Broncos vs Chiefs: 5 Key Matchups for NFL Week 12
Keys to the Game
As the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium today, clearly they are favored by most, if not all, to improve to 8-3 on the year. However, there are many aspects to this game that can prove to keep this game close, with the Chiefs possibly finding a way to upset the Broncos. But that is only if Peyton Manning has nothing to say about it.
The Broncos are riding a five game win streak, while the Chiefs are reeling in a seven game slide. There is not much to the Chiefs offense that would excite you, but their defense may be a viable key to possibly upset the Broncos. This can become the prototypical "trap" game for the Broncos as they may look ahead to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week, while forgetting that Jamal Charles usually rushes well against them and does have over 800 yards this season.
The Broncos can not afford to lose their focus and allow this Chiefs team to keep this game close. Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel has a lot of fixing to do in Kansas City, and is clearly sitting on the hot seat as the Chiefs are the worst team in the NFL.
On the other side, Broncos Head Coach John Fox needs to see what his running back by committee can do against this weak Chiefs run defense. The loss of Willis McGahee can be critical, but this should be a good tune up for the rest of the year. Here are five keys that both teams need to seriously contemplate heading into this match up today:
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Next Man Up for Broncos Run Game
The Broncos did take a hit when losing RB Willis McGahee until at least the AFC Championship game, barring they actually make it there. Now it is up to Knowshon Moreno, who has been a healthy scratch since week 2, rookie Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball to give this offense the balance it needs to give Peyton Manning the opportunity to win.
This could be the most important match up as the Broncos rely on the play action pass and the hurry up offense to keep the chains moving. If the run game is stifled, then Manning loses the strength of the play action and just may start to look human again. Hillman has shown spurts of successful running, and Moreno usually has success against the Chiefs, but it may be a lot to ask of this run game to actually provide a spark.
If the Chiefs control the line of scrimmage against one of the best offensive lines in the game, this could turn out to be a closer game than imagined.
Denver Pass Rush vs KC Offensive Line
I will just say this. The Chiefs offensive line is arguably the worst in the NFL and they must face the league's best pass rush coming from all angles. This should be no contest.
Von Miller could be the best LB in the game and he now has 13 sacks on the year after an impressive performance against the Chargers last week. Add to that, Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe, Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams, and this offensive line will be responsible for the life of Brady Quinn today. If Quinn is running for his life, there is no way that he can make plays.
Quinn replaces QB Matt Cassel, who is having a terrible year, and realistically, the Chiefs may have taken another step backward. I see seven or eight sacks coming from this Denver front seven today, and that alone may be enough to win this game.
Denver WRs vs KC Secondary
Last week against the Chargers, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas disappeared early and often during stretches, before making some key plays to help the Broncos win. They can not afford to do that this week and will be going up against a better secondary.
Brandon Flowers, Javier Arenas and Eric Berry will prove to be tough opponents to the duo of Salt and Pepper, as the Chiefs pose the NFL's sixth best defense against the pass. This will also be a critical match up that may be even more noticeable if the Denver run game can not get started. If Decker and Thomas sputter from the start, the Chiefs will have every opportunity to steal this game from the AFC West leaders.
The one wild card that the Broncos have is Brandon Stokley, who has more TDs than Miles Austin, Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson. He may need to have a big game from the slot exposing the middle while creating space for the others to work.
Jamal Charles vs Denver Run D
Jamal Charles is the lone bright spot on this challenged Kansas City team. The only problem is that the Broncos defense is actually pretty good against the run this year, unlike year's past. The Broncos are sixth overall and only allow 93.8 yards/game in 2012. The only problem is that Charles only has one 100yd game in the past five games.
Since the Patriots game, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio has his run defense shored up, and they have not been embarrassed since. But if Charles can somehow find the holes, then this may become an interesting game. I find it difficult to say a team can win any game one dimensionally, but if the Chiefs can stop the pass, run the ball, and give Quinn the ability to stay on his feet, then the Broncos may be in for a tough game. Somehow, that may be a lot to ask of the NFL's worst team.
Manning-Need We Say More?
All this talk about the Chiefs and what they need to do to win is only pure speculation. There is only one thing that the Broncos need to do well, and that is let Peyton Manning be, well, Peyton Manning. The frontrunner for NFL MVP in 2012 has this team believing that he can do anything and lead them to any victory. The Broncos are sold into the game plan, and if Manning is able to have time behind the line, he has shown that he can find his mark and make plays.
The Broncos pose arguably the NFL's best offensive line, allowing only 14 sacks this year. Manning is protected like the Pope, and he has rewarded them well by winning games. If the Chiefs disrupt Manning and keep him out of play action situations, then they have a chance. But I do not expect that to happen, as the Broncos have too many offensive weapons for Manning to check down to in order to move the chains. Manning will not allow the Broncos to look past any division rival, no matter how bad they may be.