Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) vs Denver Broncos (7-3)
8:30pm ET on NBC
Down by 2 with 3 seconds on the clock and 66 yards from victory, Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Alex Smith went short over the middle to Albert Wilson, who lateraled to Tyreek Hill, who in turn lateraled to Eric Fisher, who then fumbled the ball only to have it recovered by Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, thereby securing the Buccaneers’ 19-17 win. It was the type of moment that leaves middle-aged men clutching their chests. But the play that really killed the Chiefs’ chances came on 2nd-and-goal from Tampa’s 6 yard line, when Smith’s pass for Chris Conley got picked off by Tampa DB Chris Conte, who ran it back 53 yards to set up the Bucs’ only touchdown of the day, which made the score 19-10. Other than that ill-fated pass, Smith had a good day, completing 24 of 31 for 261 yards and a TD. But Smith may be without his best wide receiver, rookie Tyreek Hill, who left the last game with a hurt knee and whose status for Sunday remains up in the air. The Chiefs’ real strength remains on defense, however, as they have the fifth-best points against average at 18.7, but this feels like a house of cards, as they’ve also surrendered the eighth-most yards per game, 373.7. Their secret to making this work? Turnovers, as they’re #1 in both interceptions, with 13, and fumble recoveries, with 10 – that’ll paper over a lot of mistakes. For example, the three teams above and below in terms of yards per game allowed have given up an average of 25 points per game. Can they keep it up? Seems unlikely.
Now the Broncos, these guys play some quality defense, allowing just 318 yards a game, fourth-best in the league, while forcing the second-most turnovers, 20. But two weeks ago, against the Saints, they used the KC formula, giving up 373 yards of offense, while forcing 4 turnovers, to win 25-23. Defensive back Darian Stewart was the star of the show, grabbing two interceptions and scooping up a fumble. The first interception was on Denver’s 7 yard line, the second INT was converted into a field goal, and the fumble led to a Broncos touchdown – so, yeah, they made a difference. The decisive play of the game, however, came with the score tied at 23-23, when the Saints lined up for the go-ahead extra point, only to have it blocked by Justin Simmons, and picked up by Will Parks, who ran it all the way back for 2 points.
After wowing everyone with his 312 yards and 4 TDs against Cincy in Week 3, Broncos QB Trevor Siemian has fallen back to Earth. In his last 5 games, he’s completed 56% of his passes for 1.204 yards, 6 TDs and 4 INTs, but really, that’s all the Denver needs from him. They managed to win the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning last year – the hope was that as long as the defense stayed tough, Siemian just needed to be better than Manning for them to have a shot, and he has.
Neither team is an offensive powerhouse, so this one’s gonna come down to the difference in the defenses, and while Kansas City D has shown a knack for coming up with the big play, Denver, led by Von Miller and Aqib Talib, are relentless in pursuit, and will make you pay for every misstep.
Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) vs Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
New York Giants (7-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-11)
Los Angeles Rams (4-6) vs New Orleans (4-6)
San Francisco 49ers (1-9) vs Miami Dolphins (6-4)
Seattle Seahawks (7-2) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
Watch the Chiefs vs Broncos at 8:30pm ET on NBC, and regional action on FOX by subscribing to Sling Blue