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Chiefs-Broncos: 5 questions with the enemy

We welcome Mile High Report for answers to five questions about the Denver Broncos before Sunday’s Week 13 matchup

Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos Set Number: X163473

Editor’s note: As we head into the Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos, we welcome Joe Rowles of Mile High Report — our sister SBNation site covering the Denver Broncos — for Five Questions with the Enemy.

1) How impressed with Bridgewater have you been this year? Could he be the guy long-term?

Impressed may be too strong a word for me personally. Teddy Bridgewater’s been who I thought he’d be after digging through his Carolina Panthers tape. He displays very good ball placement to the short and intermediate areas of the field and better deep accuracy than he’s given credit for, but lacks the kind of arm talent that really pops off the screen. To his credit, Bridgewater continually shows self-awareness in the way he won’t attempt throws he knows he can’t consistently make. Sometimes this works to his detriment, but it’s a big reason this is the best Broncos’ offense we’ve seen since Peyton Manning was wearing orange and blue.

Long term I suspect the Broncos will make an aggressive play for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or perhaps even Deshaun Watson, as they’ve been linked to just about every quarterback since George Paton was hired as general manager. Paton’s also spent a lot of time scouting members of the 2022 quarterback class, so there is a strong possibility the Broncos pursue a rookie quarterback this spring. If that’s the case I believe they’ll try and retain Teddy Bridgewater to serve as a mentor and starter in the short term, but I’d be surprised if he’s a Bronco three years from now.

2) The Broncos demonstrated the ultimate bend don’t break defense in KC last year. Do you expect the Broncos to have a similar approach this time around?

I’m not sure if I expect it so much as hope for it. This season has shown the best recipe for limiting Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense is playing it conservatively on defense, a gameplan the Broncos almost worked to perfection last year if only they had a competent starting quarterback. To beat the Chiefs, it looks like the Broncos will need to spend the vast majority of the game in two high shells to keep a lid on Tyreek Hill and the downfield passing game. To limit easy completions underneath the roof, it makes sense to rush four and drop seven so there aren’t vacant passing windows.

Now the scary part about that recipe for Denver is they’ve been extremely dependent on sending five or more to generate pressure this season. A big part of that is how they’ve played all season without either Von Miller or Bradley Chubb, and in recent weeks both. With Chubb back in the lineup and rookie Jonathon Cooper proving himself a steal of the 2021 draft, this is the week to lean on the edge rushers.

3) Be honest — what would it mean for “Broncos Country” to finally get a win over the Chiefs this week?

Oh it’d be tremendous. I called this game the first Super Bowl on my Cover 2 Broncos podcast earlier this week because it has that kind of importance to the Broncos and their fans.

For the Broncos, they need to win one of these two matchups with the Chiefs if they’re going to stand a chance in the AFC playoff race. They’re currently stuck in a logjam with a bunch of six win teams on the outside looking in, and if they lose to Kansas City their odds at the dance turn into a “win-out” type of affair.

For the fans, well, there are those who forgot what it’s like to beat up on Kansas City. It’s been half a decade since the Broncos beat their division rivals.

4) What are the key matchups this week?

With such an important game it feels like a bit of a cop out to say “they’re all key,” but the Broncos can’t really afford to slack in any spot because Mahomes is under center. If he goes super nova as he has in the past nothing else they do may matter.

If the gameplan is lean into two high shells with a four-man rush, the Broncos will need to hold up to Andy Reid’s counter punch. For most of the season Kansas City has used their RPO and quick passing game to keep on track despite the lack of easy explosives, which means the Broncos front four and linebackers will have to hold up without a whole lot of help. The most favorable matchup in that regard is KC’s right tackle situation where Denver could find the upper hand with Chubb matchup up against Andrew Wylie or Lucas Niang.

On offense, things look scarier than I’d anticipated a month ago. The Broncos have a litany of health questions hanging over their offensive line as they head to Kansas City, which means they’ll probably have their hands full with Chris Jones and Jarran Reed. Jones is a complete game wrecker in passing situations, so they’ll need to have a way to move the ball that doesn’t rely on Teddy Bridgewater sitting in the pocket long. The best way to do that would be to establish an effective rushing attack with Javonte Williams and use play action to take advantage of the Chiefs’ callow linebackers. Willie Gay and Nick Bolton’s issues in coverage mean it’d make sense for Pat Shurmur to call a heavy dose of easy completions for Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy, and Albert Okwuegbunam.

5) How does this one play out? Score prediction?

Barring a slew of turnovers from the Chiefs, things going the Broncos way in this game mean it will come down to the final possession or two. This Broncos squad can win if they cap Mahomes’ chunk plays and hold up in the red zone while the offense stays on track. If that should occur, I suspect the Broncos win by the skin of their teeth. Let’s say 20-17.

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