The Kansas City Chiefs will try to put a bow on their 2021 regular season with a win over the Denver Broncos, who are hoping to play spoiler before entering the offseason. The Chiefs need a win and a Titans loss to the Texans to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
After a 3-4 start, the Chiefs won eight straight games before losing a shootout in Cincinnati last Sunday. Conversely, the Broncos got off to a 3-0 start before enduring a four-game losing streak. At 7-7, Denver remained in the hunt for a playoff berth before losing a defensive duel in Las Vegas in Week 16. The Broncos put up little resistance in a 34-13 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
We’ll preview the game along with giving our prediction for Saturday’s outcome. Here’s how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
Date: Saturday Jan. 8 | Time: 4:30 p.m. ETLocation: Empower Field at Mile High (Denver) TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)Follow: CBS Sports App Odds: Chiefs -11.5, O/U 45
When the Chiefs have the ball
Kansas City’s offense has averaged over 37 points per game over its last four outings. The offense continues to run through Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Mahomes has thrown 35 touchdowns this season, while Hill and Kelce have caught a combined 198 passes for 2,328 yards 17 touchdowns. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the mend with an injury, the Chiefs’ running game has been led by Darrel Williams, who ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s loss to Cincinnati.
The Chiefs will face a Broncos defense that is third in the NFL in points allowed, seventh in passing yards allowed and third in red-zone efficiency. The Broncos’ defense has struggled on possession downs, as they are 27th in the NFL in third-down efficiency. In contract, the Chiefs boast the NFL’s top-ranked third-down offense, with a 51.8% success rate. Mahomes will face a formidable Broncos secondary that is led by safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. Simmons has a team-high five interceptions. Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who has four picks and a team-high 14 passes defended, has been ruled out with a calf injury.
When the Broncos have the ball
Teddy Bridgewater is on injured reserve, so Drew Lock will make his third start of the season. The former second-round pick lost his first two starts of the season despite completing over 70% of his passes in those games. Lock’s favorite target last week was tight end and fellow draft classmate Noah Fant, who caught six passes for 92 yards and a score. The Broncos also have a formidable receiving duo in receivers Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton. They also have a strong running back duo in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, who have combined to amass 2,170 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns.
While it struggled in Cincinnati, Kansas City’s defense was largely lights out during its eight-game win streak. The unit has been led by Chris Jones (9 sacks), safety Tyrann Mathieu (three interceptions and three fumble recoveries) and linebacker Nick Bolton (106 tackles). The key to the Chiefs’ defense is forcing turnovers; Kansas City didn’t force any last Sunday after accumulating 20 during its winning streak.
I’m smelling an upset in Denver. The Broncos have the weapons on offense to exploit a Chiefs defense that is 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and average yards per carry. They key is how well Lock can play against the Chiefs’ opportunistic defense. If Lock can take care of the ball, the Broncos are capable of pulling off the upset while ending their season on a high note.
Score: Broncos 20, Chiefs 17