Denver @ Kansas City
-Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness) is questionable. He first appeared on the injury report Friday as DNP. Andy Reid told reporters Friday that he "should be fine."
-Chiefs RT Lucas Niang (ribs) is out. Niang has been out since being injured week 9. Andrew Wylie has been filing in and struggling. Wylie mostly played guard last year, and better profiles at that position.
-Chiefs CB Rashad Fenton (knee) is out. Fenton has been the Chiefs best corner. Mike Hughes will replace him, who has also played well in limited snaps.
-Broncos RB Melvin Gordon (shoulder/hip) is out. Gordon typically splits carries with Javonte Williams, who is expected to get more work.
-Broncos LG Dalton Risner (back) was injured last week and is questionable this week. He did get in two limited sessions Thursday/Friday and has been a below average guard.
-Broncos LT Garett Bolles (ankle) is expected to return for the first time since week 8 despite his questionable tag. He got in a full practice Friday.
-Broncos RT Bobby Massie (ankle) is questionable, but practiced all week as limited. Massie hasn't played since week 9.
-Broncos DT Shelby Harris (ankle) is questionable. He last played week 10, but did get in two limited sessions Thursday/Friday. He's a solid run defender.
-Broncos DE Jonathon Cooper (neck) is questionable. He appeared on the injury report Friday as limited, and wasn't listed prior to that. Cooper is an above average pass rusher.
When the Broncos have the ball:
The Broncos offense (15th in DVOA, 12th in EPA/play) is led by Teddy Bridgewater, who ranks 13th in PFF passing grades (76.7) while completing 68.7% of his passes (4.5% above expectation) while gaining 7.4 yards per attempt. Bridgewater is known as a safe quarterback who doesn't take serious risks, which is reflected via low big time throw rates (2.8%) and turnover worthy play rates (2.8%). However, he isn't afraid to take shots downfield -- his aDOT of 8.6 is 11th highest in the league. The offensive line will get a big boost if both Bolles and Massie return, adding some stability to the tackle positions, a point that is exemplified considering the weaknesses along the interior. Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Jerry Jeudy is a solid receiving trio, and Noah Fant is no slouch as a tight end. It's worth noting that Sutton has struggled since Jeudy returned week 8-- he's been unable to surpass 2 catches since. As mentioned above, Javonte Williams will handle the RB carries with Mike Boone chipping in. By DVOA, they're similarly ranked in the pass (12th) and run (13th). The Chiefs on defense are 26th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play. The defense was a disaster to levels where they didn't belong in the league to start the season, but has since put together back to back solid performances against the Raiders and Cowboys. It's unlikely that trend will continue, and we can conclude that the defense is simply bad. The Chiefs did bring in DE Melvin Ingram at the trade deadline, giving them a massive boost to the pass rush. It allowed Chris Jones to move back inside full time, where he'll be a problem for the Broncos interior line. The rest of the front 7 has struggled through the season -- though I will point out that DE Frank Clark's last 4 games were far superior to his first 4. At corner, they'll take a huge hit without Rashad Fenton (knee), as both L'Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward has struggled this season, giving the Broncos an edge in the WR/CB matchups. The saving grace for the Chiefs will have to be the safety tandem of Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu, who are one of the stronger duos in football.
When the Chiefs have the ball:
The Chiefs offense is efficient as usual, ranking 6th in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play. The story has been Pat Mahomes, who ranks just 21st in PFF passing grades (71.1) while completing 65.5% of his passes (2.4% below expectation) and gaining 7.1 yards per attempt. The story has been Mahomes's interceptions -- he's up to 11 on the year, which is 4th most in the league. Mahomes had just 7 and 8 interceptions total in each of the last two seasons, but as usual, interceptions don't tell the entire story. He's putting the ball in harm's way just as frequently as normal, he just had some incredible INT luck in the past two years. The true story is his lack of big time throws -- his rate of 3.1% is 29th in the league among 38 qualifiers and far lower than his previous rates of 6.7%, 5.4%, and 7.3%, respectively. In laymen's terms, he's creating turnover worthy plays at the same rate as always, but doesn't have the big throws to off-set it. The offensive line is one of the strongest in football, thanks in part to rookie C Creed Humphrey and rookie RG Trey Smith. Their one weaknese is at RT, due to Lucas Niang's injury. The receiving weapons will be Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Clyde Edwards-Helaiure will handle the bulk of the RB carries with Darrel Williams chipping in. The Broncos on defense are 25th in DVOA and 9th in EPA/play. The difference between the two statistics is quite rare, though EPA is not opponent adjusted, and the Broncos have had the 19th toughest schedule of opposing offenses, and also rank 28th in variance. They aren't impressive in any portion of the field except safety. DE Bradley Chubb, a highly touted prospect who was taken 5th overall in the 2018 draft, has just a 50.3 PFF grade. DT Dre'Mont Jones leads the way in pressures with 32, followed by Von Miller, who isn't on the team anymore. Outside corner Ronald Darby and slot man Kyle Fuller have been brutally bad. The other starter, rookie Patrick Surtain, is the best of the group with a PFF grade of 62. Safeties Justin Simmons and Caden Sterns are both above average. They've been worse defending the run (26 in DVOA) then the pass (18th).
Spread: When we ran the model, Denver was a 10 point dog. The model slightly preferred the Broncos, but the line has since shifted to 9. You're too late. Don't fucking bet it.
Total: The total sits at 46.5, which in my mind is a bit high for a divisional game. I'd lean under.
Byron Pringle u1.5 receptions +155 (Caesars): Going after the juice here, Pringle has failed to catch 2 passes in 3 of his last 4 games.
Pat Mahomes o2.5 passing TDs +150 (Caesars): See above. Mahomes has gone over 2.5 TDs in 5 of 11 games this season.