A Closer Look: Denver Broncos

Taking a closer look at the Denver Broncos

The Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) host the Denver Broncos (8-3) on Sunday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium in a key divisional matchup with playoff implications.

The Broncos are coming off a 39-36 comeback win over the Miami Dolphins last week but have lost two of their last four games.

All three of the Broncos losses this season have come on the road, but that doesn't mean slowing down Peyton Manning and this offense is going to be any easier for the Chiefs on Sunday night.

In his career, Manning is 10-1 against the Chiefs and 5-0 since joining the Denver Broncos.

Manning leads the NFL with 34 touchdown passes and had success against the Chiefs' No. 1 pass defense (198.9 yards per game) in their Week 2 meeting, a 24-17 victory for the Broncos in Denver.

Manning finished the game 21 of 26 for 242 yards and three touchdowns, although over the last three road games, Manning has thrown two interceptions in each.

"The key thing with [Manning] is you get him to third down and you've got to win enough to get off the field because he's going to complete passes," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "For all the things you know about him, he's smart.

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"He knows the coverages and he knows what's going to happen. [When] we get him in those third downs, we've got to win them."

According to Pro Football Focus, Manning has struggled this season in one area, which is against the blitz.

He's completing just 57 percent of his passes when teams send five or more players at him and over 72 percent when teams send four or less. He's thrown 10 touchdowns and five interceptions when facing a blitz, but 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions when teams drop more into coverage.

Manning is getting rid of the ball in 2.27 seconds on average this season, which is the fastest in the NFL, and he's only taken 12 sacks, fewest in the NFL.

The Broncos have only run the ball on 37.7 percent of their offensive plays this season, which ranks 27th in the NFL. But they had CJ Anderson run the ball 27 times last week against the Dolphins, which means stopping the run still has to be a focus on Sunday.

"They've gone through a lot of (running) backs here and he's come in and really added some stability," Sutton said of Anderson. "He's played really well when he's been in there. He's doing a really good job in all phases. He's not just a runner. He's a good protection guy and he's done a really good job.

"They're a team that can go either way (run vs. pass) as they proved when they threw the ball in St. Louis and came out and ran 12 straight runs against Miami. You've got to deal with all of it."

On the outside, the Broncos are led by receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, who both have over 100 targets and 75 receptions this season.

Tight end Julius Thomas, who sat out last week against the Dolphins with an ankle injury, leads the team with 12 touchdowns receiving.

Defensively, the Broncos are led by their two pass rushers, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who have combined for 19 sacks.

The Broncos have also dealt with some injuries at the linebacker position with Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving, both of whom will not play on Sunday.

Irving led the Broncos with 11 tackles against the Chiefs in Week 2.

Take a look through the Chiefs vs. Broncos history.

At defensive back, the player who has really stood out for the Broncos this season is cornerback Chris Harris, who has arguably been the best in the NFL at his position this season.

When opposing quarterbacks throw his direction, Harris is allowing a quarterback rating of just 48, which ranks as best in the NFL.

Overall, the Broncos defense is giving up 23.6 points per game, which ranks 18th in the NFL. The Chiefs are averaging just over 26 points per game at home, where they are 4-1 this season.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson explained how to game plan for an opponent the second time around in a season.

"I think if you look at it from a concept standpoint, you say OK, this was good, this wasn't good," Pederson explained. "When you put a game plan together the second time for a division opponent, you want to keep those same concepts because we're not going to change much, they're not going to change much. Just because it's late in the season, you are who you are.

"We just have to take the good, bring it forward to Sunday night, take the bad, either tweak it, change it or get rid of it. And then go play."

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith knows there's a lot on the line on Sunday night, and he said the Chiefs are ready for the challenge.

"I think just with our history especially these last two years, I felt like there have been some really close games," Smith said. "Hard fought and physical, and that's what you expect out of division games. It certainly felt like looking back, yeah we had our opportunities and had our fair share of times to make plays and change the game. "We're looking to make those plays this time around."

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