The KC Chiefs host the Denver Broncos this Sunday in a rematch of a week 7 blowout that ended a two-game skid for the Chiefs. What should Chiefs Kingdom watch for in this late season divisional meeting?
Unlike the earlier match-up, the Kansas City Chiefs are the only team that will be playing with anything truly at stake this Sunday. With the AFC West already secured, the Chiefs need a win to hold onto any hope of capturing the number two playoff seed and, most importantly, a bye in the AFC playoffs.
The Broncos have become a better team than the last time the Chiefs faced them. With nothing to really play for and plenty to prove, here are five “What to watch for” entries.
The Chiefs have been penalized 88 times this season for 874 yards. It places them seventh overall in most yards penalized. It might be an obvious statement, but this has been allowing teams to stick around late in games.
When looking at the penalty breakdown, it is of note that the Chiefs lead the NFL in being penalized for defensive holding at 19. When breaking down all 19 of those calls, nine of them were part of drives for the opposition that produced points.
Even though defensive holding is only a five yard penalty, it is also an automatic first-down. These have allowed teams to extend a few drives that otherwise would have been stalled leading to a punt.
Even in last week’s win over the Patriots, the Chiefs were penalized ten times for 136 yards. Luckily the Patriots struggled to capitalize. The Chiefs need to make sure the five win Broncos aren’t allowed to extend drives that could produce points to keep them in the game late.
BRONCOS’ THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS AND SACKS ALLOWED
In the first meeting, the Broncos were a horrendous 1-13 on third down attempts. It’s easy to see why their only score was enabled by the Chiefs extending their first drive by means of penalties. Look for this inefficiency to be better on Sunday with the Broncos playing better on the offensive side of the ball of late.
The Chiefs also recorded nine sacks in the first meeting. Joe Flacco was taken to the turf eight of those times with Broncos Punter Colby Wadman getting sacked at the beginning of the second quarter for the ninth sack on the evening.
In the last two games, the Broncos have protected Drew Lock. So far he has only been sacked once and was hit seven times.
The Chiefs need to make Lock become uncomfortable in the pocket unlike the Texans and Chargers were able to do in his first two starts. Doing this early could rattle the young quarterback and cause him to make mistakes.
PATRICK MAHOMES’ BRUISED HAND
Even though Coach Andy Reid said Mahomes’ hand is “okay” and that it is “bruised up pretty good but there’s no break”, it is still worth paying attention to on Sunday. If the Chiefs and Mahomes can score early and hopefully establish a reasonable running game, they can limit exposure to this injury.
It is worth noting that Chiefs fans (and Broncos fans too) have witnessed Mahomes can throw with his left hand. Could we see it again Sunday?
ANDY REID NOT EXPOSING ANY ADDITIONAL TRICK PLAYS
During the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Andy Reid called for a Wildcat formation on third and goal from the Patriots four-yard line. The play directly snapped the ball to tight end Travis Kelce, who was able to cut left and notch his first career rushing touchdown.
Don’t anticipate Andy Reid going with a trick play this week against these Broncos. Reid will most likely keep things conservative and not show any trick plays or creative formations to any of the teams the Chiefs might face in the playoffs.
RETURN HOME FOR BRONCOS QB DREW LOCK
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Denver’s rookie quarterback Drew Lock will be playing in a familiar area on Sunday. Lock is a graduate of Lee’s Summit High School and played for the Missouri Tigers. He was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Since his first start against the Chargers in week 13, Lock has provided Broncos fans with optimism moving forward past this season. After starting his career at 2-0, he has been hailed as Bronco GM John Elway‘s best quarterback draft to date.
His young resumé includes a win last week against a team that has a high probability to being the AFC South Champs in the Houston Texans; The same team that dropped the Chiefs in week six by a score of 31-24.
If Lock can get protection and be comfortable in the pocket, the Chiefs are going to have to rely on their secondary to once again make some big plays. In recent weeks that have been up to the challenge.
Growing up a Chiefs fan, it’s hard to imagine Drew Lock not salivating at the idea of beating the Chiefs in his first of likely many starts at Arrowhead.
If he can pull off win, he’d be only the third Denver Broncos’ quarterback to ever accomplish that feat at Arrowhead Stadium. Peyton Manning (2013), John Elway (1991) and Kyle Orton (2009) have been the only Denver signal callers to win in December at Arrowhead since it opened in 1972. It’s very unlikely that Drew Lock will find his way onto that short list this Sunday.
This could be a tougher game than some Chiefs fans are anticipating, but with the two seed potentially still on the line, the KC Chiefs still have a ton to play for.