All eyes will be on the Chiefs over the final three weeks of the regular season. Kansas City needs to win out and get a little bit of help from the New England Patriots to slide into the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round bye in the AFC playoff picture. Kansas City took care of business last week with a 23-16 victory over New England but they still have a tough road ahead with games against the Broncos, Chicago Bears, and L.A. Chargers to close the season. Don’t expect the Chiefs to take Denver lightly though. The Broncos come into the week with a full head of steam after showing signs of life under second-round pick Drew Lock. With back-to-back wins, Denver moved to 5-8 through 14 weeks. Can the Broncos keep their momentum going on the road in Kansas City against the Chiefs on Sunday?
Kansas City opens the week as healthy 10.5-point favorites but the more pressing concern over the final few weeks will be the health of franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Dealing with a nagging hand injury, the reigning NFL MVP gutted out a victory last week against the Pats, who currently sit one game ahead of the Chiefs in the battle for the No. 2 spot in the AFC. Mahomes bruised his hand last week but x-rays came back negative, which is good news for Andy Reid and company. Reid declared his quarterback “OK” and said that he expects him to start this week against the Broncos. Mahomes has thrown for 3,266 yards with 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions in an injury-riddled campaign.
John Elway might have finally guessed right on a quarterback prospect. Through the first two starts of his NFL career, rookie quarterback Drew Lock is starting to generate a real buzz in Denver. Last week, he became the first Broncos’ quarterback since Elway to win his first two career starts and sparked an upset victory over the Houston Texans. Lock completed 22 of 27 passes for 309 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He went 5-for-8 on third down and helped Denver score four touchdowns in five red-zone trips. After beginning the season on IR, it seems the rookie is progressing as the organization hoped when they drafted him in the second round.
Broncos just 3-14 in December games at ArrowheadLed by rookie quarterback Drew Lock, the Broncos stunned the Houston Texans on the road 38-24 last week. As previously mentioned, Lock was spectacular last week but he got a little help from the Broncos’ defense too. Kareem Jackson ran a fumble back 70 yards for a score and the defense held Houston to just three points in the first half. Rookie tight end Noah Fant also had a career day, finishing with four catches for 113 yards and a score in the win.
The rookie connection!@DrewLock23 to @nrfant for the @Broncos TD. #BroncosCountry— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2019
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After a slow start to the season, Fant is starting to flash the potential that made the Broncos select him with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Fant has caught 35 passes for 492 yards and three scores this season and he’s been particularly dangerous in the passing game as of late. The 6-foot-4, 249-pound tight end has caught 15 passes for 307 yards and two scores over his last five games while averaging 20.5 yards per catch. He and Lock will have a chance to cement their connection this week against a Kansas City defense that has given up the fifth-most yards in the league to tight ends this season. Fant missed practice on Wednesday and has been hit with the questionable tag on the injury report but is expected to play this week.
Since the Arrowhead opened in 1972, Denver is just 3-14 in December games in Kansas City, including just 1-6 during Elway’s tenure as the starting quarterback. Only Elway, Kyle Orton, and Peyton Manning have ever won road games for the Broncos at Arrowhead.
One thing the Broncos have going for them is a budding defense that is starting to play well to close out the year. Denver ranks 11th in the league in weighted defense and 11th in DVOA on the defensive side of the ball.
Chiefs defense stepping up as Mahomes nurses injuryThe Chiefs survived a hard-fought defensive battled with a 23-16 victory over the New England Patriots last week thanks to a couple of defensive stands and a key ruling by the officials. Mahomes completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards with one touchdown and one interception while playing through his aforementioned hand injury. Travis Kelce caught seven passes for 66 yards and added a four-yard rushing touchdown in the win but it was a non-touchdown ruling in the fourth quarter that made headlines after the game. Patriots’ wide receiver caught a pass and appeared to stretch the ball over the pylon for a touchdown but was ruled to have stepped out at the 3-yard line. With New England out of challenges, the Chiefs were able to hold the Patriots to a field goal and the defense came up with another big stop at the five-yard line with just over a minute left.
The Chiefs didn’t need any added motivation this week with the No. 2 seed in the AFC on the line this week but Broncos’ wide receiver gave them some bulletin board material anyway. The 24-year-old receiver told reporters this week that the Broncos intend on “taking care of business” in Arrowhead this weekend.
While Mahomes and the offense have drawn all the attention, Kansas City’s defense has quietly had a bounce-back season. The Chiefs rank 13th in the league in weighted defense and 13th in DVOA on the defensive side of the ball. They also rank sixth against the pass, according to Football Outsiders, which means that they should be able to make life tough on Lock in his homecoming in Kansas City.
- Broncos are 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
- Broncos are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 vs. AFC West.
- Broncos are 8-22-1 ATS in their last 31 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
- Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC.
- Chiefs are 20-7 ATS in their last 27 vs. AFC West.
- Chiefs are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games after accumulating less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.