NFL Week 17 Picks: Denver Broncos Will Bounce Back Against Kansas City Chiefs
With just one game left on the schedule, a Broncos' loss could end their storybook season by dashing the team's playoff hopes.
If Denver loses and the Oakland Raiders lose to the San Diego Chargers as well, then the Broncos will clinch the AFC West. But with a victory by the Raiders and a Broncos' loss, Oakland will win the AFC West and send Denver home for the season.
Let's look at a preview of the game on Sunday, and why the Broncos will pull out off a victory.
Denver Broncos Secondary
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Denver cornerback Champ Bailey will be matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs' best receiver, Dwayne Bowe.
Bailey dominated the matchup last time the two met. Bowe had just two catches for 17 yards. Granted, it was Matt Cassel and not Kyle Orton throwing Bowe the ball in Week 10, but Bailey seems to have Bowe's number.
And taking Bowe out of the game could be devastating to the Kansas City offense. Bowe is the best receiver and biggest touchdown threat for the Chiefs. He has five touchdowns and 1,066 yards on the season.
His five touchdowns are more than all of the Chiefs' rushing touchdowns combined and nearly half of the team's 13 pass touchdowns (four touchdowns overall from three different rushers).
If Brian Dawkins can return to the field at safety after re-aggravating a neck injury against the Buffalo Bills last week, then Bowe will have an even tougher time getting the football.
The Tebow Factor
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Tim Tebow completed just two passes the last time the Denver Broncos played the Kansas City Chiefs. One of those passes was a 56-yard touchdown to Eric Decker, but two completions probably won't get it done this time around.
Since then, Tebow has progressed as a passer.
He has averaged over 200 yards passing the last four games, and he had a career high 40 pass attempts against the Chicago Bears in Week 14. The coaching staff is becoming more comfortable letting Tebow throw the ball even in a close games like the Broncos' 13-10 victory over the Bears.
And Tebow's four interception game against the Buffalo Bills last week was more of an anomaly than anything else.
Tebow was faced with pressure off of the edge all game. When the Broncos got behind and Tebow had to sit in the pocket and throw, the Broncos became predicable. Tebow was a sitting duck, and he was forced to become one-dimensional.
It won't be easy facing the Chiefs' ninth ranked passing defense, but Tebow will do everything in his power not to have another game like he had last week.
Kansas City Run Defense
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Ever since Tim Tebow took over as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, the offense has been primarily focused around the running game. That makes the Kansas City Chiefs a good matchup for the run-heavy Broncos.
The Broncos lead the NFL in rushing yards with 161.1 yards per game, and the Chiefs rank just 23rd against the run giving up 126.4 yards a game.
Tebow is averaging 49.5 yards every game, he is extremely tough to stop in the red zone (he has six rushing touchdowns on the year).
In the Week 10 victory over the Chiefs, the Broncos ran for 244 yards on 55 attempts against the Kansas City defense.
Willis McGahee, who had just four carries for 17 yards in the game, will be ready to go on Sunday and bring his 4.8 yard per carry average with him.
While fans will see Tim Tebow throw more than the eight attempts he had last time, a wide array of running plays will consume the Denver game plan again.
Denver Has Familiarity with Kyle Orton
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There is no doubt that Kyle Orton will play with passion in an attempt to show why he should have never been demoted in favor of Tim Tebow, and Orton does have an intimate knowledge of the Broncos personnel.
However, after going against their former quarterback in practice, the Denver defense has intimate knowledge about Orton as well.
The Broncos defense knows Orton's faults better than anyone, and after delving into game tape, John Fox and the first-year coaching staff know quite a bit about him, too.
And Denver receivers can help their secondary by offering tips on where Orton likes to place the ball or how he wanted them to run routes.
The offensive line has a feel of exactly where he likes to sit in the pocket, and when he is the most susceptible to pass-rush.
So, as recent discussions have revolved around how much Orton knows about Denver, the same can be said about the Broncos knowing things about him.
Either way, the game still has to be played. Knowledge of Orton or the Broncos might be a factor but not as big of a factor as how hard each team plays.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil
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With Dwayne Bowe being locked up by Champ Bailey, Kyle Orton will have to spend some extra time going through his progression and finding open receivers.
That is music to rookie Von Miller's and veteran Elvis Dumervil's ears.
Miller leads the Denver Broncos in sacks this season with 11.5 and is tied for ninth in the NFL with Connor Barwin.
Dumervil picked up where he left off before having to sit out all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. The injury certainly didn't have any lingering affects on his pass-rushing skills. He sits with the second most sacks on Denver's roster with 9.5.
The Kansas City Chiefs are middle of the road in pass protection. They are ranked 17th in hits on the quarterback allowed and 16th in sacks allowed.
There is a good chance they will drop in those rankings after Week 17.