DENVER BRONCOS (9-2)
at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -4.5, Total: 48.5
For the second time in three weeks, the two best AFC teams will clash, when the Broncos visit the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.
Denver blew a 24-0 halftime lead in a 34-31 overtime loss in New England last week, and might have lost the services of top RB Knowshon Moreno (leg injury) for this game. Kansas City is also reeling, and will try to end a two-game skid that has occurred on the heels of a 9-0 start to the year. Broncos QB Peyton Manning threw for 323 yards in the 27-17 win over K.C. on Nov. 17, making him 8-1 in his career versus the Chiefs. Denver is 9-4 SU in the past 13 series meetings, but Kansas City holds a 14-8 SU advantage (11-10-1 ATS) at Arrowhead Stadium since 1992. Although the Broncos have a huge betting trend in their favor, as NFL road teams coming off a road loss in Weeks 10 through 13 are 72-31 ATS (70%) in the past 10 seasons, the Chiefs are 24-7 ATS (77%) after allowing 25+ points in two straight games since 1992. While Denver should have both RB Knowshon Moreno (foot) and TE Julius Thomas (knee) back on the field, both of these teams have major injury concerns on defense. The Broncos lost DT Kevin Vickerson (hip) for the season last game, and both of their top cornerbacks, Champ Bailey (foot) and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (shoulder) are questionable. The Chiefs saw both of their star pass-rushing OLBs, Tamba Hali (ankle) and Justin Houston (elbow), get hurt last week, but it appears that Hali will play, while Houston will not. K.C. also has major injuries on both lines with OT Eric Fisher (shoulder) and DE Mike DeVito (knee) both questionable for Sunday.
Which team will take over the top spot in the AFC West standings? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are surging in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 59% ATS record (37-26-6) over the past five weeks. StatFox Brian has a 63% ATS (15-9-2) mark over the past six weeks, and StatFox Gary had his fifth perfect week in NFL Best Bets with a 3-0 ATS mark in Week 12. StatFox Scott went 3-1 ATS in Week 12 and is 60% ATS (18-12-1) in NFL Best Bets since Week 4.
The Broncos offense still leads the league with 39.0 PPG and 451.5 total YPG, but they have been slowed a little in the past three weeks with 28.7 PPG and 412 total YPG. Denver's loss in New England makes the club just 2-3 ATS (3-2 SU) on the road this year, mostly because the defense has allowed 32.8 PPG and 400.2 YPG to host teams. QB Peyton Manning continues to lead the NFL in passing yards (3,722) and passing touchdowns (36), while completing 69% of his passes with only seven interceptions. But he struggles in cold weather, going 2-6 in his past eight games where the temperature was below freezing, and the weather is expected to be quite chilly on Sunday for a late afternoon start. While Manning and his talented receiving crew of WR Demaryius Thomas (955 rec. yards, 10 TD), WR Wes Welker (679 rec. yards, 9 TD), WR Eric Decker (797 rec. yards, 3 TD) and TE Julius Thomas (590 rec. yards, 10 TD) get most of the credit for this offense, the ground game has also played a big role in the team's success with 121.0 rushing YPG. Although RB Knowshon Moreno rushed for only 79 yards on 27 carries two weeks ago against the Chiefs, he rumbled for 224 yards on 37 totes (6.1 YPC) in the Sunday night loss. If he can't assume a full workload this Sunday because of a bone bruise in his leg, the team will turn to either rookie RB Montee Ball (262 rush yards, 3.5 YPC, 3 TD), RB Ronnie Hillman (182 rush yards, 4.6 YPC, 1 TD) or RB C.J. Anderson (38 rush yards, 5.4 YPC). Defensively, the Broncos have done a stellar job stuffing the run with 94.8 rushing YPG allowed (5th in NFL) and 3.7 YPC allowed (4th in league). But they surrender 283.2 YPG through the air (30th in NFL), which is a big reason why they allow 26.3 PPG (T-26th in league). Denver's red-zone defense has also been poor (60%, T-25th in NFL), while its third-down defense is average (38%, 18th in league). The Broncos have helped themselves out in the turnover department recently though, generating nine takeaways over the past four weeks.
The Chiefs are 5-1 SU at home this year, but are just 2-4 ATS. The offense hasn't been too special this year with 326.8 total YPG (21st in NFL) on 4.9 yards per play (26th in league). QB Alex Smith has thrown for a paltry 6.1 YPA, completing 59% of his passes for 2,443 yards, 14 TD and just 5 INT. Smith has also held onto the ball too long at times, taking 32 sacks in his 11 games. Although his team has lost two in a row, Smith has done a nice job getting top WR Dwayne Bowe back in the offense, completing 16 of 32 targets to Bowe for 175 yards and two scores in the past three games. But this offense remains contingent on the play of RB Jamaal Charles, who has totaled 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Although his 4.6 YPC is a career low, he busted out for 8.2 YPC last week when he gained 115 yards on just 14 carries against the Chargers. That was quite an improvement from his subpar performance versus Denver when he totaled 73 yards for the game, catching two passes for minus-6 yards. After allowing just 12.3 PPG and 326.9 total YPG during a 9-0 start to the season, Kansas City's defense has been shredded during its two-game losing skid, surrendering 34.0 PPG and 459.0 total YPG. Much of that had to do with both OLBs Tamba Hali (10 sacks) and Justin Houston (9 sacks) getting injured last game, but this Chiefs defense still has the NFL's best third-down rate (29%) while ranking fifth in red-zone efficiency (41%). The one trouble spot for the defense has been versus the run, as it allows 115.9 rushing YPG (20th in NFL) on a frightening 4.6 yards per carry (28th in NFL). K.C. has also done a poor job recently of creating mistakes for opposing offenses. After generating 18 turnovers in the first six games of the year, it has just six takeaways in the past five games combined.