job well enough to keep receivers covered until the pass rushers can get #18 on the ground. The key to beating Denver (and other teams with high-flying offenses) is rattling their confidence. This can only be brought about by sacks, forced fumbles, and interceptions, all of which are products of aggressive defensive play.
Special Teams: Effort and Awareness
So far, Dave Toub's special teams have done an amazing job, notching a punt return touchdown and a muffed punt recovery TD among several other crucial plays this season. Special teams are important even when they are not explosive; they determine the position in which both offenses and defenses take the field. With that in mind, the most important thing the special teams can do in games against Denver and the rest of the schedule is to pin opposing offenses within their 20 and let the Kansas City offense have the ball as close to midfield as possible. Blocking, awareness, and coverage are three words that need to fill KC special teams players' dreams this week.
That is my take on how KC can beat Denver. In all seriousness, the Broncos are a solid football team, and an opponent that demands respect. With that in mind, preparations must be made for a game that requires perfection from all three phases of the game.