The 4-7 Broncos head to Arrowhead with the daunting task of facing Patrick Mahomes and the 10-1 Chiefs on their own turf. I don’t think this will necessarily be the most competitive game we have seen this season, but I think Mahomes is always fun to watch, and the Broncos will have an actual QB under center this week, so I think there are reasons to watch this AFC West matchup.
Week 13 Prime Time Picks: Broncos (+600) vs Chiefs (-13) O/U 50 – All lines via DraftKings
Prime Time Picks: 14-12-1
Broncos QB Situation
Last week the Broncos had to go with undrafted rookie practice squad WR Kendall Hinton as their starting quarterback. Covid protocols left starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad QB Blake Bortles unavailable for their matchup against the Saints after third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel had tested positive. Hinton completed just one pass for nine yards along with two interceptions, and the Broncos only put up 3 points, losing 31-3. The good news is that Drew Lock is expected to start once again, but the bad news is that Lock has not played very well this season. Lock has struggled in his sophomore campaign, as his QBR of 41.1 is second-to-last in the NFL just ahead of Sam Darnold. For the season, Lock is completing 55.6% of his passes for 1,767 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions (second-most in the league). In the Broncos first meeting against the Chiefs, Lock was 24-of-40 for 254 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. He was also sacked three times, and the Chiefs won 43-16.
Patrick Mahomes Being Patrick Mahomes
The Kansas City QB situation is pretty much the exact opposite of Denver’s, as Patrick Mahomes continues to light the league on fire week-in and week-out. For the season, Mahomes stats speak for themselves: 68.8 CMP%, 3,497 yards, 317.9 yards/game, 115.5 rating, 30 TD’s and just two interceptions. Weirdly enough, both of his picks are against the Raiders. In the previous meeting with the Broncos, Mahomes was 15-of-23 for 200 yards with a touchdown and no picks. Not exactly his most stellar game stat-wise, but he really didn’t need to do much as the Chiefs had a rushing touchdown from Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a pick-six from Daniel Sorensen, and a 102-yard kick return for a touchdown from Byron Pringle all in the first half. KC took a 27-9 lead to the locker room at half, and Mahomes threw his only TD pass of the game to Tyreek Hill early in the 4th quarter en route to a decisive win.
Denver’s Turnover Problems
The Broncos have been turning the ball over left and right this season. Their -15 turnover differential is the worst in the league, and their 19 interceptions also lead the league. Overall, they have given the ball away 26 times in 11 games, which is less than ideal. Meanwhile, the Chiefs boast the 3rd-best turnover differential at +9. KC’s advantage in the turnover margin is largely due to Mahomes rarely throwing interceptions, but their defense has been opportunistic, as they have picked off opposing quarterbacks 12 times, which is tied for the 4th-most in the league. Turnovers were a key part of the first matchup between these two teams, as Denver gave it away four times and KC turned it over just once. What’s crazy about the first game between these two teams is that although the the Chiefs won big 43-16, the Broncos out gained KC’s offense 411-286, and had 24 first downs compared to KC’s 17. Now, that’s largely due to Kansas City being able to strike quickly with big plays, and they were able to put up points with a pick-six and kick-return, but I think its worth noting.
Assessing the Chiefs Defense
The Chiefs defense is giving up a decent amount of yards this season, but not necessarily a lot of points. They are 18th in the league in total defense, allowing 360.7 yards per game, but are 6th in scoring defense, as they surrender just 21.6 points per game. Although, with their 10-1 record, they have often been up big late in games, and opposing teams get some “garbage time” yards which may cause the numbers to be a little inflated. As mentioned earlier, one aspect that is really helping them is interceptions. Their 12 interceptions are tied for 4th-most in the NFL, and Drew Lock has thrown the second-most interceptions this season with 11. The Chiefs were able to pick Lock off twice in the first meeting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are able to do the same in this one. However, the Chiefs gave up 411 yards to Denver in that game, and last week against Tampa Bay they gave up 417. I think this defensive unit will have a little extra motivation to clean things up compared to those two games here in this one. They will need to clean it up a little bit in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, and facing a weak offensive unit at home is a great place to start.
I just don’t think there is any way I can put money on the Broncos in this one. I know 13 points is a lot for a divisional NFL game, but I just can’t do it. Kansas City is by far and away the better team, and their offense is just too explosive. These two offenses are exact opposites of each other, and even with a decent Denver defense, the Broncos have still given up 30+ points in five of their last six games. I just think Mahomes and company are too talented to contain for four quarters. Even with Drew Lock back under center for Denver, I just don’t have a lot of confidence that they will be able to put up anywhere near as many points as the Chiefs will. Denver may have out gained the Chiefs in their first game this season, but the Chiefs still won very convincingly, and I don’t think Denver will be able to out gain Mahomes and company twice in one season. KC has dominated this series, as they haven’t lost to Denver since September 17, 2015 when Peyton Manning was leading the way for the Broncos and Patrick Mahomes was in his sophomore season at Texas Tech (his first year as a full-time starter). That’s ten straight wins for KC in this series, and in the last three matchups, they have won by 24, 20, and 27 points. They have been great against the spread in this series as well, going 9-1 against the number in those ten wins. The Chiefs have not covered three games in a row now, but this is the perfect opportunity for them to do so. I think they win big.
Title Photo: Photo by David Eulitt / Getty Images