Editor’s note: We welcome in contributor Joe Rowles of Mile High Report — our sister site covering the Denver Broncos — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the Week 7 road matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Broncos on Thursday Night Football.
1) What went so right in last week’s 16-0 shutout win over the Tennessee Titans?
The Broncos defense was the big story, which makes sense in a shutout. Tennesee’s receivers didn’t do enough to challenge a banged-up secondary and both Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill missed some open receivers. The offensive line had a lot of trouble creating holes in the running game or protecting the quarterbacks — rookie Nate Davis in particular.
Offensively, the Broncos did just enough to put points on the board. Phillip Lindsay mixed in a few awesome runs and Scangarello dialed up a couple really nice plays to get Courtland Sutton and Royce Freeman chunk plays.
2) What’s your confidence level in WR Emmanuel Sanders performing well given his lingering knee injury?
If he can play, most of my confidence in Sanders comes from his ability to find space in Spagnuolo’s zones. While his stats are almost nonexistent the last two weeks, he got open a few different times against the Chargers — and Flacco didn’t get him the ball. I do wonder how he’ll do when Kansas City goes man or zone-match if his knee is really bothering him.
Heading into the game, the receivers vs. Kansas City’s corners are one of my big questions, because early in the season opposing coordinators were treating Courtland Sutton as the Broncos’ number two receiver while Sanders drew the tougher assignment. Have to think teams will wise up.
3) How have you enjoyed the first six weeks of the Joe Flacco experience?
Enjoyed is a strong word.
Flacco’s on the better end of what I hoped for — especially in the first four weeks. The offense was the reason Denver should have entered Los Angeles 2-2 while the defense had all of the questions. Since then, the script has flipped almost completely — and the Broncos’ passing game has serious questions.
Many in Broncos Country are pointing to Rich Scangarello, citing a failure to adjust after halftime for Denver’s struggles in the third quarter, but when I’ve turned on the tape I see open receivers a quarterback is failing to notice. One of my biggest concerns is Flacco’s ability to get rid of the ball against designer blitzes. I’ve also found his performance in the red zone wanting.
4) Who has stepped up with Bradley Chubb headed to IR?
I just finished the Titans game as I write this and find myself really impressed with Malik Reed. The undrafted rookie doesn’t have the eye popping stats, but turn on the tape and he’s holding his own on the edge — and is a capable player in coverage.
Outside of him, it’s really been multiple players. The thing with Chubb’s injury is that it came at a time when Fangio was going to need to tinker with the defense anyway. Through four weeks, the run defense was getting battered between Chubb and Wolfe. This led to Adam Gotsis getting benched for Mike Purcell, and Shelby Harris sliding out to defensive end in base personnel. Alexander Johnson also received snaps for the first time in his career while Kareem Jackson was moved back from the slot to true safety.
All have made huge differences so far — though Kansas City represents the true test.
5) Who is one offensive and one defensive under-the-radar player more people should be talking about? Why?
If for some strange reason Courtland Sutton is hanging around on waivers in your fantasy team, you need to go grab him as soon as possible. By the end of the year, he’ll be a household name — and I suspect he’d already be if Denver had a better quarterback or didn’t lose the Chicago and Jacksonville games in the closing seconds.
Here’s my post on Sutton.
On defense, two true sleepers are Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker. Both are rotational linemen who see most of their snaps in nickel personnel. Jones is a rookie who has really impressed me with his quickness and hands so far this season, while Walker is finally seeing significant snaps after riding the pine under Vance Joseph.
Kansas City 24, Denver 20
Travis Kelce is the big hero for the Chiefs with a couple of critical catches to get the Chiefs off the schneid. Broncos Country is in turmoil after Joe Flacco gives the ball away in ugly fashion, ruining a huge day from the running backs.