When the Broncos (6-5) travel to take on the Chiefs (7-4) in the penultimate game of Week 13 on “Sunday Night Football” (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), they will look to make the tight AFC West race a dead heat. Kansas City went into the week holding a one-game lead on Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The Chiefs have gotten through their early defensive woes and midseason offensive hiccups with Patrick Mahomes. They expect to be fully back on track to take over the AFC down the stretch with their eyes looking well beyond the division, toward a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City lost to Los Angeles but beat Las Vegas in the first meetings. Taking care of the Broncos will be key for the Chiefs to create some separation. Mahomes will be dueling Teddy Bridgewater, who has leaned a lot on his running game and defense to win games.
Here’s how Sporting News sees the entire matchup playing out in prime time:
Chiefs vs. Broncos odds for Sunday Night Football
- Spread: Chiefs by 9.5
- Over/under: 47.5
- Moneyine: Broncos +350, Chiefs -250
The Chiefs have been floating near double-digit favorites since the initial lines. That’s a pretty big spread for “SNF”, especially for a flexed game this last in the season. The Broncos are coming off a good win against the Chargers, but the mystique around Andy Reid’s post-bye success looms large.
(betting odds per FanDuel Sportsbook)
Chiefs vs. Broncos all-time series
The Chiefs lead the long-time rivalry 67-55. Mahomes is 7-0 against the Broncos. He’s been starting during an 11-game wining streak overall for Kansas City, incredible in the same division. The Broncos last won in September 2015, at Arrowhead Stadium. That’s the season Denver won the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning.
Three trends to know
—53 percent of spread bettors like the Chiefs to take care of their rather massive number at home given the bye history and the Chiefs’ recent all-around domination of the Broncos.
—62 percent of over/under bettors think the total of fewer than 50 points is too high despite how the Chiefs can pass and the Broncos can run.
—The Broncos are 5-5 against the spread and 5-5 straight up against the spread in their past 10 games with the total going over in only two of those games. The Chiefs are 4-6 ATS at 6-4 SU with only four of those 10 games going over.
Three things to watch
How much will the Chiefs run the ball?
Denver’s defense is No. 12 against the run. But the Chiefs should feel more confident about their rushing attack with their offensive line healthy and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ready for plenty of second-half touches. They need to correct the need for balance from week to week and that will take big pressure off Mahomes as the chunk gains in the passing game will come in time.
How much will the Broncos pass the ball?
Kansas City’s defense is No. 24 against the pass. But the Broncos tend to get too conservative with Bridgewater, hoping to both run to score and win with veteran Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams. While it has worked against lesser teams or when everything has clicked with game script, they have weapons that cause problems in wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick and tight end Noah Fant. Bridgewater, battling a tibia injury, must have a big game for the Broncos to entertain thoughts of a big upset.
Which Mahomes will show up?
Mahomes has endured the first crisis of his young career in terms of not feeling or looking like himself as a passer. But he needs to remember his star was borne when he started against the Broncos first and then lead a big comeback against the same team during his MVP emergence. Expect Mahomes to deal at his highest level coming out of a needed mental break.
Stats that matter
19-3 and 7-1. The first is Reid’s overall coaching record in games played after his team’s bye week. The second number is specific to what he’s done with the Chiefs. Reid says there’s no secret or magic formula to success, but that’s downplaying how organized, prepared and adjusting he and his staff from game to game, season to season, first half to second half. The Chiefs aren’t afraid to make key changes in personnel or philosophy toward getting better results.
Chiefs vs. Broncos prediction
The Broncos on paper should have more offensive firepower with Bridgewater but they can’t keep their receivers involved well enough to win a shootout like this. They will be hoping Gordon and Williams running well with help keep it close with ball control and their defense can carry over the performance containing Justin Herbert and the Chargers. The Chiefs, however, can make things rough on Bridgewater and will adjust to exploit the right holes in the Broncos’ coverage. Mahomes isn’t about to let up on Denver when his team needs to beat that opponent most.
Chiefs 31, Broncos 23