What to watch for in Chiefs-Broncos on 'TNF'

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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All of a sudden the Chiefs are skidding and all of a sudden the Broncos are riding high.

Though still holding strong to first place in the AFC West, the Chiefs (4-2) bring a two-game losing streak into their division tilt against the Broncos (2-4), who have won two in a row, to kick off Week 7 with the latest installment of Thursday Night Football at 8:20 ET from Empower Field at Mile High and live on the NFL Network and FOX.

In his first season at the Denver helm, head coach Vic Fangio, a defensive guru, will match wits against Andy Reid, an offensive maestro, in an old-fashioned styles clash symbolized by the opposing faces of the franchises -- all-everything Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Broncos edge-rushing dynamo Von Miller.

Though the teams are on opposite ends of the AFC West, this is still a pivotal collision, one that will determine just how much the Chiefs are slipping and just how high the Broncos can reach.

Top billing is rightfully taken by the Chiefs' high-scoring offense squaring off with the Broncos' tenacious defense. Hence, it might just come down to how well the Broncos' struggling offense and the Chiefs' porous defense fare that tells the tale on Thursday night.

Here are four things to watch for in Thursday's night's hopefully wild AFC West showdown:

Patrick Mahomes is reason enough to watch 'TNF'


Blessed with a miracle for an arm and the ridiculous ability to use it no matter the angle or situation, Patrick Mahomes is reason enough to tune into any football game.

Excitement personified donning a Chiefs uniform, Mahomes' skills and sensational statistics are so impressive considering what he's done over the last two Kansas City losses is actually seen as playing down for the reigning NFL MVP.

Anyone panicking in regards to Mahomes' production waning is likely stat drunk on the otherworldly numbers he has offered up.

Despite a troubled ankle, Mahomes is still leading the NFL with a mind-spinning 350.7 yards passing per game and his 14 touchdowns against one interception is still plenty outstanding.

Nevertheless, after a phenomenal first three games to the season, Mahomes' numbers have taken a turn.

Over those first three games -- all wins -- Mahomes was putting up 398.3 yards per contest, a 134.9 rating, a 71.9 completion percentage and had 10 touchdowns and no picks. In the last three games, with two losses, Mahomes is completing only 56 percent of his passes, averaging 303 yards per contest, has an 89.3 rating and has four touchdowns with his first interception last week.

Against Denver's fourth-ranked defense (No. 4, as well, against the pass), things are unlikely to come easy.

Still, Mahomes' majesty needs to be put into proper perspective. According to NFL research, Mahomes is on pace for an NFL-record 5,610 passing yards this season.

In just his third season, Mahomes is must-see NFL TV and reason enough to tune in all my his brilliant lonesome.

Is a Von Miller breakout bound to happen?


Leading into the season, Von Miller was never shy about his sky-high sack hopes, among them that he wants to one day surpass Hall of Famer Bruce Smith as the NFL's all-time sack king.

Miller's grand hopes and outlook for a great season ahead seemed plausible considering his resume and that he'd be playing under Vic Fangio, a first-year head coach with a defensive mind that had helped past edge rushers do terrible things to quarterbacks at a frenzied pace.

Instead, Miller is shockingly off to the worst start in terms of sacks in his pro career.

Through six games, he has only 2.5 sacks, his lowest total through a half-dozen games in his nine-season career.

Once again this week, the Chiefs will be short two starting offensive linemen. And Mahomes has been slowed by a bad ankle.

Still, the Chiefs have given up just eight sacks (fifth-best in the NFL), thanks in no small part to the educated feet of Mahomes.

Historically, Miller's damage has been limited against the Chiefs, with 12 sacks in 16 career games. A three-sack showing in Week 12 of 2016 was his best showing in the rivalry, but since then he's had just half a sack over his last five tussles with the Chiefs.

If the Broncos can truly turn around their season, conventional wisdom leans to Miller upping his production. Tonight would be a good start, but the numbers add up to another conclusion.

Will the Chiefs defense derail a Super Bowl march?


One must basically surmise that the road to victory for Kansas City comes with prevailing in a shootout. After all, the Chiefs' defense has been borderline dismal.

Heading into Thursday night, the Chiefs have the 27th-ranked defense in the NFL.

Though the defense was also a cause for concern a season ago, the presence of pass rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston put some fear into opposing quarterbacks. Those two are gone and the additions of Frank Clark and Alex Okafor have combined for a not-so-whopping two sacks.

Tied for 25th with 11 sacks, the pass rush has been pedestrian at best.

Though the Broncos have reversed their winless fortunes, their offense is about as far from fearsome as the K.C. pass rush. If the Chiefs' defense is to begin to improve, Thursday night is the time and place against the 25th-ranked Broncos offense.

Can Philip Lindsay continue to produce?


With an outlier of a Week 3 performance at Green Bay in which he had a pair of touchdowns and 81 yards, Broncos second-year back Phillip Lindsay was relatively quiet over the initial four weeks of the season.

Over the last two weeks -- consequently Broncos victories -- Lindsay has found his footing.

In Denver's wins against the Chargers and Titans, Lindsay has put together 30 carries for 184 and two touchdowns. In his past two performances against K.C., Lindsay averaged 15 carries, 82 yards and a trip to the end zone.

If anyone forgot -- as Lindsay was coming back from a wrist injury and got off to slumbering start -- the former undrafted free agent put up 1,037 yards in his rookie campaign.

At least through these past two games, Lindsay is back to being that back who burst onto the scene a season ago. Against the 30th-ranked rushing defense of the Chiefs, there's no reason Lindsay should slow down.

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