DENVER BRONCOS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Arrowhead Stadium High: 86°F | Low: 72°F
Thursday 8:25Pm (ET) | Get Tickets
Spread: Chiefs -3.0 | O/U 42.0
The Denver Broncos travel to Arrowhead on Thursday Night to open up week two in the NFL, as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC West looks to be a very competitive division, with three teams winning their season opener, and Oakland…doing Oakland things. In the first divisional matchup of the year for the AFC West, both teams will be looking to establish dominance.
Statistically speaking, Peyton Manning should be looking forward to this weeks matchup. He boasts a 10-2 win/loss record on a Thursday, a 36-10 career record against the AFC West teams, and an imposing 11-1 mark against the Chiefs. Those twelve games have seen Manning accumulate an average of 282 passing yards, with 25 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions. However, recent statistics don’t make for quite so pleasant reading. In the week one victory over Baltimore, Manning completed 24 of his 40 pass attempts for just 175 yards. Going back to last season, Manning had three sub 180 yard passing games in his six outings, throwing five scores against seven interceptions. He was able to link up with favorite target Demaryius Thomas seven times for just 60 yards, while Emmanuel Sanders snagged eight passes for 65. The ground game, talked up by Gary Kubiak as “Peyton’s best friend”, also failed to catch fire, with C.J. Anderson racking up just 29 yards rushing from his 12 attempts before injury curtailed his involvement.
Second stringer Ronnie Hillman looked very steady as he played his part in a clock draining fourth quarter drive, and finished with 41 rushing yards. Anderson’s health should be monitored leading up to the game, and while in the long run C.J. owners should have Hillman on speed dial, should he miss out on Thursday expectations for Hillman should be tempered somewhat.
The Chiefs allowed only 98 rushing yards against the Houston Texans last Sunday. Bob Sutton’s unit also penetrated the Texans offensive line, on paper a much more impressive unit than their Broncos equivalent, to the tune of five sacks. Manning is coming off a four sack beating, and will look to get the ball out of his hands quickly on Thursday to neutralise the Chiefs pass rush. When releasing the ball in less than 2.5 seconds on Sunday, Manning completed 18 of 29 pass attempts, but a mere 6/11 when holding the ball longer. The yards after catch ability of Thomas could be the key for Denver this week, and Thomas has enjoyed himself against the Chiefs in the past. 4 of his 41 career touchdown receptions have come against them, tied for second in terms of opponents he has scored against. But worryingly for fantasy owners, in 2014 the Chiefs allowed the 25th fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and the 29th most to quarterbacks.
Chiefs signal caller Alex Smith, compared to Peyton, shouldn’t be too ecstatic at the prospect of a Thursday night clash with his division rival. Although he boasts a winning record on TNF (4-3), his career marks of 7-10 against the West and 1-4 versus the Broncos are little cause for celebration. His numbers in games against the Broncos, 7 touchdowns to three interceptions with an average of 225 passing yards, are in keeping with his usual output, suggesting that while he hasn’t done enough to win the games, he is probably not the main reason for the defeats. Smith led the Chiefs to a 27-20 win over the Texans on Sunday, throwing two touchdowns to tight end Travis Kelce (who finished with 106 yards on his six total receptions) and another to running back Jamaal Charles. The workhorse of the Chiefs offense, and a top five pick in most redraft leagues, Charles turned his 21 total touches (16 rushing, 5 receptions) into 103 yards. There was no touchdown pass to a wide receiver, which should surprise very few people, but new acquisition Jeremy Maclin did post a five catch, 52 yard debut. The performance of Kelce will have excited many, and also offer the biggest threat to a stout Broncos defensive unit run by Wade Phillips.
Despite a change in scheme, many of the parts of the 2014 Broncos defense are still in place, and this was a unit that allowed the 7th most fantasy points to tight ends last season. Coupled with their stinginess against running backs (24th most points allowed in 2014), and a predatory defensive backfield that intercepted Joe Flacco twice on Sunday (both picks coming against blitz calls, only 9 of which were dialled up by Coach Phillips), Andy Reid may be wise to make Kelce the focus of his game plan.
Fantasy: In My Opinion
As much as it pains me to suggest it, I would seriously consider sitting Peyton Manning down for this week, provided you have a viable alternative on your bench. Am I suggesting that the end is near for one of the greatest regular season (and fantasy) quarterbacks of all time? No- I’m saying that there are matches this season in which his current physical limitations will be masked by inferior opponents, and then there are matches against defenses like the Ravens and the Chiefs.
Demaryius was probably your second round pick, maybe a low first, so you should stick with him and hope he can turn a low volume outing into a high output situation. Likewise, the volume appeal means you should trust Anderson if he makes it through his injury, but in the event that the Broncos err on the side of caution I would look elsewhere this week, rather than fire up Hillman. In what could be a low scoring affair, both defenses are must starts. Alex Smith was sacked five times against Houston, and while J.J. Watt is a one man destruction crew, Denver can unleash a pair of wrecking balls in Von Miller and Demarcus Ware against a shaky Chiefs offensive line missing(?) Eric Fisher at right tackle. As for the rest of the Chiefs, Charles role in the passing game should make up for a quiet night rushing the ball, while Travis Kelce is an absolute must start. I have been burned on several occasions by the Thursday Night tight end zero (I’m looking at you, Vernon Davis), but I’m confident “Baby Gronk” will justify my faith this week.
Must Starts: – Charles, Kelce, Thomas, Broncos D/ST, Chiefs D/ST
Thursday Night Football Pick:
Chiefs 17 Broncos 14
Neil’s been playing fantasy football for ten years, including a victory in 2014 in a league arranged by NFL.com Fantasy expert Adam Rank. Huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and follows the fortunes of the England cricket team, usually with his head in his hands for both. Neil lives with his fiancé Kate and their daughter Zoe. He is an atrocious Words with Friends player.