WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Tebow (536 passing yards, 6 TD, 1 INT) was sacked seven times and had two interceptions returned for touchdown two weeks ago against Detroit, forcing an unidentified Lions defender to criticize the Broncos for having the former University of Florida savior under center. The coaches deemed it necessary for a playbook alteration, and Tebow followed suit by protecting the football and giving the Raiders more problems than they could handle. It’s unknown what type of offense will show up in Kansas City, though it’s assumed the team will stay the course and gradually add to Tebow’s plate in future weeks. Tebow did not commit any turnovers against Oakland, and Fox said this week he will try to incorporate more of the pass with the running load and believes when the time is right Tebow will have no issues with being more multi-dimensional instead of just a running threat. McGahee (623 rushing yards, 3 TD) was a huge threat last Sunday, as the veteran addition had the best game of his short-lived Broncos career. He found the end zone for the first time since Week 2 and posted his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Eric Decker (33 receptions, 6 TD) led the way for the Broncos’ receivers with 47 yards and a score on three catches last week and is Denver’s top pass-catching threat. Fellow wideout Eddie Royal returned a punt 85 yards for a score against Oakland and is third on the team with 14 receptions.
Chiefs linebacker and leading tackler Derrick Johnson (62 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) stated the obvious after the loss to Miami, saying that the team has to do much better on defense. He vowed to bounce back and have a better week against the Broncos, and division games do mean so much more than the rest. Kansas City’s defense has been inconsistent this season and ranks 19th against the rush (120.2 ypg) and 21st in both passing yards allowed (250.5 ypg) and total yards given up (370.8 ypg). Denver just ran all over the Raiders with their new-look offense, while the Chiefs permitted 351 total yards against Miami, including 107 on the ground. It’s unknown if its 3-4 scheme matches up well to the Broncos’ read-option offense, but it seems as if the linebackers have to prevent Tebow and McGahee from gaining the outside edge. Inside linebackers Jovan Belcher (44 tackles) and Johnson can only hope the front three can cause enough havoc up front to allow them to roam free in the middle. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali (35 tackles) leads the team with six sacks, while cornerback Brandon Flowers (37 tackles) is tops with four interceptions. Forcing turnovers is a must for this week.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
Cassel (1,620 passing yards, 9 TD, 9 INT) did not throw a touchdown pass or have an interception last week and passed for 253 yards to earn a 71.8 rating. After three straight weeks of a quarterback rating 100 or higher earlier in the year, Cassel hasn’t been able to be as precise over the past three contests and owns just one touchdown pass in that span. The Chiefs came into the game having allowed 13 sacks all season, tied for sixth-best in the league, but have been a mediocre passing team and may not match up well with a Denver defense that harassed Oakland’s pass attack all afternoon last Sunday. Kicker Ryan Succop, the hero in a Monday night win over the Chargers, put the Chiefs on the board first with a 43-yard field goal against Miami, but that was it as far as the offense was concerned. Running back Jackie Battle (342 rushing yards, 1 TD) has nested into a starting role and posted 40 yards on 14 carries last week. It was his lowest total since running for 22 yards in Week 4 versus Minnesota, before he became the feature back. Kansas City must get Battle going early to keep pressure off of Cassel, who was second in rushing yards with 38 in the recent defeat. It must have been difficult for Kansas City to cope with the loss after not committing a turnover. Steve Breaston (29 receptions, 450 yards, 2 TD) had 115 yards on seven catches last week — one more than leading receiver Dwayne Bowe (39 receptions, 636 yards, 4 TD) , who ended with 88 yards on six receptions. Bowe hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in three straight games after leading the NFL with 15 in 2010.
The Broncos were prepared for Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, who was intercepted three times — including twice by future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. The veteran’s first two interceptions of the season catapulted him to the team lead in that category. The Broncos’ 4-3 defense showed holes a few times, however, as Oakland was able to compile 416 yards of offense with 316 of those coming through the air. Bowe and Breaston both have speed, but Bowe’s size and power will give the Broncos fits. Jacoby Ford of the Raiders burned Denver for 105 yards and a score a week ago. Cornerback Chris Harris (30 tackles) had the team’s other interception last week and led the Broncos with 11 tackles. End Elvis Dumervil (11 tackles, 2 sacks) posted 1 1/2 sacks against the Raiders and leading tackler Wesley Woodyard noticed from his position nearby at linebacker that Dumervil’s success gets the entire defense going. The Broncos ran a coverage-rush scheme and Bailey is a huge supporter, saying when the front line collapses the pocket and the secondary is covering their man then Denver will be a tough out. Even though Palmer was able to throw for more than 300, yards, the Broncos managed to break up eight passes and get three picks. Cassel may have trouble avoiding the turnover bug on Sunday if Denver plays like it did last week.
KEYS TO THE GAME
How will the read-option fare this time around for Tebow and the Denver offense? It passed with flying colors against the Raiders, but the Chiefs have had a week to study and prepare.
The Chiefs’ offensive line has managed to protect Cassel for most of this season, and they’re hoping last week’s poor performance was just an aberration. Denver has a few missiles aimed at Kansas City’s front line in rookie linebacker Von Miller and Dumervil. Miller leads the squad with seven sacks and has at least one in all but two games.
Denver should feel somewhat confident in trying to establish the passing game early and only have to watch what Dolphins backup-turned-starter Matt Moore did to the Chiefs to boost their spirits. Moore was thrust under center only because Chad Henne was injured but threw for 244 yards and three scores. Moore entered the season with about as much regard as Tebow, which was very little.
Prediction – Tim Tebow is 2-1 as the Broncos starter in 2011, and while it hasn’t looked pretty, he’s finding a way to get the job done. Now he takes on a Chiefs team that had been on a roll before they totally laid an egg last week against the Dolphins losing 31-3. The Broncos seem to be responding well under Tebow, again despite it being ugly, and they will again win ugly in KC against a Chiefs team really not that good and falling down. Denver 27 Kansas City 17