Two incredible Thursday Night Football games were followed by a 35-14 shellacking of the Giants by the Patriots last week. This week’s matchup between the Broncos and Chiefs expects to be pretty competitive with the Chiefs favored by just three points on the road. Before I dive into the matchup, be sure to check out Ian Hartitz' WR/CB Matchups piece.
Thursday Night Football
The Chiefs opened as 5.5-point favorites with a total of 50.5. That has since shifted towards the Broncos with a spread of three and a total of 48. This means the original implied team totals projected a score of 28-22.5, Chiefs. After the line moves, sportsbooks are now projecting a 25.5-22.5 score in favor of the Chiefs. Nearly three points in line movement against the Chiefs is something to pay attention to as sharp bettors don’t seem to be very high on the offense on the road against the Broncos.
After starting the season with four straight wins, the Chiefs have dropped two in a row at home against the Colts and Texans. They scored 40 > 28 > 33 > 34 in their four wins, then just 13 and 24 points in their consecutive losses. Is the Patrick Mahomes regression we have been worrying about finally hitting? Or did defenses finally figure out how to defend the Chiefs? Probably a mix of both. Without Tyreek Hill, the Colts were able to play aggressive man defense and pressure Patrick Mahomes. The Texans were able to contain him with Tyreek only burning them on a couple of snaps. Normally wideouts don’t have a seismic impact on an offense, but Hill is truly a key to their offense as one of the best at getting open against man coverage. Having a healthy Sammy Watkins helps too, but he has already been ruled out for Thursday’s game. The Chiefs now draw a Denver defense that’s found its mojo the past few weeks (13 points allowed the last two weeks combined). The Broncos now rank eighth in overall DVOA (Football Outsiders) and are notably the fourth-best in passing success rate allowed. They haven’t been as good against the run - ranking 13th in rushing success rate allowed - but the Chiefs haven’t focused on their ground game the past two weeks (led NFL in pass rate at 76 percent). Pay attention to Andy Reid’s strategy heading into this one especially from a pass-run split perspective.
The Broncos roller-coaster season has begun its upward climb after snapping a four-game losing streak against the Chargers. They proceeded to assist the Titans in benching first-round bust Marcus Mariota by holding him scoreless. The Broncos Offense has yet to score more than 24 points in a game and has averaged 17.6 with 4-of-6 games under 20 points. If the Chiefs get an early lead on the Broncos, they realistically have no chance to catch up. It feels gross to say, but a lot of the Broncos' offensive success revolves around a strong running game. Joe Flacco simply isn’t good enough to pass his team to victory. They are just average in both rushing (16th) and passing (15th) success rate though on the season as both have complimented one another. Luckily, the Broncos should have plenty of success on the ground against the Chiefs' porous run defense that ranks 31st in rushing success rate allowed and 27th in explosive run rate. The Chiefs have amazingly allowed 180-or-more rushing yards in each of their last four games. The Broncos path to victory is controlling the clock and keeping Patrick Mahomes off the field – probably by running the ball- while getting a few stops on defense.
Prediction: 23-20 Chiefs
(4-2 on TNF Predictions)
DeSean Jackson (abdomen) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. Jackson has barely played since Week 1 and continues to be sidelined with an abdomen injury. Hopefully he can return in the next week or so as the Eagles Offense looks to get back on track.
Devin Singletary (hamstring) is practicing in full. Singletary returns for a great matchup against the Dolphins and will share the workload with Frank Gore. The split between the two players is something to look for as Singletary flashed talent prior to his injury.
Amari Cooper (quad) is not practicing Wednesday. There’s a decent chance he doesn’t play against the Eagles on Sunday Night. This is a tough situation for fantasy owners as Cooper's game isn't until Sunday night but he's in a good matchup against the soft Eagles secondary. His participation in practice the next couple of days is something to keep an eye on.
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Saquon Barkley (ankle) is practicing in full for Week 7 against the Cardinals. Beyond his talent, he also has generational recovery time. Barring a setback, Barkley will have missed just three games on an injury that usually takes 4-8 weeks to return from. He’s in a great spot against the Cardinals who can’t stop anyone.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Christian Kirk (ankle) remains in the rehab phase. Kingsbury also noted that Kirk needs to be at 100 percent in order to return. This makes it seem like Kirk won’t be available for Week 7 against the Giants. He’ll look to return in Week 8 against the Saints.
Marquise Brown (ankle) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. This is a bad start to the week for Hollywood. It’s tough to count on him playing unless he gets in at least one limited practice prior to Sunday. If he does play, he’s very startable in fantasy against an average Seattle secondary.
Raiders WR Tyrell Williams (foot) remained sidelined for Wednesday's practice. Williams is dealing with the dreaded issue of plantar fasciitis, and it’s “not getting much better” according to coach Jon Gruden. He’s shaping up to miss Week 7 and potentially longer unless he starts feeling better. Trevor Davis, Hunter Renfrow, and Keelan Doss will be the Raiders starting wideout trio without Williams.
Davante Adams (toe) "did not participate" Wednesday according to the Packers' estimated practice report. The Packers didn’t actually practice but released an injury report if they did. In addition to Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison were all listed as DNP. If we thought Aaron Rodgers’ receiving corps was thin before, watch out. Former Iowa State WR Allen Lazard could lead the team in targets this week if all three starting wideouts end up sitting.
Alex Smith revealed he required 17 surgeries to repair his broken right leg. Wow. The last we heard it was at six. The good news is he was throwing on the field this past week during practice. He's still expected to miss the rest of the season. … MMQB's Albert Breer reports the Redskins continue to tell interested teams that LT Trent Williams is unavailable for trade. Williams doesn’t want to budge and the Redskins are reluctant to sell one of their best players. That would make sense if they were a contender but we know that isn’t the case. …. Chris Herndon (hamstring) remains week to week. He’s nothing more than a deep-league hold at this point. … Coach Brian Flores announced Ryan Fitzpatrick will start Week 7 against the Bills. Fitzpatrick returns as the starter despite Flores announcing a week prior that Rosen will be their starter for the rest of the season. It won’t change much either way as they travel to Buffalo as 16.5-point underdogs. … Rams placed S John Johnson (shoulder) on injured reserve. He wasn’t playing very well prior to the injury and it will now force Taylor Rapp and Marqui Christian into more playing time. … Raiders RT Trent Brown has been accused of multiple acts of domestic violence dating back to 2018. His girlfriend filed a lawsuit after filing a police report back in June. Brown’s punishment and outlook as very murky at this point. … Saints signed RB Zach Zenner. This could suggest that Alvin Kamara may not play a full complement of snaps in Week 7 against the Bears. Zenner likely won’t see more than a handful of touches even if Kamara is ruled out. … Free-agent QB Brock Osweiler announced his retirement. Even though he won’t be remembered for much beyond his 5-2 run as Denver’s starter on their 2015 Super Bowl Run, it’s tough not to envy Brock Osweiler. He’s earned $41.3 million over seven seasons in the NFL without getting too banged up. … Browns LT Greg Robinson has either been benched or is "is in serious jeopardy of it", according to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. Interestingly enough, Pro Football Focus has graded Robinson as the No. 19 tackle among 60 qualifiers. … Raiders signed Darren Waller to a contract extension through 2023. This is a big deal for a player who broke his problem with addiction and turned his career around since coming to Oakland. In the midst of a breakout season, Waller’s expected to receive $9 million annually for three seasons.