Week 2 Thurs NFL Preview
By The Rex Factor
Broncos outright tonight!
Let’s try to remember not to overreact to week 1 scores. In week 1 last year, the 49ers went to Dallas and won, the 2-win Titans beat the 9-win Chiefs by 3 scores IN KANSAS CITY and the Dolphins manhandled New England by two touchdowns at home.
To tonight, and Week 2. There are sharp guys on KC right and left, but I say they can have them.
I tried to evaluate what went wrong for the Texans last week, which is a side I also liked. It seems the simple answer is Brian Hoyer, but the Houston defense certainly had its own culpability, allowing that tight end to catch multiple touchdown passes. One time he was running down the field all by himself. Maybe I overestimated the Houston defense? If so, then the Colts will still cakewalk to another division title despite having a coach who is lost and a bottom-5 general manager in the league. But I digress.
Looking at the negatives for Denver:
The Bronco offense sputtered in a Week 16 loss at Cincinnati last winter, then got held to 13 points in a home playoff loss to the Colts. The effort last week has certainly squashed no fears among the Bronco faithful that there could be arm issues with the greatest quarterback in league history. Certainly, he seems to have lost some zip on some balls, but the problems seemed more evident last year when No. 18 was playing through a knee injury. He’s supposed to be healthy now, though looked far from it in the opener. I’m willing to give him a mulligan there and chalk it up to his first full game in a totally new offensive scheme.
The Ravens came with double-A-gap heat time and time again, and the Broncos and the rebuilt O-line struggled with that pressure, especially with any that involved a slot blitz. Two first-time starters, a left guard that was brought in less than a month ago and a new right guard will make life very tough on Manning if he can’t do better at identifying the pressure coming at him and the coverage behind it. Twice he threw the ball right to a linebacker (guy dropped both) and the corner pick-6 came on what I read on the All-22 as a Cover-2 trap… it was well concealed until it was too late and took away the exact route Manning was honing in on. These sort of mishaps have happened to a Manning-led offense before, but you can go back to the turn of the century and might not find them happen in successive weeks.
To be fair to new coach Gary Kubiak, it seems as though he’s doing more to cater to 18 with some shotgun plays, less rollout (the one time he rolled left last week he missed a wide-open receiver badly. Knowing the kind of perfectionist Manning is, I wonder how many times he practiced that pass on Tuesday). Even three days of adjustment from all of the mistakes should be plenty here to attack the Chiefs. I would think Hillman is a better bet to get more dosage in this spot than Anderson. He looked more comfortable last week in the one-cut zone Kubiak schemes. The Chiefs were gashed on the ground at times last year, although Johnson’s and Poe’s return helps there. Still, the Broncos are 5-0 going back to Nov. 2014 when Manning has dropped back to pass less than 40 times and that should be the goal tonight.
On the other side, I’m very confident in the Denver defense to keep it as close as long as they’ll need to. The personnel is all in place from last year’s standout unit, and Denver’s top-ranked defense also gets back free safety T.J. Ward from a one-game suspension. New coordinator Wade Phillips set Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware loose on a confounded Joe Flacco last week in some new 3-4 alignments.
Jamaal Charles should find the sledding just as tough this week as he did last week in Houston. Don’t expect the tight end to have any sort say-so on the game like last week. Where else are the Chiefs gonna turn? There still hasn’t been a WR catch a touchdown pass from QB Alex Smith since the 2013 season. UNDER is worth a long look tonight, as well. The line opened 46, and has been bet down to 42 and less. I’ll pass it because I missed the best number, but as you can see from my score prediction, still like it.
Finally, betting the visitors on Thursday night has traditionally been tough once the season starts, but in division spots we at least started to see some teams have success on the road the last couple of seasons. This will be the first season I can ever remember when there are non-divisional games so the home team would be the side to shade in those spots due to the unfamiliarity and the travelling team (in theory) getting less prep time. Denver has no lack of knowledge of the Chiefs.
The Broncos are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS against the Chiefs since Manning arrived and the Broncos have won all 12 of their away division games in the last three years, covering in 11 of those games. Manning is 18-1 straight up in division games in Denver, yet they want to give them points here? Take them if you want, but they’re not necessary. Visiting team is 23-4 against the number in the last 27 KC games. And Manning is 13-1 SU all time as a Colt and a Bronco vs. KC; that’s just the cherry on top.
Prediction: Denver 23, Kansas City 10
The play: Denver +150 for a medium play
Denver +3 even for a medium play
All in all, it’s the Broncos, and big!
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