Week 11 Preview: Chiefs @ Broncos

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The weekly preparations are over, meaning there’s only one thing remaining for the Chiefs and Denver Broncos.

“I think for both teams, it’s a privilege to be in this situation,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during Friday’s media session. “And now you go play.”

Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (center) watches a replay against the Houston Texans in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (center) watches a replay against the Houston Texans in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt Sunday’s primetime matchup is a doozy and features numerous storylines, including the Chiefs’s No. 1 defense against the Broncos’ No. 1 offense; Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s 13-1 record coming off a bye; AFC West supremacy on the line; the Chiefs secondary against Denver’s wide receivers; Peyton Manning at home on primetime; among many others.

Given the attention, the NFL and CBS made a wise choice to allow the flexing of this showdown to NBC Sunday Night Football.

Week 11’s contest has been dubbed the Game of the Season, a mini Super Bowl of sorts.

And some of the Chiefs players are fully aware of what’s at stake Sunday night.

“It’s a big game, just like every week prior has been but especially big in the division,” tight end Anthony Fasano said Wednesday. “Wins in a division pretty much count for a game and a half, so it’s a big test against a very good football team.”

Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz adds the opportunity to play on primetime TV will allow others outside of Kansas City to see what the Chiefs are made of.

“We’re on national TV, and we get to show the country what we’re about,” Schwartz said earlier in the week. “I’m pretty pumped and I know we’re pumped as a team.”

Ultimately, the Chiefs and Broncos will settle matters at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

For the Chiefs, the key to the game is best captured by linebacker Tamba Hali.

“It’s not about who has the best offenses or the best defenses,” Hali said during Wednesday locker room media session. “It’s about who can go out there and make plays on Sunday and execute and get a W.”

Sounds simple enough.

But in order for the Chiefs to accomplish that feat, they’ll have to execute in the red zone.

Quarterback Alex Smith reinforced that when asked by a reporter what the offense needed to do in order to have a chance to win.

“Score more points,” Smith replied. “In the end, this isn’t a contest that – yeah, they put up a ton of stats and have done all of that. For us, we just have to score more points than them. That’s the bottom line.”

Tale of the tape

Offense

• The Chiefs rank 11th in rushing (119 yards per game) and 27th in passing (198.3 yards per game).
• The Broncos rank 20th in rushing (105.2 yards per game) and first in passing (353.4 yards per game).

Defense

• The Chiefs rank 24th against the run (118.6 yards allowed per game) and sixth against the pass (208.3 yards allowed per game).
• The Broncos rank fourth against the run (87 yards allowed per game) and 30th against the pass (287.9 yards allowed per game).

Other areas of interest

• The Chiefs defense rank first in points allowed per game (12.3); the Broncos rank first in points scored per game (41.2).
• The Broncos rank first in third down percentage (49.5) and red zone touchdown percentage (79.5); the Chiefs defense ranks first in third down percentage (25.8) and red zone touchdown percentage (23.1).
• The Chiefs defense ranks first in sacks (36); the Broncos have allowed the second-least amount of sacks (13).

The last time

The Broncos swept the two-game series in 2012, outscoring the Chiefs 55-12.

Kansas City and Denver have met 106 times (105 regular season, one postseason in 1997) leading to Sunday, where the Chiefs hold a 56-50 edge in the all-time series.

For games played at Denver, the Broncos are 20-34 (.370), but are 10-2 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Chiefs are 24-16 against Denver for games played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Did you know?

The combined win percentage (.944) between Kansas City and Denver represents the highest for a game this late in the season since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Move along, nothing to see here

Any hope of getting locker room reaction surrounding wide receiver Dwayne Bowe’s recent arrest on allegations of speeding and possession of a controlled substance were quickly dashed.

“I play quarterback,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “I have nothing on that. I’m getting ready to play Denver.”

And the hits kept coming.

“I’m not going to discuss the Dwayne Bowe situation,” wide receiver A.J. Jenkins said.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” tight end Anthony Fasano said.

“That’s not my job to discuss it or to do whatever,” offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz said.

It was almost as if the players used a Jedi Mind Trick on the media: “These are not the Bowe story angles you’re looking for. Move along.”

Bowe issued a statement through the team public relations apologizing for “the distraction” he caused, but he wasn’t made available to the media for questions.

The only story that mattered and affects Sunday’s game came from coach Andy Reid during Wednesday’s media session.

“Dwayne will play,” Reid said. “He’ll start.”

Quotable

Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery on the media hype the past week:

“I think you guys (the media) are more excited than us,” Avery said with a grin.

Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith on if there’s a mentality to hold Denver to a point total:

“We don’t care if they score 30 points,” Smith said. “As long as we win the game, that’s definitely the most important thing.”

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning when asked by a reporter during Wednesday’s media conference call about pass rushing trends through the A-gap:

“That’s pretty technical, talking A-gaps, you guys really know your stuff,” Manning said. “I’m impressed.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid growing weary of numerous questions about wide receiver Dwayne Bowe:

“Let’s go back to the Broncos,” Reid said.

Prediction

Statistically, the marquee matchup is clearly between the Chiefs defense and Broncos offense, a heavyweight battle between two of the league’s elite units.

The Chiefs defense is more than good enough to match or better the San Diego Chargers’ Week 10 performance against the Broncos, who were limited to a season-low 28 points.

But the bigger question is can the Chiefs offense show up and support the defensive effort?

While there’s no doubting a proven Chiefs defense, the same can’t be said for an offensive unit that’s experienced inconsistency through nine games.

The Chiefs offense currently ranks 23rd in third down percentage (36) and 26th in red zone touchdown percentage (48.3). Neither area will get it done Sunday night if the Chiefs expect to win.

Denver’s weakness is a pass defense currently ranked 30th (287.9 yards allowed per game). Unfortunately, the Chiefs aerial attack hasn’t shown an ability to attack down the field.

Expect the Chiefs to hang around Sunday night behind defense and special teams, but the offense stalls when it matters the most.

Outcome: Broncos 28, Chiefs 17

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Friday’s official NFL Injury Report, as released by the league:

Kansas City Chiefs

Probable: WR Donnie Avery (shoulder), DE Mike Catapano (ankle), TE Anthony Fasano (ankle, knee), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle), TE Sean McGrath (knee), LB Dezman Moses (toe), RB Anthony Sherman (knee, calf)

Practice Report

Did not practice

Thursday: P Dustin Colquitt (not injury related)

Limited participation

Wednesday: DE Mike Catapano (ankle), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle)

Full participation

Wednesday: WR Donnie Avery (shoulder), TE Anthony Fasano (ankle, knee), TE Sean McGrath (knee), LB Dezman Moses (toe), RB Anthony Sherman (knee, calf)
Thursday: WR Donnie Avery (shoulder), DE Mike Catapano (ankle), TE Anthony Fasano (ankle, knee), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle), TE Sean McGrath (knee), LB Dezman Moses (toe), FB Anthony Sherman (knee, calf)
Friday: WR Donnie Avery (shoulder), DE Mike Catapano (ankle), TE Anthony Fasano (ankle, knee), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle), TE Sean McGrath (knee), LB Dezman Moses (toe), RB Anthony Sherman (knee, calf)

Denver Broncos

Doubtful: CB Champ Bailey (foot)
Questionable: LB Nate Irving (shoulder)
Probable: DE Robert Ayers (not injury related), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), T Orlando Franklin (ankle), S Duke Ihenacho (ankle), T Winston Justice (finger), G Chris Kuper (ankle), QB Peyton Manning (ankle), C Manuel Ramirez (knee), TE Julius Thomas (ankle), LB Danny Trevathan (not injury related), C J.D. Walton (ankle), CB Kayvon Webster (thigh), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

Practice Report

Did not practice

Wednesday: DE Robert Ayers (not injury related), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), LB Nate Irving (shoulder), QB Peyton Manning (ankle)
Thursday: LB Danny Trevathan (not injury related)

Limited participation

Wednesday: CB Champ Bailey (foot), S Duke Ihenacho (ankle), WR Wes Welker (ankle)
Thursday: CB Champ Bailey (foot), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), S Duke Ihenacho (ankle), LB Nate Irving (shoulder), QB Peyton Manning (ankle)
Friday: CB Champ Bailey (foot), LB Nate Irving (shoulder)

Full participation

Wednesday: T Orlando Franklin (ankle), G Chris Kuper (ankle), C Manuel Ramirez (knee), TE Julius Thomas (ankle), C J.D. Walton (ankle), CB Kayvon Webster (thigh)
Thursday: DE Robert Ayers (not injury related), T Orlando Franklin (ankle), T Winston Justice (finger), G Chris Kuper (ankle), C Manuel Ramirez (knee), TE Julius Thomas (ankle), C J.D. Walton (ankle), CB Kayvon Webster (thigh), WR Wes Welker (ankle)
Friday: DE Robert Ayers (not injury related), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), T Orlando Franklin (ankle), S Duke Ihenacho (ankle), T Winston Justice (finger), G Chris Kuper (ankle), QB Peyton Manning (ankle), C Manuel Ramirez (knee), TE Julius Thomas (ankle), LB Danny Trevathan (not injury related), C J.D. Walton (ankle), CB Kayvon Webster (thigh), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

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