Friday, November 15, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 11: Chiefs vs Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos: KC +8.5 (Bet365)

Market Watch

You want an interesting point spread? Look no further than this one for Sunday Night Football.

Last week in the LVH look-ahead line, the Broncos were -7.5 point favorites. When the lines reopened, it was still -7.5.  Some sportsbooks opened it higher at -9 to avoid early teaser plays. Ever since, we haven't seen much movement one way or another. -7.5's are out there, but you can also grab +9 for extra juice (-130).

The big question is where the line will go on the weekend?  I could see it going either way. It wouldn't surprise me if sharp money came in on the Broncos and pushed the line all the way up to +9.5 or +10. It also wouldn't shock me if the Chiefs got more of the action and we see move down to -7.5 or -7 across the board.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this line is that 64 percent of the bets thus far are on the Chiefs.

When the Chiefs have the ball

Let's get the easy analysis out of the way first.

When it comes to the KC offense, what you see is what you get. Alex Smith is going to be efficient and take what the defense gives him. He has some decent options in the air with Avery, Bowe, Fasano, and McCluster.

But most of the offense will continue to flow through Jamaal Charles.

There are two potential problems here for each team. First, the Broncos defense matches up evenly in almost every critical category. This means KC might have too much trouble sustaining drives and putting up enough points on the board. Yet, it could also mean that they can do just enough to execute a productive game plan.

I see two positives for KC's offense. One, Alex Smith has looked good in pressure situations this year. By pressure, I mean he's been able to sustain some drives and run out the clock in the fourth quarter. Two, a run-orientated offense can keep Peyton Manning off the field and give him less drives to work with.

Of course, the biggest issue might be how they handle Von Miller. If he lines up opposite Eric Fisher, KC will have no choice but to provide some help on that side of the line.

When the Broncos have the ball

But let's get real. This game is going to be ultimately decided when the Broncos have the ball.

We have a top ranked offense going against a top ranked defense. Which side has the advantage? It's hard to say because both units pass the eye test and the advanced stats don't reveal too many revelations either.

Curiously, the Broncos have faced the 2nd easiest defensive schedule. Their biggest test? It was probably when they went into Indianapolis. By rankings we could say Baltimore, but keep in mind the Ravens had a lot of new pieces that they were integrating and it was a tough spot to open the season in Denver.

The list of defenses the Broncos have faced include the Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Chargers, and Giants.

Conversely, the Chiefs defense has faced the easiest offensive schedule in the NFL so far. The hardest offense they faced were the Cowboys, and they only allowed 17 points in that matchup. Their list of offensive opponents include the Jaguars, Eagles, Giants, Titans, Raiders, Texans, Browns, and Bills.  Many of those games featured second or third string QBs as well.

Therefore, nothing in the hard stats is going to tell us much. Each team ranks at or near the top in every meaningful category.

What I do know is the Chiefs have the personnel to give Peyton and company a lot of problems. In the secondary Flowers, Smith, and Cooper make up a formidable trio. Flowers has Pro Bowl pedigree and Smith and Cooper are among the top ranked cornerbacks according to ProFootballFocus.  Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson grade well in pass coverage and should be able to limit the damage down by Denver tight ends.

Up front, Dontari Poe has been a beast in the middle of the line. He's played 94 percent of the defensive snaps this year and will disrupt the inside run game. On the outside, it doesn't get more fearsome than Houston and Hali, both of which are among the top ranked 3-4 outside linebackers. Along with Johnson, these three linebackers don't come off the field either, which is a credit to their abilities in both phases of the game.

Peyton Manning has been sacked 8 times in the last three games, compared to 6 times in the first six games. He's fumbled the ball from blindside hits in each of those three games as well. Peyton did return to practice on Thursday and Friday, but high ankle sprains tend to linger and can be easily aggravated.  So if there's a matchup I like, it's in the trenches when the Broncos have the ball.

Bottom Line

Is it possible that Denver get out to a two score lead and never look back? Absolutely. The lack of faith in KC's offense is the biggest reason why this spread is over a touchdown.

However, when you look at how the Chiefs matchup on paper on both sides of the ball, there's no rational reason why they should be this large of an underdog.  By my numbers, the Broncos should be around a -5 point favorite, which gives us value on the road team.  I would play this at anything +7.5 or better.

I don't know if KC can win this game, but I do think they can stick around and make it hard enough on Petyon Manning to keep it within striking distance. Give me the underdog.

NFL Pick: KC +8.5.