The marquee match-up this weekend between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos is framed as a classic battle between the NFL’s best defense the league’s the best offense. However, the match-up that will likely determine the outcome of this key AFC divisional scuffle is the underrated Broncos defense against the one-dimensional Chiefs offense.
The key to the Chiefs’ offense is running back Jamaal Charles. Not only does he lead the team in receptions as well as rushing yards, but he also owns the highest career rushing average in NFL history. With a 4.3 40-time, Charles has the quickness to reach the edge and the pure speed to be a legitimate home run hitter, yet despite his small stature, he has also demonstrated the vision and power to be an effective runner between the tackles. In addition, he has become one of the NFL’s most efficient receivers coming out of the backfield and a crucial aspect of the Chiefs’ passing game.
That being said, the strength of the Broncos’ linebacking corps is their speed. Led by consummate pro Wesley Woodyard, this group may be slightly undersized but all of them are truly sideline-to-sideline players with noses for the football (all three rank in the top five on the team in tackles except for Von Miller who has only played three games). If they can limit Charles’ production with their overall quickness and force quarterback Alex Smith to throw in order to keep pace with the high-octane Broncos offense, Denver could decisively win this key rivalry game.
The Chiefs’ passing game is about as conservative as it gets. Quarterback Alex Smith does not take many chances down field – averaging only six yards per completion – and heavily relies on Jamaal Charles coming out of the backfield and creating yards after the catch. Again, if the Broncos’ linebackers can beat Charles to the spot and stop him from breaking into the open field on the defense’s second level, the Chiefs will have tremendous difficulty moving the ball on offense and will be forced to look down field where an aggressive Broncos secondary can win battles against the Chiefs’ receivers and force turnovers.
As good as the Chiefs’ defense is, Peyton Manning and his cadre of receivers average 41.2 points per game and are basically guaranteed 30 points. If they are going to win they must figure out a way to score more efficiently, but if the Broncos’ linebackers can contain Charles they must do so without their best player. Of course, if Charles is able to get free against this Broncos’ defense the Chiefs can control the clock, dominate possession, and keep the Broncos’ offense off the field.
To the victor goes the spoils.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24