The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs vie for early control of the AFC West when they open Week 2 on Thursday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium.
Over the last few years the Broncos’ offense and the Chiefs’ defense would be deemed each side’s strengths, but Kansas City’s inexplicable offensive surge and Denver’s nail-biter in Week 1 has flipped those roles.
The Chiefs start their pursuit for 2-0 and first-place in the division as three-point home favorites following a stellar 27-20 road victory over a typically stout Houston defense. Kansas City opened up a 27-9 lead over the Texans by halftime thanks to quarterback Alex Smith’s three touchdown passes and the tight end Travis Kelce’s 106 receiving yards and two scores.
Running back Jamaal Charles failed to break out for big yardage, tallying only 57 yards off 16 attempts, but was effective in the passing game with five receptions for 46 yards and Smith’s last touchdown of the first half.
Houston did climb back into the game in the second half, but K.C.’s defense and pass rush looked sharp in the first 30 minutes. The Chiefs notched five sacks, four quarterback hits, and seven passes defensed with fifth-year defensive end Allen Bailey leading the squad with two sacks and two hits.
The Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning also drew a difficult opening opponent in Baltimore, and couldn’t convert a single offensive touchdown. Manning went 24-for-40 for 175 yards and one interception, while Denver managed only 219 total yards. Last season, Manning was held without a touchdown pass in only two games, and both were much later in the season when he was dealing with a thigh injury.
Manning was also under heavy pressure throughout the game, with his offensive line allowing four sacks and five hits. Last season, the Broncos were best in the NFL allowing just 17 total sacks.
The line also failed to generate the type of strong-rushing game head coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive schemes often rely on. Ronnie Hillman led the team with 41 yards on 12 carries, and Denver averaged only 2.8 yards per rush.
Denver instead relied on second-year kicker Brandon McManus’ leg and cornerback Aqib Talib’s 51-yard interception return for a touchdown. McManus went 4-for-4 and connected from deep 57-yard, 56-yard, and 52-yard distances and padded the lead with a 33-yard boot with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Instead, the Broncos defense looked far sharper. Talib’s heads-up play resulted in Denver’s only touchdown, and veteran defensive end DeMarcus Ware recorded one of the team’s two sacks and led all players with five hits.
Betting Odds: Kansas City -3
Over/Under: 42 points
Prediction: Kansas City over Denver, 24-20