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chiefStats: Five stats that could determine the Chiefs’ game against Broncos

It’s that time of the week. Here are the five stats you should knw

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Week 8, here we are!

Seriously though, can someone please slow down time so I can enjoy the first season with Patrick Mahomes as the Chiefs starting quarterback for a little longer? How sweet it’s been, folks.

Last week we talked about the Bengals — specifically Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis — having issues with playing in night games. Those issues reared their ugly heads again for the Bengals as they were trounced by the Chiefs 45-10 during primetime.

Now it’s on to the Broncos for the second time already this young season, and here is the Broncos statistical overview:

1. Some historical notes

Of all the AFC West teams, the Broncos are by far my favorite. That is why I’d like nothing more than to spoil the Broncos history — which inspired me to write this section covering a couple things regarding the Broncos/Chiefs history.

♫ Let the good times roll ♫

The Chiefs have done well against the Broncos in their last six games. In fact, the Broncos haven’t beaten the Chiefs since the Broncos won the Super Bowl in the 2015 season.

If you’re a Chiefs fan like myself, you’re probably tired of hearing Broncos fans say something along the lines of, “Well, you haven’t won a Super Bowl in a billion years so my team is automatically better than yours, neener neener neener.”

If the Chiefs want to stop this type of nonsense from Broncos fans, their best bet would be to win a Super Bowl. The best way for the Chiefs to get to the Super Bowl is by winning home-field advantage.

The Chiefs can win home-field advantage if they keep winning games — particularly against a divisional and conference opponent.

This brings me to my second item of historical interest:

The reason I bring this up, is because I don’t want a Broncos quarterback to own the record.

Obviously, I think it will be a long shot for Mahomes to pass the 55-touchdown mark set by Peyton Manning, but there is still hope. Currently, Mahomes is on pace to throw 50 touchdowns on the season.

We’ll see if Mahomes can continue to sling the ball when it gets colder — you might as well add that to the “Mahomes checklist”.

2. Third down

Thanks to Bill Connelly’s advanced stats, we can see the Broncos have had a bit of a mixed bag on third down this year:

On offense, the Broncos have done well in third-and-short situations — of course, they may struggle more than usual with these on Sunday due to Royce Freeman’s injury.

The Broncos offense has struggled on third down when they get into obvious passing situations. The Broncos third-and-long/medium success rate is hovering around the bottom third of the league.

With the Chiefs success on third down defensively, the Broncos must net positive gains on first and second down if they want to continue to move the ball.

Defensively, the Broncos have struggled on third-and-long and third-and-short situations, but they are second in the NFL in third and medium situations.

3. Protecting Mahomes

This should be the biggest storyline heading into the Broncos game. The Chiefs have injuries along their offensive line and a third-string center, Austin Reiter, will be starting on Sunday.

It’s no news to anyone that the Broncos have a decent pass rush and if the Broncos want to win on Sunday, they’ll likely do it by tormenting Mahomes with their pass rush.

The Broncos are one of the best teams at rushing the passer, and the Chiefs are one of the best teams at avoiding sacks. Something has to give here, right?

In their first meeting, the Broncos sacked Mahomes only one time on 45 passing attempts — a sack percentage of 2.2 percent, which is 6.2 points lower than their average on the year.

We also have this little bit of information:

Gathering all our information, we know Mahomes was only sacked once against the Broncos in their first meeting, and we also see that Mahomes has vastly outperformed Alex Smith from last year in regard to sack percentage.

This tells me Mahomes has great pocket awareness, and if I had to put money down, I’d put it on the Chiefs holding the Broncos pass rush at bay mostly on Sunday. I’d be surprised if the Broncos have more than two sacks.

4. Denver’s run game

One common thread of thought we’ve heard regarding the Chiefs all year is that teams need to run the ball consistently against the Chiefs to run the clock and control the ball. The thought is keeping Mahomes off the field to limit the Chiefs from scoring a trillion points each game.

In their first meeting, Denver ran the ball 22 times for 159 yards — a 7.2 yards per rush average.

Royce Freeman will not play against the Chiefs this time around and he accounted for 67 of the 159 yards in the Chiefs/Broncos first meeting. However, I’m not sure how much his absence will impact the Broncos run game.

Phillip Lindsay will garner the majority of the carries on Sunday, and he’ll be the primary running back for the Broncos, who have utilized a running back-by-committee system so far this season.

Freeman is averaging 4.4 yards per rush in 2018, and Lindsay is averaging 5.8 yards per rush. So missing Freeman may not hurt the Broncos as much as it would hurt most teams who lost their starting running back.

All that said, if the Broncos want to have a chance to win, they’re going to need to run the ball effectively like they did in the first game. The Chiefs need to improve on the 7.2 yards per rush attempt they allowed last time the Chiefs faced the Broncos.

I want to see the Chiefs defense continue to improve, and how the Chiefs fare against Lindsay could give us a glimpse into whether or not the Chiefs defense is improving.

5. Case of the Keenums

This one will be quick and simple:

In their first meeting, the Chiefs were able to intercept Keenum one time. With the game at Arrowhead, I’m looking for the Chiefs secondary to at least duplicate the one interception they had in Denver.

Ultimately, the Chiefs defense needs to improve and one such way they can improve is by picking off Keenum.

It’s pretty shocking to see Keenum’s regression back to his 2016 form:

I’m hopeful the Chiefs secondary can pick off a pass or two from Keenum, and they’ll need it if they want the defense to continue to improve.

So that ends Week 8’s version of chiefStats. What are your keys to the game?

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