We have three key games to focus on this week (49ers at Saints, Chiefs at Broncos and Patriots at Panthers), but one stands above the rest.
Chiefs at Broncos
I’ve already had a lot to say and tweet about this game, so I’m not going to repeat much of that here.
Simply put, I don’t believe in the Chiefs’ 9-0 record or that their defense is one of the all-time best. I think it’s a reflection of who they have played, which shouldn’t impress anyone. The Denver offense is historically impressive and has dominated to a higher level than the Chiefs’ defense. There’s also stronger correlation and consistency in maintaining offensive performance than there is defense. You can throw a touchdown to Wes Welker many times in the red zone, but once in a blue moon will you get Jeff Tuel’s gracious peace offering for a 100-yard pick-six.
The only reason I don’t think the Broncos easily win by 17+ points is because Kansas City’s catching them at the best possible time. The Chiefs had a bye week to rest and prepare. Jack Del Rio is in at interim head coach following John Fox’s surgery. Peyton Manning aggravated his high ankle sprain at the end of last week’s game and we don’t know how he’ll handle the outside pressure since his tackles are struggling. It’s also going to be pretty cold and while the “Manning in bad weather” thing is BS, no old quarterback with neck and ankle issues is going to benefit from that.
What I do know is you have to score a lot of points to beat a Peyton Manning team and I don’t think Alex Smith is capable of doing it on Sunday night. This so-called “winner” is 2-23 when his team allows more than 24 points. He’s 11-24 against teams with a winning record and has 35 TD to 40 INT in those games (just one 300-yard passing game). He’s 5-16 on the road against good teams and averages 164 passing yards in those contests.
Maybe Smith can get it done in Arrowhead in a 23-20 game (against Brock Osweiler given his luck lately), but the Denver defense plays better at home and Von Miller is going to have his say too.
To beat Manning you have to put up a lot of points or shrink the game and limit his possessions, forcing him to be basically perfect (maximum efficiency). The Chiefs have done neither this season. The offense has never scored more than 24 points and their games almost always include double-digit possessions.
Excluding those pesky playoff rest games, here’s every Manning loss since 2007 and what his defense did (kneel-down drives excluded):
For context, anything above 3.0 Pts/Dr is incredibly elite while 2.48 Pts/Dr means you have to be a top-2 offense. 1.80 would be just above average in recent seasons.
You have to go back to the 6-INT night in San Diego to find a game where Manning lost despite the opposing offense being below average in scoring. Darren Sproles had two return touchdowns and even then Manning was a missed 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri in erasing a 23-0 deficit for a win. Even if the Chiefs get a lead of 17-24 points, we know from every Denver loss since 2012 that those aren’t safe.
Meanwhile here’s the Chiefs’ 2013 offense and their per-drive production:
So let’s see… The Chiefs average 1.58 Pts/Dr this year and this is despite having the best average starting field position in football. I noticed a lot of their scoring drives started deep in opponent territory, so their scoring is even less impressive than it already sounds. They feast on mistakes, which the Broncos are certainly guilty of since 2012, so ball security is a must this week.
In Manning’s last 19 losses, no one had less than 1.89 Pts/Dr. That would be the 3rd-best game of the season for the Chiefs.
Given you seemingly need to hit at least 2.0 Pts/Dr to beat Manning, who’s expecting the Chiefs’ offense to deliver on their end? There’s Jamaal Charles, but there’s not much else to worry about.
Simply put, Manning hasn’t lost to an offense this bad since David Carr and the 2006 Houston Texans (ranked 23rd with 1.50 Pts/Dr). How did that one work out? Houston rushed for 191 yards, limited Manning to six possessions, got one fumble from Dominic Rhodes and still needed a 48-yard game-winning field goal with no time left in a 27-24 game.
The KC defense should not give up 40+, but nothing short of their offense having their best game of the season will win this one. I also don’t think the Chiefs can win without being at least +2 in turnover differential.
According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs have the No. 2 pass defense (DVOA). Here’s a table of Manning’s last 29 games against a top 5 pass defense (DVOA) since 2003. Playoff rest games are colored as are the five games I would consider “bad performances” from Manning. That’s an unscientific way of saying games where he was more of the problem than the solution for his team.
We’ll revisit this matchup in two weeks and perhaps again in January, but I just see the Broncos as a superior team even if they are vulnerable right now.
Final prediction: Chiefs 16, Broncos 27.
2013 NFL Week 11 Predictions
The Colts rarely make it look easy, but I had them on TNF.
Winners in bold:
- Redskins at Eagles
- Raiders at Texans
- Falcons at Buccaneers
- Browns at Bengals
- Ravens at Bears
- Lions at Steelers
- Jets at Bills
- Cardinals at Jaguars
- Chargers at Dolphins
- 49ers at Saints
- Packers at Giants
- Vikings at Seahawks
- Chiefs at Broncos
- Patriots at Panthers
- Week 1: 11-5
- Week 2: 12-4
- Week 3: 8-8
- Week 4: 9-6
- Week 5: 9-5
- Week 6: 11-4
- Week 7: 10-5
- Week 8: 10-3
- Week 9: 8-5
- Week 10: 8-6
- Season: 96-51