Unlike ESPN with Monday Night Football, NBC has the right to flex some games into the prime-time Sunday night slot in the second half of the season. And smartly, the network moved this week's AFC West showdown between the Chiefs and Broncos in Denver to that spot. While this game deserves the national spotlight, I was a bit surprised that Patriots-Jets was moved out simply because New England is one of the most popular teams in the NFL and the Jets bring the massive New York market.
I don't really know if NFL players watch football on their day off, but I'd guess at least the Chiefs and Broncos coaches tuned into this past Monday night's game in Mexico between the Texans and the Raiders. Oakland was able to pull out the comeback win and now stands alone atop the AFC West with an 8-2 record. The Raiders could lose Sunday at home to Carolina, but they likely will only be underdogs twice the rest of the regular season: Week 14 in Kansas City and Week 17 (if it means anything) at Denver.
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Kansas City and Denver are both 7-3, with the Chiefs the current top AFC wild-card team and the Broncos No. 2. The only club within shouting distance of them at the moment is streaking Miami (6-4). The Dolphins don't play either the Chiefs of Broncos this year. I'd have to say Kansas City's remaining schedule is easier than Denver's. Here they are:
Chiefs -- at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Titans, vs. Broncos, at Chargers
Broncos -- at Jaguars, at Titans, vs. Patriots, at Chiefs, vs. Raiders
At BetOnline , Oakland is +100 to win the division with Kansas City at +210 and Denver at +250.
Chiefs at Broncos Betting Story Lines
The biggest upset victim of Week 11 was Kansas City losing 19-17 at home to Tampa Bay, ending the Chiefs' five-game winning streak and only their third loss in the past 20 regular-season games. It was Kansas City's first home loss since last October. In my opinion, that game showed why the Chiefs won't win the AFC championship. And that's the offense. Alex Smith, as I've said before and will again, is a solid game-manager but isn't going to win you a tough road postseason game (no, I don't count last year in Houston). Smith was 24-for-31 for 261 yards with a TD but a costly pick in the end zone vs. Tampa and was totally outplayed by Jameis Winston. The K.C. offense has just 18 TDs on the season.
Maybe things would have been different had top receiver Jeremy Maclin played, but he was out with a groin injury and it's not looking good for him here. Star cornerback Marcus Peters missed the game with a hip injury but will return. Running back Charcandrick West, the No. 2 to Spencer Ware, is looking doubtful as he's in the concussion protocol. Dee Ford, who is tied for the NFL lead with 10 sacks, left the Bucs game with a hamstring injury and his status is in question. You could see more of outside linebacker Justin Houston, the 2014 NFL sack leader, in this game as he made his season debut vs. Tampa off ACL surgery but wasn't a factor.
The Broncos are about as healthy as possible this time of year as they come off their bye week. Perhaps the most interesting thing surrounding that team during the bye were reports that Tony Romo would like to play there next year when he leaves the Cowboys. I could totally see that fit if the Broncos either don't make the playoffs or are one-and-done behind inconsistent first-year starter Trevor Siemian. Romo could be a good one-year bridge to 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch if he's not ready in 2017. Denver has been really struggling to run the ball -- and it was before losing C.J. Anderson likely for the season. So Coach Gary Kubiak said for this game he will rotate Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo at right tackle in the search for a combination that helps boost the ground game. Kubiak added that he'll consider rotating players at other positions up front too other than center Matt Paradis.
Denver entered the break off an incredible 25-23 win in New Orleans, giving up the tying touchdown pass with under two minutes left but then blocking the PAT and returning it for 2 points -- the first time an NFL game was decided in that fashion. The guy who blocked the kick, Justin Simmons, was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance. I think what Simmons did in leaping over the Saints center with some help up front will be outlawed this offseason.
Chiefs at Broncos Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is a 3-point favorite (-120) with a tiny total of 39.5. On the moneyline, the Broncos are -170 and the Chiefs +150. On the alternate lines, the Broncos are -3.5 (+105) and -2.5 (-145). Kansas City is 4-6 against the spread (3-2 on road) and 2-8 "over/under" (1-4 on road). Denver is 7-3 ATS (4-1 at home) and 5-5 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Chiefs are 4-0 ATS in their past four after an ATS loss. They are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 road games vs. a team with a winning home record. The Broncos are 6-2-1 ATS in their past nine after a win. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. the AFC West. The under is 6-0 in Kansas City's past six overall. The under is 6-1 in Denver's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 7-2-2 in the past 11.
Chiefs at Broncos Betting Prediction
No doubt Kansas City is glad to see Peyton Manning retired as it had dropped seven in a row to Denver. However, in Week 10 last year in the Mile High City the Chiefs ended that skid with a 29-13 victory coming out of their bye. Yes, Manning did start that game but was clearly injured and just 5-for-20 for 35 yards, no TDs, four picks and a rating of 0.00, the worst outing of his career. He did pass Brett Favre on the all-time passing yardage list on his first completion. Brock Osweiler replaced him in the third quarter.
This is the lowest total on the board and it might still drop. And I actually like the under better than the side. No snow in the forecast for Denver on Sunday but it will be cold (around 30) by kickoff. I'll give the 2.5 points simply as the Broncos are home and rested.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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