Denver Broncos: Would Victory over Chiefs Make Them Super Bowl Favorites?
The Denver Broncos have a huge game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. The Chiefs have an unblemished record, but many question whether or not they are the best team in the league.
Most football fans believe the Broncos are actually the team to beat.
These two teams will be playing in the game of the year in Week 11 on Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs want to prove the doubters wrong. The Broncos want to prove that they are actually the better team.
At 9-0, the Chiefs are the final unbeaten team in the NFL. That designation does not always translate into postseason success.
In the Super Bowl era, 60 other teams (including seasons where multiple teams had the same number of wins before their first loss) have been the league’s final unbeaten team.
85 percent of those teams have reached the playoffs. 40 percent of them have reached the Super Bowl, and 20 percent of them have won the Super Bowl.
However, this is the fourth time the Chiefs have been the league’s last unbeaten team. They didn’t win a playoff game the previous 3 times.
Chiefs as NFL’s Last Unbeaten Team
This is not the first time Andy Reid has been the head coach of the league’s final unbeaten team. In 2004, as coach of the Eagles, he opened 7-0 before losing the team’s eighth game to the Steelers. They advanced to the Super Bowl but lost to the Patriots.
So who is the true Super Bowl favorite? Will the Broncos cement themselves if they beat the Chiefs on Sunday?
The Vegas Perspective
For answers, I went to Vegas. I was able to interview Jay Kornegay earlier this week on ESPN Denver. Kornegay is the Vice President of Race and Sports Operations at LVH Sportsbook. He helps set the odds in Vegas.
Kornegay had this to say about setting the line for the Chiefs and Broncos game in Week 11, “When you’re trying to make a betting number, I think one of the most overrated stats is [a team’s] record. Kansas City is a very good team. All they do is win, but you look at their resume closer and you can understand why the Broncos are a big favorite.”
There is currently an 8-point spread in favor of the Broncos.
In fact, Kornegay said the line could have been as much as 10 points, but Manning’s injury caused it to be lower. “In our eyes, we thought [the line] was a little low. We thought it was going to be 10, but the Manning injury took place and here we are at 7.5 or 8.”
Kornegay sums it up easily, “Denver is still the Super Bowl favorite in Las Vegas. They are the clear cut favorite to win the Super Bowl.”
He expressed why Vegas did not think the Chiefs were the favorite to win the Super Bowl. “Kansas City is a team we’re just not sure about yet. It’s very difficult to gauge a team like this when they haven’t really played any of the elite teams in the NFL yet.”
Kornegay continued, “Just based on their resume—and the stat sheet and what they’ve done to some mediocre teams—you can tell that their power rating is not too high here in Las Vegas.”
The Chiefs certainly have to prove doubters across the nation wrong about their prowess. Kornegay explained what the Chiefs needed to do in order to change their power rating in Vegas.
"Until they beat an elite team or an elite quarterback... their power rating is going to be somewhere in the range of sixth or seventh best team in the NFL, despite them being undefeated. In our eyes I would think they’re probably out of the top five, at least as far as power ratings are concerned. The jury is still out a little bit on them."
I asked Kornegay if there was any movement in the odds for the Broncos to win the Super Bowl because of Manning re-aggravating his ankle injury.
"No. It certainly is in the back of our minds. We’re trying to figure out exactly what speed he’s going to be at. Is he going to be at 75 [percent healthy] or 95 [percent healthy]? We don’t know. It will be interesting to see what information comes out and how healthy he is. We’re monitoring it pretty much on an hourly basis. Any information that comes out of there, we’re certainly looking at it because obviously he’s one of the best players in the NFL. It would make a huge difference if we could find out if he was 95 or 75."
So Manning goes, so do the Broncos. If he stays healthy, then their chances of winning the Super Bowl is strong.
Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen a less efficient Manning on the field for the Broncos. He’s still amazing, but Manning is not quite performing at the same level he was earlier this year.
Manning has the lowest blitz per dropback percentage of any starting quarterback in the league. He sees extra pressure on only 23.6 percent of his dropbacks.
He also leads all starting quarterbacks with an average of 2.35 seconds in the pocket. Manning is getting rid of the ball quickly, and that helps him avoid getting sacked more often.
The team needs to help left tackle Chris Clark against edge-rushers. He’s been struggling in recent weeks, and the team needs to address that problem immediately. Right tackle Orlando Franklin could also do a better job against the rush. The interior of the Broncos offensive line is rock solid.
Manning was only sacked five times in the first six games of the year. However, he’s been sacked eight times in the last three games. That’s largely due to the trouble both tackles have had on the edge.
Protecting Manning is the top priority. Nothing else matters if he gets hurt. Expect the Broncos to have a quick and lasting fix for this problem.
An Improved Defense
Since the return of Von Miller we’ve seen the Broncos play better on defense. He missed the first six games of the season due to a suspension but has returned with a vengeance.
During the first six weeks, the Broncos (without Miller) put opposing quarterbacks under duress on 25 percent of their dropbacks. Since Miller’s return that number has jumped to 34 percent.
Miller added weight while he was suspended in an effort to improve as a run defense. So far that seems to be the case. Miller is wreaking havoc as a run defender in addition to providing an elite edge presence as a pass-rusher.
Over the last three games one could make the case that the Broncos defense has played better than the Chiefs defense.
Kansas City has played the likes of Case Keenum (Texans), Jason Campbell (Browns) and Jeff Tuel (Bills) during that time. Denver has faced Andre Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington) and Philip Rivers (Chargers) over their last three games. That’s a huge difference as the Chiefs' opposing trio each started the season as third-string quarterbacks.
Denver has allowed 929 yards during that time, an average of 309.6 yards per game. Kansas City has allowed 1,104 yards during that time, an average of 368 yards per game.
Denver has nine sacks over the last three games. Kansas City has six sacks over the last three games.
Denver has four interceptions over the last three games. Kansas City has two interceptions over the last three games.
It’s clear to see that one team is trending in a more positive direction. The Broncos are banking on the continued improvement of their defense as the season goes on.
Getting Hot for the Playoffs
In today’s NFL, the team with the best record does not always win the Super Bowl. It’s all about getting hot at the right time. Looking at the Broncos schedule, it would appear they will be able to do that this season.
The next three games are brutal. This week against the Chiefs is going to be a test. It’s the immovable object (Chiefs defense) against the unstoppable force (Broncos offense) in Week 11.
After this game, the Broncos travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots. They are currently 7-2 and look like they may be getting some of their offensive swagger back. Foxborough is always a tough place to play, and the Broncos will have their hands full with Tom Brady and company.
The third game of this brutal part of their schedule sees the Broncos take on the Chiefs again. This time it’s going to be in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. It will be tough to beat the Chiefs on the road.
Once that three-game stretch is over, things ease up a bit for the Broncos. They close out their season with the Titans, Chargers, Texans and Raiders. Those four games all look like Broncos victories at this point.
In my eyes, the Broncos are still the team to beat in the NFL. Most fans agree with that sentiment, and Las Vegas certainly agrees that Denver is the favorite to win the Super Bowl at this time.
The Broncos need to protect Peyton Manning better if they want to win it all. There are several ways they can achieve that going forward. With Manning healthy, they should continue to dominate on Sundays.
The defense is getting stronger as the season goes on. The return of All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey will only aid this team further in their quest for a championship. The Broncos defense is going to be able to take advantage of teams who fall behind due to Manning and the high-powered offense.
This recipe should lead to Denver getting hot at the right time, and that could lead them to the Super Bowl.
Would a victory this week over the Chiefs make the Broncos Super Bowl Favorites? No, because they already are.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.