The NFL’s two most dominant teams through the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season reside in the AFC West. Now, the conference's two best teams are set to face off in Week 11.
The Kansas City Chiefs will visit the Denver Broncos on "Sunday Night Football." The contest was moved to primetime with the flex schedule.
Denver might be the biggest story of the year. They started off the season by breaking all-time offensive records and blowing teams out at an incredible rate. All of their first four victories came by at least 16 points, as Peyton Manning got off to the best start for a quarterback in NFL history. He didn’t throw an interception until Week Five, and currently has 33 touchdowns compared to his six picks. Manning leads an offense that is averaging 41.2 points per game, which is far ahead of the No.2 New Orleans Saints with 29.4.
Even with the Broncos’ historical run, they are only in second place. The team slipped up in Manning’s return to Indianapolis, where they lost 39-33. Kansas City might not be making as many headlines, but their level of consistency has them in first place. They are the lone remaining unbeaten team at 9-0.
Despite their record, the Chiefs aren’t perceived as the best team in football by many experts. At Bovada.lv, the 2014 Super Bowl betting odds have five teams more likely to win the title. With Sunday’s game set to be held in Denver, Kansas City is not only expected to lose, but they are one of the biggest underdogs of Week 11. They are getting eight points in the second-biggest point spread on the schedule.
The Chiefs haven’t put up the gaudy numbers that the Broncos have in their wins. They have scored 30 points just once in 2013, with six of their nine victories coming by 10 points or less. They’ve also played one of the easiest schedules in the league. None of the teams that they faced in the first 10 weeks currently have a winning record.
Whatever the outcome, Sunday should be a strong indicator of how good the Chiefs actually are. Their vaunted pass rush, which has been the strength of their team, will get its toughest test of the season. Not only does Manning lead the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating, he plays behind a top offensive line. Twenty-nine other quarterbacks have been sacked more than Manning’s 13 times.
In Week 11, however, the Chiefs defense might not be getting a completely healthy Manning. He has been battling ankle injuries for the past few weeks, and appeared to have hurt himself even more in the Week 10 win against the San Diego Chargers. An MRI showed no further damage, and Manning will play, but it won’t be easy for him to avoid Justin Houston and his 11 sacks. Tamba Hali has nine on the year, contributing to the team’s league-lead in sacks with 36.
“We’re definitely on high alert wanting to protect our quarterback,” said interim head coach Jack Del Rio, who has filled in for John Fox after heart surgery. “We didn’t do as well as we can (at San Diego). We’ve got an even greater challenge coming up this week with a team that’s sacked quarterbacks more than anybody in this league. So, I’m sure that will get plenty of attention.”
While there was never much concern that Manning would miss the game, there has been a lot speculation that Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe could be forced to sit out. On Tuesday, Bowe was arrested for speeding and possession of marijuana. The infraction just adds to his disappointing individual year, which has seen him catch just 33 passes for 369 yards. According to several reports, he’ll still play on Sunday.
Because of Bowe’s struggles, Donnie Avery has become Alex Smith’s leading receiver. Running back Jamaal Charles is No.1 on the team with 47 receptions, in addition to his 725 rushing yards.
Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: NBC
Online Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Betting Line: Denver -8, 49
Prediction: The Broncos have the advantage by playing at home, where they’ve failed to score less than 35 points. The Chiefs, though, are one of the teams that is most equipped to handle the Broncos offensive attack. Only five teams have allowed fewer passing yards per game, and the Chiefs should be able to put pressure on a less than 100 percent Manning. In the end, Denver may have too much offensive firepower for the Chiefs to keep up, but Kansas City should still have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
Predicted Score: Denver 24, Kansas City 23