When: Sunday, Nov. 30
Time: 7:30 p.m., CT
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo
TV Broadcast: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter)
Radio Broadcast: Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Hub Arkush (Field reporter). Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus, Len Dawson, Kendall Gammon, commentators; Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM);
SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 93 (Den.), 92 (KC). XM: 227 (WW1), 225 (Den.), 226 (KC).
Ok Kansas City Chiefs, it’s time to put up or shut up. After choking away the most golden of Golden Opportunities last week by losing on the road to a winless Oakland Raiders team that had already fired their head coach and started a rookie quarterback, the Chiefs take on the polar opposite tomorrow night at Arrowhead – a Denver Broncos team that can easily find itself back in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row behind its future unanimous Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.
The Chiefs (7-4) stand one game behind Denver (8-3) in the AFC West and could tie them for the division lead with four games remaining with a win Sunday night. Regardless of what happens with the division title, the Chiefs need a win to keep their grip on a playoff berth in a densely crowded AFC.
As great as the Broncos are at home in the Mile High air, they are mortals on the road. Still a top-notch team coached by one of the best coaches in the game certainly, but not a juggernaut.
So how do the Chiefs thrust themselves back into the division race and keep themselves near the top of the playoff berth scenarios? Here are three things fans should look for on Sunday night:
Stop the Broncos running game: For a huge part of the season, the Broncos biggest chink in their armor was the inability to maintain a running game. Unfortunately, three games ago, they handed the lead back role to undrafted free agent C.J. Anderson, who, in his three games, looks an awful lot like former Bronco star and future Hall of Famer, Terrell Davis. If Anderson is picking up his normal 5.6 yards per carry Sunday, that leaves Manning with a lot of 3rd-and-shorts which opens up the entire Bronco playbook and would probably put Denver on pace to score 28 points or more – a total the Chiefs just cannot match. It sounds strange considering the Hall of Famer behind center in the enemy jersey, but the Chiefs need to shut down the Denver run game if they have ANY hope of winning.
Get production from anybody other than Jamaal Charles: Charles is an absolute stud and has had a couple of extra days to rest his body after the Oakland game, so expect him to get the ball a lot. However, the Chiefs need someone other than Charles to have a big game. The most likely candidate is tight end Travis Kelce, who leads the team with four touchdown catches. The Broncos have struggled to cover tight ends most of the season and had problems with Kelce in Week Two.
With injuries in the Denver secondary, it would be nice to see Dwayne Bowe top 100 yards receiving as he’ll have a definitive size advantage over Chris Harris, the cornerback who will likely draw Bowe in coverage.
Finally, your Chiefs Examiner watched the Derrick Thomas story on “A Football Life” on the NFL Network the other day and watching #58 constantly harass Hall of Famer John Elway, he hopes either Tamba Hali or Justin Houston (or both) channels our late Hall of Fame linebacker and makes Manning jittery in the pocket. Manning is nearly flawless at home in Denver, but on the road he occasionally looks like a 38-year old quarterback with four neck surgeries and an arm that just isn’t as strong as it used to be. Manning might be missing tight end Julius Thomas, his safety valve and primary Chiefs tormentor. With pressure, he won’t be able to complete those big plays downfield to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Alex Smith needs to channel Joe Montana: Let me be clear, I love Smith being the quarterback for this team and he is exactly the kind of person it is very easy to root for. Having said that, he needs to stop being “Captain Checkdown” (a nickname this is NOT complimentary) and take chances throwing the ball downfield. Some critics say he CAN’T do it, which is wrong. He’s done it in the past (last year’s playoff game in Indy, for example), so I would say it is more of a case where he WON’T do it. Big difference.
This game could be the Chiefs season as back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Broncos, plus a potential loss to the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals next week, could leave KC on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Smith is talented enough that he should trust his arm and his accuracy more. No, the Chiefs do not possess a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver, but they do have guys that should be able to make a difference further than 6 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Former Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana had Hall of Fame wide receivers in his San Francisco career, but here he turned very average wide receivers into weapons. Willie Davis (51-822-5) and J.J. Birden (48-637-4)??? Not exactly Rice and Taylor, but enough to score 9 touchdowns between them with nearly 1,500 yards. Now I’m not high enough on leftover turkey to say that Smith is the equivalent of Montana, but Bowe, Kelce, Donnie Avery, or even Jason Avant can get 15+ yards down field and Smith needs to make several attempts to stretch the defense
Prediction: Let’s see … Manning is 12-1 against the Chiefs in his career and has never lost to them as a Bronco … Denver head coach John Fox is 8-1 against the Chiefs in his career, while KC head coach Andy Reid is 1-4 against the Broncos … the Chiefs absolutely have had a terrible, terrible week beginning with the Raiders loss and then the Eric Berry cancer shock … and winning the game would ALMOST wrap everything up for Denver in the division. For me to pick anything other than a Denver win is stupid. Sorry, but after my “No way the Chiefs lose” prediction obviously angered the football gods last week, I’m shooting for reverse psychology this week.
Score: Broncos 20, Chiefs 13.