Monday Night Football returns to Arrowhead Stadium tonight as the Kansas City Chiefs play host to their heated rival, the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs find themselves in what amounts to a must win situation, in my opinion. As we all know, the Chiefs started this season out on a torrid pace, streaking out to a 5-0 start and looking like the best team in the NFL. Then, in a matter of 5 days, they fell to 5-2 losing to both the Steelers and Raiders, and suddenly find themselves just a game and a half up in the divisional race. Denver is the team that is just a game and a half back of the Chiefs in the AFC West, and are also finding themselves doing a bit of soul searching after dropping back to back games. First to the previously winless Giants and then last week getting shut out by the Chargers. Both of these teams should be more than motivated for this contest and it will definitely be an emotional battle. It’s also a point of pride for this Chiefs team. Do you know the last time the Chiefs managed to beat the Broncos on Monday Night Football? Here’s a clue:
Yes, it has been 23 years since the Chiefs last beat the Broncos on Monday Night Football (0-2 over that span). More concerning is the Chifes’ overall record in prime time games against Denver. The Chiefs are 3-7 against Denver in prime time since that October night in 1994 (although they are on a 2 game win streak as both games were in prime time last season). The history doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to this present day game of course, but it’s still an interesting point to look back at. It’s amazing how the Chiefs have had a tendency to under perform in the spotlight against Denver over the years. How do the Chiefs right the ship and get the victory at home tonight? Well, here are 3 things that I think will be key to this game.
- Establish the run and stick to it – Denver has the #1 rushing defense in the NFL, so it won’t be easy. However, the Chiefs are 5-0 this season when rookie Kareem Hunt tops 94 yards on the ground. Coach Reid is somewhat notorious for abandoning the run game if it doesn’t have early success, they can’t afford to do that tonight. Become one dimensional against a defense the caliber of Denver’s and it’s going to be a LONG night for Kansas City.
- Keep a bad offense bad – The Broncos offense has been abysmal the last several weeks, most notably in their shut out loss a week ago. The Chiefs defense has been equally brutal the last couple of weeks, and so it’s a matter of which unit will be better tonight. The Chiefs should be helped by the potential return of CB Steven Nelson from injury, but at the end of the day, they have to be better. Bob Sutton’s defense has been uncharacteristically bad all season at taking the ball away and keeping teams out of the endzone. If they can get pressure consistently on Trevor Siemian, he will make mistakes. Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Chris Jones, and company need to attack this Broncos line and set the tone from the start.
- Get Kelce involved early and often – Travis Kelce has killed the Broncos over the course of his career. If there is a weakness in Denver’s defense, it’s their inability to cover the tight end, and Kelce being one of the absolute best in the business should have a big game tonight.
Basically it comes down to using your weapons (Kelce, Hunt, and Hill) and getting back to playing the defense we all know this team is capable of. Make no mistake about it, this Chiefs team is a better football team than this Denver Broncos team is, however, they’re also a lot better than the Raiders are and we saw how that turned out. The Chiefs have had the extra time to prepare due to the long layoff after playing 11 days ago, they’re getting healthier, they just have to go out and execute on the field.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Jamaal Charles is making his return to Arrowhead Stadium tonight. Jamaal of course is the Chiefs’ all time franchise leading rusher who was released this past offseason. He’s been effective in small doses for Denver so far this season, and it’s good to see him playing healthy again. This morning he made a post on the Players Tribune saying Thank-You to Kansas City, (you can read that article here) and it brought up all the emotions for me. I hope to see him get a thunderous ovation tonight at 1 Arrowhead Drive, because he certainly deserves it.
Tonight’s game can be heard on Topeka’s Rock Leader, V100. Pregame starts at 6:00 with Kickoff around 7:25.