The Broncos have enjoyed an offensive resurgence since making the switch to rookie quarterback Drew Lock. Lock is not a running quarterback, but he is able to use his legs to escape the pass rush and extend plays. With that ability mixed with his big arm, he is a huge upgrade over Joe Flacco. His play style is similar to Patrick Mahomes, but more like a discount version of the Chiefs’ quarterback. Denver has done a good job about getting him some easy completions early in the game to get him in a rhythm.
After failing to get Phillip Lindsay and the run game on track earlier this season against Kansas City, Denver will surely look to the running backs to try to take some of the pressure off of their young quarterback and beat up offensive line. Lindsay has become more of the primary back, getting double digit carries each of the last 4 weeks. Royce Freeman has grown impatient as a runner, choosing to cut the ball up in the first semi-open hole he sees instead of using his vision to find a better option. With Denver missing the right side of their offensive line this week, expect the runs to be behind the left side of the line more often.
Emmanuel Sanders was traded away after the first matchup with the Chiefs, leaving Courtland Sutton as the primary target at wide receiver. His physical play style and size advantage makes him a tough matchup for the Chiefs’ corners. Rookie tight Noah Fant has become a bigger factor in the offense, although a lot of his big gains happen as a result of missed tackles. Receiver Tim Patrick and tight end/fullback Andrew Beck have seen their roles increase since the Sanders trade.
Stopping The Offense
Tackling is going to be huge in this game. Denver hasn’t displayed the capability to steadily drive down the field regularly yet. They rely on missed tackles and blown coverages to get chunk plays. Fant’s very good YAC ability makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands. Kansas City has to deny him the ball, but more importantly, they have to bring him down quickly if he makes a catch. The Chiefs also need to keep a close eye on Fant when he stays in to block, because he will get a late release, giving Lock an easy dump off target.
If the Chiefs want to slow down the new look Broncos offense, their focus should be attacking the Broncos’ offensive line that is missing the two starters on the right side. In the last matchup between these two teams, Denver gave up 9 sacks to a Chiefs’ defense that was still getting familiar with their new scheme. Left tackle Garrett Bolles is an expert at either getting a holding penalty, or giving up an easy sack. Left guard Dalton Risner is a good young player, but lacks the play strength to compete with some of the better defensive linemen, like Chris Jones. And the two backup players on the right side that are being forced into starting roles due to injuries have to be tested early and often. The Chiefs can use twists to challenge their communication and chemistry on the right side, as well as delayed blitzes through the B gap. Lock has a tendency to miss high because of his arm strength, so if the defense can get pressure on him, the chance of him throwing the ball high resulting in a tipped pass by the receiver or an overthrow greatly increase. The Chiefs will be gifted with easy chances at turnovers as long as they can keep the heat turned up on the young gunslinger.