3TFO: Chiefs @ Broncos, Week 17
It would be hard to find a more lopsided matchup for the Week 17 divisional games. The Denver Broncos are arguably the best team in the league, they are playing at home, and a win could help their playoff seeding while a loss could hurt it. The Kansas City Chiefs are arguably the worst team in the league, playing on the road, and a loss would secure them the first overall pick in the draft. However, it was just a month ago that the Chiefs were a fourth-quarter touchdown away from tying the game against Denver and taking it to overtime.
Here are the three matchups which, if the Kansas City player can step up his performance from the Week 12 loss, could help the Chiefs pull off the biggest of Week 17 upsets.
Jamaal Charles vs. Broncos Outside Ends/Linebackers
Lost in the Comeback Player of the Year conversation is Jamaal Charles, who has the third-most rushing yards this season at 1465. He enters this game on the back of one of the best rushing performances of the year ,with 228 yards on 22 carries last week against the Colts. He is at his best when running outside of the tackles, where he has a rushing average of 6.6 yards per carry — second to only Adrian Peterson for running backs with at least 50 outside runs. This was no different against the Broncos in Week 12, where he had nine runs to the outside for 66 yards, compared to 41 yards on 14 carries when trying to run between the tackles.
The season started out well for the Broncos in terms of stopping the outside run, as they allowed an average of 3.7 yards per carry from Weeks 1 to 11. However, over the past five games that has increased to 4.7 yards per carry allowed. The biggest problems have been Elvis Dumervil and Wesley Woodyard. Both players are great assets when it comes to stopping the pass, but both can be liabilities in the run game. Dumervil has a Run Stop Percentage of 4.7%, which is in the bottom 10 for 4-3 defensive ends. Woodyard, on the other hand, has a Tackling Efficiency of 11.8, which is ninth-worst for 4-3 outside linebackers. The Chiefs need to take advantage of this matchup even more than the first time around to have any sort of offense against the Broncos’ defense.
Orlando Franklin vs. Justin Houston
When you talk about great pass-blocking tackles, the list consists almost exclusively of left tackles. If you included right tackles in the conversation, Orlando Franklin of the Broncos should be mentioned. He has a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 96.5, which is the best for all right tackles in the league this year. Since having trouble with the Texans Brooks Reed early in the season, Franklin hasn’t allowed more than three pressures in a game. In Week 12 against the Chiefs, he allowed one pressure to Justin Houston, as well as one sack that came a long 3.8 seconds after the snap. Franklin has also been a decent run blocker on the year with a +2.6 Run Block Rating.
Houston started the season on fire, with a Pass Rushing Productivity of 15.5 and a Run Stop Percentage of 6.4 over the first nine games of the season. Over the past six his numbers have cooled down to a 7.2 Pass Rushing Productivity and 5.6 Run Stop Percentage. He has lined up as the left outside linebacker on 744 of 932 snaps this season, so he should be going up against Franklin for almost the entire game. He is one of the few playmakers the Chiefs have on defense, but he needs to get out of his slump against a good opponent in order to make an impact in this game.
Broncos Wide Receivers vs. Jalil Brown
Since Week 17, Jalil Brown has played in the dime defense at the outside right cornerback spot. For the most part he has played decently, but against the Broncos in Week 12 he allowed five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Because the Broncos use three wide receiver or two tight end sets as their base offenses, the Chiefs will likely use the dime defense for nearly the entire game, meaning Brown will line up at right cornerback almost every snap.
For 57.2% of his snaps, Demaryius Thomas lines up as the far left wide receiver, which would put him across from Brown more often than not. This season he has at least 75 receiving yards in 11 of 15 games. He is also among the leaders in missed tackles caused, with 12. If it’s not Thomas lining up from Brown on a given play, then chances are it is Eric Decker. He has stepped up in recent weeks, with 22 catches on 26 targets over the past three games for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Look for the Broncos to throw at the player lining up at left wide receiver a lot, and it will be Brown’s job to stop them.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke