An intriguing AFC West matchup will take place on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, as the Kansas City Chiefs will host their longtime division rivals, the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are coming off of a Christmas day beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, falling by a final score of 51-14. The Chiefs took care of business at home in Week 16, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 24-10.
This is the second meeting between these two teams in a relatively short window. The Broncos and Chiefs played one another on December 11, with Kansas City winning that contest 34-28.
We’ll take a look at three keys to watch out for in this game.
The Broncos have had an unexpectedly tumultuous season, which culminated with the firing of head coach Nathaniel Hackett after just 15 games at the helm. He’s only the second coach in NFL history to be fired without having completed a full season, with Urban Meyer being the other. Denver’s lackluster play has been one of the biggest surprises in the league this year, and they’ll hope to regroup for the final couple weeks of the season.
Jerry Rosberg will take over on an interim basis to finish the campaign. He was hired by Hackett a few months ago to help oversee game management operations, such as effective utilization of timeouts. It’s ironic that a resource who was only supposed to provide complementary advice will now run the show. The season can’t end quickly enough for the Broncos.
A Two-Headed Running Back Monster
Speaking of surprises, the Kansas City backfield has evolved in a way that few would have guessed heading into the year. The Chiefs still figured to rely heavily on former first round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, while sprinkling in acquisition Ronald Jones. Those two players have been relegated as non-factors in 2022, as the team has found production elsewhere.
The offense has a formidable 1-2 punch in the backfield with rookie Isiah Pacheco and veteran Jerick McKinnon. The two each have their own respective niches in the offense, which maintains each of their value on a weekly basis. Pacheco has emerged as the most productive runner between the tackles, as he handles the lion’s share of the carries. Meanwhile, McKinnon has proven his worth in the passing game. In the first meeting against Denver, McKinnon caught seven passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Take Care Of Business Early
The Chiefs are still in the running for the AFC’s number one overall seed, but they don’t necessarily have a lot to play for on Sunday. They’ve already clinched the AFC West, and a win on Sunday may not matter that much depending on the result of the Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
With that context in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if the Chiefs try to squash the Broncos and their wavering spirits early on in this game. It could be beneficial for Kansas City to rest some players for a quarter or a half if they can jump out to a big lead.