Week 13's Sunday night matchup features two AFC West rivals going head-to-head at Arrowhead Stadium. The 10-1 Kansas City Chiefs are in search of their seventh straight win as they fight for the top seed in the AFC, while the 4-7 Denver Broncos have dropped three of their last four games but welcome back their quarterback after last week's debacle.
Here is a preview for Sunday night football between the Broncos and Chiefs, complete with a free pick. As expected, Kansas City is a sizable 13.5-point favorite at home.
The growing expectations the Broncos headed into the season with tempered off in a hurry. Denver got off to an 0-3 start but managed to win back-to-back games before hosting the Chiefs. From that point, it's gone downhill fast.
The Broncos followed up a 43-16 blowout loss to Kansas City with four more losses. Denver's one win in that stretch was by a single point in comeback fashion against the last-place Chargers. The low point was last Sunday, where every quarterback was unable to play due to COVID-19 close-contact, and the Broncos lost 31-3 against the Saints with practice squad wideout Kendall Hinton at quarterback. The good news, though, is Drew Lock will be back and start on Sunday, giving the Broncos a chance at the very least to pull off the upset.
With or without Lock, Denver has struggled to score points, ranking 31st in the league, with 19 points per game. Despite a respectable 113.5 rushing yards per game, the Broncos average the fifth-fewest total yards per game, thanks primarily to a low 212 passing yards per game. They are also struggling to extend drives, ranking 30th with a 36 percent success rate on third down.
Head coach Vic Fangio prides himself in defense, and Denver has a respectable one. Although they give up 27 points per game, 24th in football, their 359 yards allowed is ranked 12th. In particular, they are strong against the pass, giving up just 210 passing yards on average, although they have difficulty stopping the run. The Broncos as a team also have 31 sacks, tied for the fifth-most in football, in addition to eight interceptions.
It's no surprise that the defending Super Bowl champions are in first place in the AFC West and are once again competing for another Lombardi Trophy. But the Chiefs look even better this year, and are finding ways to win. Early victories, including a Monday night blowout against the Ravens, set the tone for a 4-0 start. But their quest for perfection ended in early October, with the Raiders putting up 40 points in an upset victory on the road.
However, Kansas City has responded in a big way to that loss with six straight wins, including getting their revenge of Las Vegas in primetime and beating the playoff-contending Bills and Buccaneers on the road. With five games left, we'll see how MVP-frontrunner Patrick Mahomes can cap off his incredible season before the journey to repeating as champions officially begins in January.
Led by the great Mahomes and featuring other weapons like wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City has the best offense in football as a whole. They are scoring just 31.6 points per game, the second-most in the NFL, on the highest total yards average with 433.5. They also rank first in passing yards with 314.5, and boast the league's top third-down percentage at over 50 percent.
On the defensive side of things, Kansas City is 17th with 370.5 yards allowed, while ranking 16th and 23rd in passing and rushing yards allowed, respectively, But their "bend, don't break" mindset is paying off to where they only allow 21.6 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. And while the Chiefs have only 20 team sacks, less than half of what the league-leading Steelers have, their 12 interceptions are tied for the fourth-most.
Starting with the road team, the Broncos have done a good job of covering this year. Despite Denver's 4-7 record, Denver is 6-5 ATS overall and 3-2 ATS on the road. But saying they struggle against the Chiefs is an understatement, as they have lost their last 10 meetings against K.C. and only covered in one of them.
The opposite is true for the Chiefs. While they have a 10-1 record, Kansas City is just 6-5 ATS and 3-2 ATS at home. But in addition to their dominance against Denver, the Chiefs are 11-1 straight up in their last 12 home games, and 13-3 ATS in their previous 16 games against teams from the AFC.
For Kansas City, Edwards-Helaire is the big question to look out for as far as injuries go, but the offense should still be able to score points if Le'Veon Bell starts in the backfield instead. And while it's nice to have Lock back, Denver will be monitoring a pair of offensive weapons in running back Phillip Lindsay and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Each of them is listed as questionable on the injury report.
There's no question that Kansas City wins this game in my mind. The Broncos just can't find a way to score what they need to keep up with and overtake the Chiefs.
However, Denver has a chance to cover thanks to a very good pass-rush. The chance is slim, and it may depend on where the line falls before you make your bet. But I will take Kansas City to win and cover at home for win number 11.
Betting Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (-13.5).