Broncos-Chiefs scouting report: Matchups, numbers, predictions


Chiefs (9-3) at Broncos (3-9)

When: 2:05 p.m. MT, Sunday

Where: Empower Field

Radio/TV: 850 AM, 94.1 FM/CBS

Broncos-Chiefs series: Broncos are 54-69 in 123 regular-season games dating back to 1960; the Broncos lost 28-24 in the last meeting, on Jan. 8, 2022, in Denver.

Key matchup

Travis Kelce vs Broncos defense

How do the Broncos contain future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce, and prevent him from beating them all by himself?

Nathaniel Hackett just laughed at the question, which no NFL defense has been able to definitively answer for the better part of a decade.

“I mean… when you watch him, you try to get a route tree on him, and you think you know the route he’s going to run,” Hackett said. “But he’s got such a savvy to his game, and he’ll adjust midway thru the play and understand that (called) route isn’t going to win. He fits in a hole (in the zone coverage), he breaks away from man, he finds of the timing of it consistently with (Patrick) Mahomes.”

So for the Broncos, it’s not necessarily about stopping Kelce. It’s about limiting the damage done by No. 87, who is 32 yards away from his seventh straight 1,000-yard season. In 15 career games against Denver, Kelce has 90 catches for 1,176 yards and six TDs.

Limiting Kelce’s damage means that the Broncos’ front can’t let Mahomes get into scramble drill mode, when the duo has the ability to connect for big plays (catches of 20 or more yards), of which Kelce already has 15 this year.

“It’s really about getting to the quarterback as fast as we can, so that he can’t get the ball to Kelce,” Hackett said. “The more time they have together, the more they’re going to be able to get open.”

The defense got a good primer for Kelce last week in Baltimore against another All-Pro tight end, Mark Andrews. The Broncos held Andrews to four catches for 53 yards on seven targets using a combination of zone as well as man coverage, with cornerbacks Pat Surtain II and Damarri Mathis matched up with Andrews at times in the 10-9 loss. Surtain was flagged for a critical pass interference call on Andrews on the Ravens’ final possession, a third-down play that extended the drive.

And Surtain emphasized that while the defense’s focus is on Kelce this week, they can’t forget about Mahomes’ receivers. Namely, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

“Travis has a majority of the targets, but as far as receivers go, they are very diverse target-wise,” Surtain said. “(Mahomes) knows how to spread the ball around and use his weapons. He knows how to read defenses. It’s something that we are going to have to game-plan against and focus on and understand what he is trying to attack on our side of the ball.”

Who has the edge?


Russell Wilson has thrown eight touchdowns all year while looking like a shell of his Pro Bowl self. He’s also taken a lot of sacks. Patrick Mahomes, meanwhile, has thrown for an NFL-best 3,808 yards and 30 touchdowns while looking like the league’s best QB. Edge: Chiefs

Running back

Latavius Murray and the Denver rushing attack have only gone over the 100-yard mark once in the last four games; Mike Boone and Marlon Mack are also available. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is on IR with an ankle sprain, but KC features rookie Isiah Pacheco. Edge: Chiefs

Receiver/tight end

Courtland Sutton and KJ Hamler are both out with hamstring injuries; Jerry Jeudy is still not 100% recovered from his ankle injury. No Tyreek Hill, no problem: KC still has All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is its leading receiver. Edge: Chiefs

Offensive line

The Broncos are finally finding stability up front despite being on their seventh different combination this year; Graham Glasgow has played well at center for the injured Lloyd Cushenberry. KC features tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and center Creed Humphrey. Edge: Chiefs

Defensive line

Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell and DeShawn Williams continue to be linchpins; so is D.J. Jones, who is battling a shoulder injury. But KC has game-wreckers, including Chris Jones, who already has 10 sacks, Frank Clark and dynamic rookie George Karlaftis. Edge: Chiefs


Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton have emerged as a dependable duo at inside linebacker. Denver again looks to Baron Browning and Jonathon Cooper to create pressure off the edges. Carlos Dunlap has four sacks for KC; Nick Bolton (groin) is questionable. Edge: Even


K’Waun Williams continues to play at a high level at nickel back, while Pat Surtain II has been elite for all but two games this year. The KC secondary is led by safety Justin Reid, while the Chiefs also depend on cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed. Edge: Broncos

Special teams

Brandon McManus missed a 63-yarder goal at the buzzer last week, his second missed game-winning field goal from 60-plus this season (also: Week 1). Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker has been injured this year, and inconsistent (13-of-17 on field goals). Edge: Even

Tale of the tape

Category Broncos Chiefs
Total offense 315.2 (27th) 423.3 (1st)
Rush offense 102.9 (24th) 116.8 (T-17th)
Pass offense 102.9 (24th) 306.5 (1st)
Points per game 13.8 (32nd) 29.2 (1st)
Total defense 304.6 (3rd) 343.4 (16th)
Run defense 120.1 (19th) 106.2 (6th)
Pass defense 184.5 (3rd) 237.3 (23rd)
Points allowed 17.0 (2nd) 22.5 (15th)

* Through Week 13

By the numbers

13: That’s how many games the Broncos have lost in a row to the mighty Chiefs.

14: The NFL’s longest active winning streak against a division opponent (New England over the Jets).

54-51: The score of the game the last time defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero faced Patrick Mahomes, when Evero was a secondary assistant with the Rams in 2018. L.A. won in a shootout but Evero remembered “it wasn’t a very good feeling for me.”

91: The Broncos’ total penalties, which remains the most in the NFL.

35.0: Russell Wilson’s QBR this year, 28th in the league, compared to Patrick Mahomes’ QBR of 78.5, which ranks first.


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