KANSAS CITY, MO. — What if the last three weeks only teased more despair, that the past month was an unnerving jolt, not a season-long pattern? What if the Broncos can deliver their best game? Having lost three of the last four, the Broncos arrive in Kansas City with their season at a tipping point.
Win their first AFC West road game since the 2015 season, and all of their goals remain in front of them. Lose, and the playoffs become an uncomfortable conversation, the prospect of missing the postseason in back-to-back years for the first since the 2006-2010 drought a real possibility.
There is a reverse-lock vibe to tonight's nationally televised contest. Nobody thinks the Broncos can win. It reminds me of the Giants' chances in Denver two weeks ago, an upset that set the Broncos' slide in motion.
So I am saying the Broncos have a chance. Here are my Denver7 keys to a Broncos' win:
1) No turnovers
The Broncos are minus-8 in their three losses, even in their wins. Denver has won 31 straight games when winning the turnover battle. It really is that simple.
2) Take the ball away
Of all the alarming statistics after six weeks, the Broncos only having four takeaways ranks among the most surprising. And did I mention they haven't recovered a fumble? Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception. But with the return of Shane Ray to ease the pressure on Von Miller, the Broncos are poised to change that number.
3) Contain Kelce
Travis Kelce has dominated the Broncos in recent meetings. How Denver defends the tight end could go a long way in determining if this game stays within reach. I say be creative, and don't be afraid to use Aqib Talib on the brute.
4) Stop the run
Rookie Kareem Hunt has been a revelation as the Chiefs' star running back. He gets better as the game grows longer. Slowing him, as teams have in recent weeks, is critical to making Smith take chances against the No Fly Zone.
5) Play Better Trevor
This could be Nos. 1-5. Siemian is not the lone problem. However, he is far from blameless. He has turned the ball over six times in the last four games. I am surprised he's not playing for his job at this point. It says the coaches see this as an offensive unit issue. However, Siemian must execute a U-turn if the Broncos are to regain their footing. Eschew the three wide sets and use quick slants and a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles to get him going. The Chiefs' defense is vulnerable. Can the Broncos exploit it?
6) Rely on JC
Charles is ready to take off the training wheels. He appreciates the Broncos helping him regain his health after the 49ers and Seahawks told him to retire this offseason because of knee issues. The Broncos can ill-afford to slow play this any longer. Put Charles in space and let him make plays. It can't be worse than what offense has done of late — three touchdowns in their last four games and 11 for the season.
7) Win ugly
This means no more special teams gaffes. Punt to Tyreek Hill at your own risk. I would use directional kicks, even if means compromising field position, rather than give Hill a chance. Coverage teams, punter Riley Dixon and kicker Brandon McManus must produce their best night of the season. They definitely could. But until the offense shows life, I can't, in good faith, pick Denver to win on the road. I go against them for the first time this season
RENCK'S PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Broncos 17