HAVE BRONCOS BEEN A PRETENDER ALL ALONG? HUGE TEST AWAITS SUNDAY NIGHT IN KC
About a month ago, the Denver Broncos were a unanimous choice as the best team in the NFL. Las Vegas Power Ratings and national computer ratings agreed. Super Bowl betting odds agreed. The Broncos were 6-1 in the standings, but hadn’t been beaten in regulation. The only loss was on the road in overtime against defending league champion Seattle.
It was clear that THIS was Denver’s year. They were well clear of the field in the AFC. And, there wasn’t an obvious NFC team that would take them out given the inconsistency and turmoil in that conference. In October, Arizona was supposed to give them trouble, but Denver crushed them 41-20. San Francisco was supposed to provide a real threat, but it was never a game. San Diego supposedly had the right gameplan for beating the Broncos. Final score: Denver 35, San Diego 21.
Denver went to New England as 3-point road favorites...meaning that composite Power Ratings were showing the Broncos a full SIX points better than the Pats on a neutral field. Nothing’s been the same since.
*Denver lost to New England 43-21
*After beating helpless Oakland, Denver was SHOCKED by St. Louis 22-7
*In the bounceback, Denver needed a huge comeback to survive Miami 39-36
Not only do those results look ugly for a so-called Super Bowl favorite. But, the prior wins took on a darker hue as well. Arizona was dealing with injuries in that game, with a third-team QB getting snaps in the second half. San Francisco may be falling out of the playoff picture entirely as the Harbaugh era slowly implodes. San Diego’s Philip Rivers has been playing with injuries, and the Chargers haven’t covered a game in a month-and-a-half.
Denver is no longer a shoe-in to win the AFC...and is in danger of being exposed as a pretender!
That makes Sunday Night’s nationally televised game at Kansas City vital. THIS is where we find out whether or not the Broncos for real...and this is the game that could keep them from playing any home games in the AFC brackets. A loss would be the fourth...in a conference where the whole world seemed to enter the weekend with four losses.
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the game...
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Denver: 8-3 (#5 schedule in USA Today)
Kansas City: 7-4 (#8 schedule in USA Today)
Slight edge to Denver given the record and Jeff Sagarin’s schedule rankings in USA Today. But, take out the prior meeting in the mountains...and we have two 7-3 teams who have played virtually identical schedules in terms of composite power. Will this rematch be the equalizer?
Denver: 6.2 on offense, 4.8 on defense
Kansas City: 5.3 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Huge advantage for the Broncos here...and the driving force behind why they should still get serious Super Bowl consideration. A differential of +1.4 is off the 2014 charts. The problem is...if the Broncos are just one of those teams that runs up huge stats when things are going well, it won’t matter in unfavorable conditions. We’ve seen that time and time again in the playoffs. Let’s see if Denver can win YPP big in a huge road game at a very hostile site.
Kansas City: -2
Edge for the Broncos...but a strike against them in terms of the league championship. It’s hard to lift the trophy if your defense isn’t intimidating opponents and giving your offense cheap points. We haven’t talked much about Kansas City today. Some red flags here because it’s hard to sustain winning football with a break even mark in YPP and a negative turnover differential! Can they maintain their efficiency? Will the Chiefs be the pretender that’s exposed?
Kansas City: 8-3
One reason Kansas City has been so great against the spread is that stat-based models aren’t showing them as a playoff caliber team. The scoreboard is showing that to this point. Denver was a Super Bowl type team in the first half of the season by all accounts. The picture is much foggier now. The market is treating them respect, but caution...rather than as an unstoppable juggernaut.
Current Line: Denver by 1, total of 50
Kansas City opened as a small favorite. But, sharps who liked Denver grabbed the point very quickly and took out “pick-em” as well. Hard to know how the public is going to bet this one during the day Sunday. Squares tend to love betting Peyton Manning...but they also love taking Kansas City in home dog spots.
JIM HURLEY is still finalizing his thoughts as we write this preview...but he’ll have his final strategy determined by the time you read it! Pass or play? You can always purchase the final word right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about the full Sunday card or expanded programs here at NETWORK, call the office at 1-800-323-4453 Sunday morning before the early games kick off.
One more NFL game to talk about this holiday weekend. We’ll cover the Monday Nighter in the next edition of the NOTEBOOK. Here’s what’s ahead the next few days...
Monday: NFL TV Preview...Miami at NY Jets on ESPN
Tuesday: Big 10/ACC Previews in College Hoops (including OSU/Louisville)
Wednesday: Big 10/ACC Previews in College Hoops (including Duke/Wisconsin)
Thursday: NFL TV Preview...Dallas at Chicago on the NFL Network
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