Will Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes continue his hot streak, or will the Denver defense uncover the secret to slowing the second-year quarterback? Three things to know before the Chiefs visit the Broncos on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
1. Patrick Mahomes continues to steadily improve on working through his progressions, something we saw especially against the 49ers in Week 3—the third game in a row that Mahomes and the Chiefs faced a predominantly Cover 3 zone-based defense. Perhaps no coach is better at dialing up Cover 3-beating plays than Andy Reid (Travis Kelce is especially dangerous here), which explains why the Broncos should consider playing more man-to-man. In the second half of last season, man coverage proved a good remedy for Reid’s misdirection offense. Broncos corners Chris Harris and Bradley Roby are strong enough to test on an island against Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill. The question is, Who covers Kelce? With Denver’s safeties and linebackers, the answer should be multiple guys.
2. The Broncos have a chance to become the AFC’s best run defense. Prized rookie Bradley Chubb has been sturdy when setting the edge on the strong side, which allows Von Miller to play the weak side, where he has more space. Inside, there isn’t a stingier trio than Domata Peko, Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis. And behind these men are two fundamentally stout cleanup artists: Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis. Amidst all the Mahomes excitement it’s easy to overlook that Kansas City’s rushing numbers are down by about 15 yards a game this season. Don’t expect those to bounce back this week.
3. If you can defend slant routes and flat routes—including when those routes are intertwined—you can stymie a Broncos offense that is still searching for its full identity. Chiefs defenders should be aggressive underneath and make Broncos QB Case Keenum beat them with deeper intermediate throws.
Bold Prediction: Patrick Mahomes will throw his first interception of the season. (How great has he been that THIS qualifies as a bold prediction?)