GAMETIME: Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 8:30 p.m., ET
LOCATION: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO
WATCH IT ON: NBC Sunday Night Football
The Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) and the Denver Broncos (7-3), two bitter rivals striving in a three way fight that includes the Oakland Raiders (8-2) for top spot in the division, will clash on Sunday Night Football in what promises to be a clash of daunting defenses holding up promising but struggling offenses.
The NFL has taken notice of the AFC West’s tight race as analysts across the league have called it the best division in football with three teams among the top five records in the NFL. Combine that with the close competition between these two last year and accordingly, this game, originally slated for 4:25 p.m. ET was flexed to the primetime Sunday Night Football spot on NBC, moving the originally scheduled Patriots – Jets game out of the slot.
Last year these two teams split their season series each winning on the opponent’s turf in exciting fashion.
In the first matchup, the Chiefs came out strong in an effort to make a statement in their all-red uniforms at Arrowhead. They looked strong at times and despite 5 total turnovers had a lead down the stretch but fell in the end to a late surge by the Broncos. Most notably as it appeared the game would head to overtime, Jamaal Charles fumbled and the ball was picked up and brought into the end zone by Bradley Roby with 27 seconds left in regulation. Starting a Chiefs 5 game losing streak.
Remembering the heartbreak of the first game, coming out of a bye, the Charles-less Chiefs took it to the Broncos in Denver. Peyton Manning started the game with an interception, then threw a 4 yard pass, breaking the NFL record for most passing yards in a career, and went back to throwing interceptions as he ended 5 for 20 with 4 interceptions and a 0 QBR as the Chiefs cruised to a 29-13 victory on the back of their defense.
This year looks to pit two teams that look as strong as last year even with some crucial parts to both teams absent, namely Peyton Manning, who retired in the offseason. The Broncos will be coming out of a late season Bye in week 11 while the Chiefs will hope to get healthier with a week 11 matchup against the middling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Broncos will bring their 9th ranked scoring defense and retooled offense under the helm of 2nd year Quarterback Trevor Siemien. Siemien has been serviceable as the unexpected starter for the Broncos and even shown flashes throughout the season logging 2028 yards and 12 TDs with a 60% completion percentage and leading the 14th ranked scoring offense in the NFL with 23.9 pts/g.
Siemien with targets Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who each have over 50 receptions and 600 yards and have haunted Chiefs’ secondary’s for the past few seasons, has been a good complement to Denver’s opportunistic defense. And have kept the team close enough in most games to have a chance at the end. No game made this more apparent than that against top five Saints offense which ended in an exciting and controversial 25-23 victory for the Broncos when Denver’s Parks ran back a blocked extra point for the victory.
The Chiefs also bring a strong defense with the 7th ranked scoring defense. But it has been their nose for the ball that has lifted them to the top of the AFC as they lead the league in forcing turnovers with 13 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries thanks in part to Marcus Peters league-leading 5 interceptions. This should only get better as Justin Houston is slated to come back from a serious knee injury that has kept him out all season. It should be noted that Andy Reid has a penchant for bringing players with long-term injuries back slowly, but with a game in between and almost a year of recovery should have Houston back up to full speed by the pivotal matchup.
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On the other side of the ball the Chiefs have been, well, inconsistent. After a head injury that wasn’t and then was again that set back-up Nick Foles up for a terrible performance against Jacksonville, Alex Smith returned to the field against Carolina. At times Smith looked lost against the Panthers getting flustered in the pocket, and on three occasions overthrowing or entirely missing players open in the endzone. If there is a silver lining, the last three weeks the Chiefs offense has not been entirely intact losing their number 1 QB, number 1 RB, number 1 TE, and number 1 WR for significant stretches of time. For the most part the Chiefs find themselves healthy on offense now with question marks only surrounding WR Jeremy Maclin who has been sidelined with a lingering groin injury which kept him out of one game last season.
All-in-all, the game should be a hard-fought and close grind-em-out game. It will surely be worthy of its Sunday Night ticket with neither team really showing a significant edge but for the Broncos having an extra week to prepare and get players like injured pro-bowl CB Aqib Talib healthy.