Two weeks ago, the game of the week in the NFL featured an undefeated Kansas City Chiefs team against Peyton Manning and his 1-loss Denver Broncos. Manning and the Broncos didn’t throw up 40 points on the board thanks to the stingy defense of Kansas City, but Denver wound up prevailing by a score of 27-17.
This weekend, it will be a bit of a different scenario for both teams. Denver comes into Kansas City and will face the Chiefs on the road. Kansas City is now losers of two straight and will be hungrier than ever this season as they look to not only get back to winning, but evening the season series with the Broncos at one game apiece.
For the Chiefs, they are without arguably their defensive MVP, linebacker Justin Houston. The 24-year old dislocated his elbow last week and has been ruled out on the official injury report. Tamba Hali will play, which the Chiefs are fortunate to hear. But, the loss of Houston this week will be crucial.
Houston leads the team with 11.0 sacks on the year, which accounts for nearly a third of the Chiefs’ sacks this year. Hali has himself 9.0 on the year, so these two are obviously a crucial part to this defense. With Houston out, the Broncos can focus on stopping Hali and Hali alone. There isn’t another player on the team with more than 4.5 sacks this season, therefore Denver knows who to key-in on.
If Denver can take Hali out of his game, Manning will be even more of a threat. Of course he is already one of the best there is, but give him time and he’s almost unbeatable. Kansas City will absolutely need others to step up in the pass rush if they are to stand a chance against Denver. The unit as a whole has been phenomenal, but it’s started with the pass rush and Houston is the big-time playmaker there.
I’ll be looking for defensive tackle Dontari Poe and linebacker Derrick Johnson to pick up some of the slack in that area. These two will be the guys needing to step up in Houston’s absence. If Johnson and Poe can get in there and possibly rack up a combined two to three sacks, the Chiefs could have a legitimate chance to bring this divisional series to a tie.