By now, you know what's at stake. Seven weeks ago, the Broncos went into KC and came out victorious despite the fact that Tim Tebow completed just two of his eight pass attempts. Denver reeled off 244 rushing yards that day, the bulk of them provided by Lance Ball, Tebow and Knowshon Moreno. Neither team committed a turnover, and they combined for just 193 net passing yards. Overall, it was a snoozefest. Nine days later, Denver released Kyle Orton.
Tomorrow will be anything but boring - even if it's three hours of three-and-outs. After all, the AFC West is on the line, and as much as the two teams are trying to downplay it, the game really is Tim versus Kyle. About the only way this game could have had more drama is if the Chiefs had managed to beat Oakland last week (they were just a blocked FG shy of doing so), thus turning it into a winner-takes-all contest. So, how do the teams match up?
As always, an explanation of the figures:
- NY/A Differential: This is a marriage of PFR's NY/A (Net Yards per Attempt) and CHFF's Passer Rating Differential. NY/A takes the all-important Yards Per Attempt and adds sack data into the mix to provide a clearer picture of a passing game's impact. NY/A Differential is simply a team's NY/A minus the NY/A they've allowed on defense. In other words, how well Denver passes the ball minus how well they defend against the pass.
- ARY/A Differential: This is a team's efficiency rushing the football minus the efficiency of their defense in stopping the run, and it factors touchdowns in to provide a better measure than a simple Yards Per Attempt stat. Well, for now - we'll likely change this next week, as mentioned above.
- TO Differential: Takeaways minus giveaways. If you need help with this one, you must be a Raiders fan and probably refer to this as a ratio.
- Net Field Position: This is a team's average starting field position in terms of yards, minus the average starting field position they allow their opponents.
- Strength of Schedule: This is each team's strength of schedule as viewed through the prism of PFR's SRS (Simple Rating System).
These teams look pretty similar, right? Denver has an edge (as usual) in the running game, although as Bucky Brooks pointed out, it seems that teams may have figured out how to lessen the Broncos' advantage there. Of course, whether the Chiefs are capable of pulling off what the Jets, Bears and Bills could and the Pats could not, is another issue.
As has also become a weekly point, the Broncos are much worse off in the turnover department. This has been a glaring problem for the offense in recent weeks, but as we all know, the defense's lack of takeaways has plagued Denver for several years now. So while Tebow can't ever be turning it over four times in a game as he did last week, the margin of error for a young QB is too small without his defense pitching in.
Against New England and Buffalo, the Broncos turned it over seven times but had zero takeaways. This has to change tomorrow for Denver to win. It's hackneyed, it's cliched, but it also cannot be overstated. In fact, I think that the Broncos must be even or better on turnovers tomorrow to win - I'm going to say they will be, and I'm picking Denver to take the game and the division.