An old AFC West rivalry game will help the NFL kick off Week 7 of the season as the Kansas City Chiefs pay a visit to the Denver Broncos. Game time is set for 8:20 EST on Thursday, October 17 at Empower Field in Denver. The game can be seen on either Fox or the NFL Network.
Oddsmakers list the Chiefs as 3.5-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 49 points. Click here to check out betting odds for all of this week’s NFL games.
The Chiefs enter this game coming off back-to-back losses, dropping them to 4-2 on the year. The first loss was a 19-13 defensive slugfest to the Colts while last week’s loss was a 31-24 loss to the Texans in which the Kansas City offense sputtered in the second half. Perhaps the most concerning part is that both losses came at home.
The good news is that the Chiefs remain on top of the AFC West standings, although they have just a slight edge over the 3-2 Raiders. That means the Chiefs could lose their grip on first place with a third straight loss. Kansas City also faces challenging home games against the Packers and Vikings in the weeks to come, so there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to break out of their slump if they can’t get a win in Denver on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the Broncos head into Thursday’s showdown on the heels of back-to-back wins against the Chargers and Titans, helping to save their season after starting 0-4. Keep in mind that the Broncos suffered two tough-luck losses at home to the Bears and Jaguars, so they’re not that far from being 4-2.
Of course, close losses don’t count for must and Denver needs to keep winning if they want to be in the playoff hunt the second half of the season. After Thursday’s contest, the Broncos will hit the road for three of their next four games, so they need to utilize home-field advantage while they still can. Plus, a win over the mighty Chiefs coming off last week’s shutout win over the Titans would give the Broncos another huge confidence boost to help them forget their 0-4 start.
The Broncos will also be eager to break a long losing streak at the hands of their longtime rivals. Denver has lost seven straight games to Kansas City, including their last four home games. Of course, their last three home losses to the Chiefs have all come by four points or less, so the games have at least been close and competitive.
Are the Chiefs actually going to lose three straight games? Has the rest of the league figured out the formula to take down Patrick Mahomes and company? I’m not ready to make that declaration just yet. From Denver’s perspective, beating the Chargers and Titans is a little different from beating the Chiefs. Despite back-to-back losses, it’s almost foolish not to take the Chiefs to cover such a small spread.
Admittedly, Denver’s shut out of the Titans last week was impressive. The Broncos have surely turned a corner after going nearly a full month without a sack or a takeaway. But they did it against Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, who led a Tennessee offense that’s been terrible for most of the season. That doesn’t necessarily translate to success against Mahomes and the Chiefs, especially for a team that gave up at least 26 points to both the Jaguars and Packers not too long ago.
More importantly, the Kansas City offense is starting to get healthy. Mahomes may be dealing with a nagging ankle injury, but Tyreek Hill made his return last week and caught two touchdown passes. The Chiefs also appear optimistic that Sammy Watkins will be able to return from a hamstring injury on Thursday. With those two back to help stretch the field, Kansas City’s offense takes on a different look, even if Mahomes is a little hobbled. It’ll be easier for the Chiefs to get their struggling rushing attack going and get the ball to Travis Kelce in the middle of the field, so I’m expecting a bounce-back effort from the Kansas City offense.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure the Broncos can do the same things offensively that the Colts and Texans have done against the Chiefs the last two weeks. Admittedly, the Kansas City defense has been vulnerable, especially against the run. But the Denver rushing attack is average at best. The Broncos also have a leaky offensive line and a quarterback who’s not that mobile. Joe Flacco and the Denver passing game don’t pose a huge threat to the Chiefs. Flacco probably won’t give them fits the way Deshaun Watson did last week. While the Kansas City defense has long-term concerns, they should be able to handle themselves against the Denver offense.
Right now, I wouldn’t trust the Chiefs to cover more than a touchdown against most teams. But with the spread in this game at just 3.5 points, I’m still comfortable laying down the points with Kansas City. Despite two recent losses, they’re still the better team in this game and I think Mahomes can work enough magic to help the Chiefs win and cover.