Broncos vs. Chiefs: Full Denver Game Preview

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVSeptember 15, 2015

Broncos vs. Chiefs: Full Denver Game Preview

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs will meet on Thursday night in Week 2.

    It wasn't pretty, but the Broncos survived a meeting with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. However, the sloppiness with which the Broncos played with seems to make the team's annual trip to Arrowhead Stadium a little more daunting.

    Denver has won the last six meetings with Kansas City, but the Chiefs are coming off an impressive road victory over the Houston Texans and may have the Broncos right where they want them.

    Peyton Manning has yet to lose to the Chiefs as a member of the Broncos, but he'll need to play much better than he did in Week 1 in order for that to continue. The Kansas City defense will likely be licking its chops as it watches film of how badly the Broncos struggled on offense against Baltimore.

    Though it is only Week 2, this is a key matchup in the AFC West division race. Read on for more of this matchup as we give a full injury report and discuss key matchups to keep an eye on.

    Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    Time: 8:25 p.m. ET

    TV: CBS, NFL Network

Week 1 Results and Recap

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    If you're a fan of the Denver Broncos, it must be difficult to decide whether to be thrilled with the way the defense played against Baltimore or concerned over how poorly the offense operated.

    It's probably a mixture of both.

    Manning sure looked like a 39-year-old quarterback against Baltimore, completing just 24 of 40 passes in the 19-13 win. But that wasn't the bad part. What stuck out was how he fluttered balls to receivers and missed guys on deep balls and passes that shouldn't have been too difficult to make.

    Questions concerning arm strength will likely plague Manning all season, and the Broncos are going to have to do their best to adjust to what he can do or mask what he is no longer capable of.

    Defensively, the Broncos couldn't have played any better. Denver held the Ravens to 173 yards of total offense. DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Marshall wreaked havoc all over the field. The defense showed an aggressive side that has been missing in recent years.

    The secondary was also great. Joe Flacco was able to complete just seven passes to his wide receivers, but it was the two interceptions he threw that made the difference in the game.

    On the first, Aqib Talib returned it 51 yards for a touchdown, putting Denver ahead for good. In the final seconds of the game, Flacco tried to find tight end Crockett Gillmore in the end zone. For a moment, it appeared he would break the hearts of Denver fans at Sports Authority Field again, but an excellent play by safety Darian Stewart, a former Raven, sealed the victory.

    AFC West Standings

    Denver100
    Kansas City100
    San Diego100
    Oakland010

News and Notes

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Peyton Manning Not Concerned with Offense

    Manning doesn't seem to be worried about the struggles his team had on the offensive side of the ball in Week 1. At least, that's the sentiment we can derive from his words after the game, as noted by Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post:

    Everybody is looking for these summaries of our offense and our team after Week 1 and I just don't think we’re going to be able to do that. It's Week 1. We're a work in progress. If you need a catchy headline for your little article or whatever it is you might be doing, we're trying to get better every single week. What's another cliche I can think of? We're chipping away. Something along those lines.

    Manning may say he's not worried, but those words seem to indicate he was irritated, at the very least. If the Broncos come out with a similar performance on Thursday night, it will be a lot harder for Manning to dodge the topic.

    Aqib Talib Leads League in Pick-Sixes Since 2009

    The interception Talib returned 51 yards for the game-changing touchdown on Sunday marked the seventh time he has brought a pick back for a score in his career. 

    According to team vice president of public relations Patrick Smyth, that leads the league since 2009. 

    Sometimes, a great defense is a team's best offense. The 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers all won Super Bowls using that approach.

    If the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl this season, they may have to do so in similar fashion. It doesn't hurt to have a guy like Talib, who can make big plays with the ball in his hands.

    Peter King Ranks Denver No. 1

    Peter King of MMQB.com released his first Fine Fifteen power rankings of the 2015 season and seems to see the Broncos much differently than those who may feel the team could be in for an up-and-down season.

    In fact, he was more impressed with Denver than any other team in the league, putting the Broncos at the top of his rankings.

    Make what you will of power rankings—particularly this early in the year—but this is proof that some out there can really appreciate what Denver did on Sunday.

Latest Injury News

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Though the game between Denver and Kansas City takes place on Thursday night, no official injury reports have been released. However, Andrew Mason of the team's official website lists some players who could be on that list.

    C.J. AndersonRBAnkle/Toe
    Darian StewartSGroin
    Omar BoldenSFoot
    Kenny AnunikeDEKnee
    Malik JacksonDEConcussion
    David BrutonSHip
    Peyton ManningQBBack
    Brandon MarshallLBFoot
    Lerentee McCrayLBGroin

    It's interesting to see Manning on this list, but Mason notes he was a full participant in practice on Monday, as were McCray and Marshall.

    Stewart and Anderson were both held out of Monday's practice. Though the Broncos will get safety T.J. Ward back after his one-game suspension, the team could be thin at the safety position if Bolden and Bruton can't go.

    As for Anderson, he ran for 29 yards on 12 carries against Baltimore. Ronnie Hillman, who looked better as a runner in the game, could be in for the bulk of the carries Thursday night.

Key Matchups

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Denver Offensive Line vs. Kansas City Pass Rush

    This seems like an obvious choice, but there is no way the Chiefs aren't going to apply constant pressure against Denver in this game.

    Against Baltimore, the Ravens defense wasn't the least bit scared of Manning throwing down the field on them. They figured if they could apply pressure and sit on the underneath routes, they could force mistakes. It worked when Jimmy Smith intercepted a pass thrown by Manning and took it the other way for a score.

    Look for much of the same with Kansas City, except the Chiefs have what should be considered an even more dangerous group of pass-rushers.

    Justin Houston led the NFL in sacks last year, and Tamba Hali can get pressure on a regular basis. That could lead Manning to make errant throws, and with an athletic cornerback such as Marcus Peters in their secondary, the Chiefs will be ready to capitalize.

    The Broncos offensive line will be tested often in this game, and how the unit handles it could be the biggest factor in the outcome.

    T.J. Ward vs. Travis Kelce

    Getting Ward back will be a huge boost for the Denver defense, but will he be able to contain Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce?

    Kelce is quickly blossoming into one of the game's best tight ends. That was evident in his dominant performance in Week 1 where he caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns against Houston.

    Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith will look for Kelce often in this one, and if he can find openings in the defense, he is a huge threat to gain big yardage after the catch.

    Demaryius Thomas vs. Marcus Peters

    Though Manning clearly struggled in Week 1, the best way to get on a roll in this game would be to go to his No. 1 receiver. Manning should try to establish a connection with Demaryius Thomas early in this game and not be afraid to look his way regularly. 

    In two games against the Chiefs last season, Thomas was held relatively in check. He caught 11 passes for 125 yards in those two games. However, he had a touchdown in each one.

    Though the rookie Peters looks like a promising prospect for the Chiefs, going up against a player of Thomas' caliber will be a tough task. Manning should look to exploit the matchup.

Matchup X-Factor

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Broncos X-Factor of the Week: Ronnie Hillman

    Even if Anderson does play in this game, Denver should use Hillman in a bigger role as well. Both players had 12 carries against Baltimore, but Hillman gained 12 yards more than Anderson and ran with much more explosiveness. 

    Hillman can also be a factor in the passing game, giving Kansas City something else to think about defensively.

    The Chiefs allowed the Texans to run for 98 yards in Week 1, so the Broncos should be able to establish the ground attack in this one. Kansas City will likely employ the same strategy that Baltimore used, loading up the box to stop the running game.

    However, if Manning can prove he can make some throws early in the game, that will force the Chiefs to back off a bit.

    Playing in a hostile road environment, the Broncos will need to try to take the crowd out of the game. A sound running attack could be the best way to achieve that.

Prediction: Broncos 17, Chiefs 13

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Though it is only Week 2, this will be one of Denver's toughest challenges all season. On a short week, the team has to travel to Arrowhead Stadium, a place where winning never comes easily.

    If you're looking for the Broncos to turn things around and be a different team than they were against the Ravens, you'll probably be disappointed. If Denver is going to win this game, it will likely have to do it the same way.

    Manning will put just enough points on the board for the defense to take care of the rest. While the Chiefs are a dangerous team, they still don't have quite enough offense to score many points on the Denver defense.

    Denver runs for more than 100 yards and a touchdown as a team, and Manning throws a touchdown pass to Thomas. But in the end, the defense has to make another big play on the final drive to preserve the win.

    Prediction: Broncos 17, Chiefs 13

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