Prediction: Chiefs 17-13
My guess is the Chiefs –– the losers of two straight –– are too good to see it stretch to three. The Broncos were shut out by the Chargers last week, and while the defense is still very good, it’s possible the Broncos could be just the thing the Chiefs’ suddenly-struggling defense needs to get back on track. As long as the Chiefs don’t give the game away via turnovers, I expect the home team to win a close, low-scoring affair.
Johnson: "I wished I trusted my vision more and had the patience for plays that Priest did. I was amazed at what he saw and how he believed in it. I always second-guessed myself. I didn't trust the plays all the time. That's what I loved about Priest. He would run those stretch plays all the way to the sideline and still run 20 or 30 yards. Me? If I can't see a crease, I'm cutting and heading upfield. He trusted the process a lot more. He trusted the blocking."
Hill and the addition of Hunt have given KC a greater element of speed and unpredictability that sees them use a ton of pre-snap motion, a classic man-beating tactic. As defenses get stretched horizontally pre-snap, the Chiefs can isolate and find great matchups for all three playmakers. Kelce in the slot is an animal and will be very hard to stop, even after that the catch where he’s a devastating runner. Hunt’s ability as a receiver out the backfield has revolutionized this offense, and Hill is among the toughest players to match up with in the entire NFL.
In a league where routine rules the day, the Chiefs will be playing their fourth prime-time game in a five-week span Monday night against Denver. It's also the fifth of a league-leading six that Alex Smith and Co. will play this season, which means precious few of those comfy Sunday kickoffs.
Fortunately, no team in the league has given up more touchdowns to wide receivers this season than Kansas City. Look for Thomas to finally do a touchdown dance this week. Five catches and a long-awaited score will definitely make his owners happy.
“The locker room vibe, I’m not going to say it’s down, it’s not where we want it to be because we’re even. We’re not over .500. I don’t think in two years we’ve been that with the Broncos. So, it’s more of a sense of urgency and everybody knows this is a big need for us, this win.’’
Last season, when Simmons was given one of the toughest matchups for a rookie going up against Kelce on Christmas Night in Arrowhead, the Chiefs tight end absolutely annihilated the Broncos secondary to the tune of 11 receptions, 160 yards, and a touchdown, including an 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter that put the Broncos behind 21-7. While Simmons was a rookie last year, matched up against arguably the best tight end in football, he has a chance to redeem himself this week against Kelce.
"He's definitely one of the best tight ends -- top two, top three," safety Will Parks said. "It's going to be a big challenge.
"Last year it was kind of rough, being a rookie going up against a savvy vet like that [who's] crafty and can get open in short spaces, is able to use his body better than anybody."
1. Receivers must win 1 on 1s
The Chiefs play man-to-man in their secondary, so Demaryius Thomas, Bennie Fowler III, Cody Latimer, Jordan Taylor and A.J. Derby must beat their guy. Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t practiced in two weeks because of a severe ankle sprain, and it would be a shame if he can’t play because he's the best Broncos receiver at getting open.
Thomas, by the way, has gone 12 consecutive games without a touchdown, a skid that includes the final six of last season. That’s long enough.
“A sack would be awesome, but there aren’t that many sacks in a game,” Sutton said. “The most important thing is pressure on a quarterback. Getting him out of rhythm or releasing quicker than he wants. If you can make him hold it one more click, that’s when the pressure gets there.”