NFP Sunday Blitz
More than one-third of Kansas City’s points this season (78 of 215) have come as a result of takeaways. Not too surprising, since the opportunistic Chiefs lead the league in takeaways (23), fewest turnovers (eight) and, obviously, turnover differential (plus-15), while scoring six defensive touchdowns. On the flipside, Denver is minus-2 in turnover differential and minus-31 in points that result from turnovers. Only three teams have more turnovers than the Broncos, who have lost a league-high 12 fumbles, and only three teams are worse in point differential from turnovers.
The Broncos have just one defensive score - DRC's pick-six of Kirk Cousins, but of course, should have gotten another from Danny Trevathan.
In the Zone With Peyton Manning
The Broncos and Manning’s handlers declined to provide specifics about his business dealings but, according to Jim Andrews at IEG, which tracks such deals, Manning earns an estimated $13 million a year from endorsements. If he were to win another M.V.P. award or lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl, Manning could earn another $2 million or more, “assuming he is interested in doing more deals,” Andrews said.
This is impressive until we consider that Tiger Woods is estimated to be pulling endorsements/appearance fees worth five times what Peyton draws.
At one outside cornerback, Marcus Cooper is 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds. At the other corner, Sean Smith is 6-3, 218 pounds. They match up well size-wise with Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
If safety Eric Berry is on tight end Julius Thomas, that’s not an athletic mismatch like it would be for other teams using a safety on Thomas in man coverage. And cornerback Brandon Flowers on slot receiver Wes Welker is not a mismatch either. The Chiefs have played more snaps of dime defense than any other team in the NFL, and that will help this week.
Here's where we point out that KC's vaunted defense allowed 810 yards over its past two games - 340 to Jason Campbell and the Browns, and 470 to undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel and the Bills.
NFL Week 11 Predictions & Chiefs-Broncos Preview
So let’s see… The Chiefs average 1.58 Pts/Dr this year and this is despite having the best average starting field position in football. I noticed a lot of their scoring drives started deep in opponent territory, so their scoring is even less impressive than it already sounds. They feast on mistakes, which the Broncos are certainly guilty of since 2012, so ball security is a must this week.
This is easier said than done, but our prediction is that as long as Denver doesn't hand the ball over to KC in their own territory multiple times, they win going away.
The issue, of course, is that Chris Clark has allowed five sacks (plus two hits and seven hurries), and Zane Beadles has been charged with one sack, six hits, and a whopping 23 hurries. Meanwhile, the Chiefs' monstrous pass-rushing trio of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dontari Poe has combined for 26 sacks, 16 hits, and 96 (!) hurries. (All data via PFF)
Broncos' superior offense will have upper hand on Chiefs' defense
The perception is that the Chiefs have the better defense—and they just might—but when it comes to run defense the Broncos give up 3.4 a carry and the Chiefs give up 5.0 a carry. Could the Chiefs be in for a long day of Denver running the ball?
Good point from Kirwan, as everyone (us included) focuses on KC's pass rush and coverage. But their defense is allowing the league's second most yards per rushing attempt, and they're just 16th in defensive run success rate.
Just last week, they were gashed by Buffalo for 241 rushing yards on 38 attempts, and that was with Jeff Tuel at quarterback.
3TFO: Chiefs @ Broncos, Week 11
Don’t be surprised to see Denver duplicate the high play-action rate they used against other teams with productive edge rushers to protect their tackles and keep the Chiefs’ dynamic duo at bay. Against Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, Manning used play action on 35.6% of his dropbacks, the second-highest rate in Week 1; his 34.8% rate against Washington’s Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan was the fourth highest in Week 8.
According to PFF, Manning's 29.3% play action rate is sixth highest in the league, and he leads in attempts, completions, touchdowns, yards, and YPA off fakes. In terms of QB rating on play action, it's Philip Rivers (152.5), Manning (144.4), and everyone else (Tony Romo is third at 121.2).
Staying grounded: Chiefs vs. Broncos will hinge on the running game
The one area where they are really ahead of the curve is using their wide receiver screen game to set up passing plays down the field. If wide receiver screens are truly a running game substitute, it would make sense that you should be able to fake them and take a shot deep. Isn’t that how the forward pass was first used, as a high-reward gamble occasionally taken to keep the defense honest?
The Broncos are the first team that has done this consistently. In particular, the Broncos have run these plays in situations and areas of the field where play action passes have always been popular.
We've already seen some great pieces this week about Broncos/Chiefs, but this may be the best/most informative yet.
And so far this season, Smith hasn’t proven the ability to do that. In his 315 passing attempts this season, Smith has thrown just 18 passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air, per Pro Football Focus. He’s completed six of those passes for 184 yards and one touchdown.
FWIW, Peyton Manning has thrown 47 deep balls and completed 20 of them; they've gone for 660 yards, or 14.0 per attempt, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He throws deep on 12.7% of his attempts, which is tied for 15th in the league. Smith's 5.7% figure puts him dead last among 36 QBs, and his average per deep attempt is a middling 10.2 yards, although it must be noted that he's thrown no deep interceptions.
It may seem a bit cruel to compare Smith to PMFM, but what do you suppose Sunday night's matchup is going to come down to? They're not playing tiddlywinks...
Knowing what I know now, I guess I’d still play, because I can live with the shoulder and the back and the knees and things like that. I’d say that was a fair trade-off. But the whole head stuff, which is the unknown, is the trade-off that I probably wouldn’t be willing to make. And that’s the thing I don’t know about.
It's just one anecdote from one former player, but Steve Antonopulos sounds like a real treat...
Peyton vs. Perfection
There’s a perception that Denver’s defense is iffy, maybe even porous. That’s only because its two bad performances happened to coincide with the team’s two most-watched games: Week 5 at Dallas, and Week 7 at Indy. Take out those contests and this group is allowing a respectable 21.6 points per game.
The Chiefs lack the same offensive firepower that the Cowboys or Colts have. Their system hinges on Jamaal Charles being able to turn the outside corner in the ground game, and converting a few screens into first downs.
If there are two things you don't want to do very much of against Denver's defense, it's run the ball and throw screen passes. Figures to be a long night for Captain Checkdown, who we don't think will have as many deep open receivers to ignore as he does in Benoit's screengrabs.