The Kansas City Chiefs will face the Denver Broncos on the road at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in Week 18.
The Chiefs still have a lot to play for in the regular-season finale with playoff seeding on the line. Meanwhile, the Broncos will only be trying to play spoiler for the sake of pride. Should Kansas City win on Saturday it would mark the 13th consecutive victory over Denver dating back to 2015. They might be out of the playoffs, but that should be motivation enough for the Broncos to play their best.
With all of that in mind, here are three things that we’ll be keeping an eye on during the course of the game on Saturday:
Spreading the ball around
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When the Chiefs faced the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium back in Week 13, their defensive strategy was to limit Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. They were successful in that strategy, holding the duo of pass-catchers to less than 50 yards on the day. The performance was one of the worst in Patrick Mahomes’ career, completing just 15-of-29 passes for 184 yards with no touchdown passes.
In the games since Week 13, Mahomes has done a much better job spreading the ball around to his pass-catchers and not solely relying on big performances from his fellow stars. He’s doing a better job of taking what’s given compared to earlier in the year when he was pressing to push the ball downfield. In Week 17 alone, Mahomes targeted 11 different receivers with 10 of them catching passes.
Denver won’t be as successful in its strategy to contain Kelce and Hill without Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby and Kareem Jackson this week. That said, should they go back to that strategy, Mahomes should be more prepared to spread the ball around than he seemingly was back in Week 13.
Back in the turnover column
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After their Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, we know that the Chiefs will be active getting after the quarterback against Denver. Chris Jones certainly has some motivation to do so, but will the defense manage to get their hands on the football this week? The game against the Bengals was the first time in a hot minute that the defense hadn’t managed to force a turnover and it made a difference in the outcome of the game.
Broncos QB Drew Lock has never played a game against the Chiefs without turning over the football at least once. In fact, in his three career starts against the Chiefs, Lock has thrown a total of five interceptions to just two touchdown passes. Lock will get the start for the Broncos today and he’s not 100% as he deals with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 17.
Can the Chiefs put together a clean game?
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Last week’s game against the Bengals saw the second-most penalties called (10) in a single game this season for the Chiefs. The only game with more penalties called on Kansas City was the Week 8 game against the New York Giants (12). Even with some of the penalties and no-calls causing frustration for Chiefs fans in Week 17, everyone can agree that the team needs to limit them in their final regular-season game of the season.
This week, the Chiefs will get Brad Rogers’ crew for the first time of the year. His only game officiating Kansas City was last season’s 43-16 win over the Broncos. During that blowout win, he only called a single penalty on the Chiefs. That said, his crew has called an insane amount of offensive holding penalties this season (46). This is going to be a game where the offensive line needs to be very mindful of their blocks, otherwise, the offense could find itself in some trouble.