A big question:
Can the Broncos close out a close game?
While the Broncos’ streak against the Chiefs dates back to 2015, there have been close calls. Four of the Broncos’ last five games against Kansas City have been one-score games, with the Broncos leading entering the fourth quarter in last season’s Week 17 game at Arrowhead.
“We have confidence in the guys in this locker room and our team,” Kareem Jackson said Tuesday. “It’s all about our actions and execution. One-point games, which means one or two plays here or there, can also go the other way, so we have to find a way to make those plays.”
The Broncos capitalized on their chances in a Week 4 win over Chicago, but struggled in game-tying games against Washington and New York. Wilson spoke about the importance of changing the game, saying the Broncos must be ready to take advantage of their opportunities.
“It’s going to be a back-and-forth game,” Wilson said. “We have to be the ultimate winner.”
In order for the Broncos to do that, their goal is to start fast and maintain a strong performance throughout the game. Denver has led at halftime in three of its five losses and has now lost ten straight games with a halftime lead.
“Putting four quarters together was obviously one of the things I took note of this morning,” Payton said Monday.
Watch the game:
Travis Kelce vs. Denver’s defense
Kansas City’s All-Pro tight end is questionable on Thursday Night Football, but if he’s available for Week 6, he’ll need to be one of Denver’s main focuses.
The Chiefs’ only loss this year came without Kelce, who leads the Chiefs with 27 catches, 222 yards receiving and three receiving touchdowns since returning. He has thrown for at least 60 yards in each of his past three games and has scored a touchdown in three of four games.
During this long period, Kelce has been a thorn in their side. Kelce has five 100-yard games with the Broncos since the start of 2016 and has six receiving touchdowns. Denver has been better at containing Kelce in recent games — he’s held under 45 yards in three of the past four games against Denver — but the Broncos must find a way to avoid letting the talented player players beat them.
If Kelce can’t play, wide receiver Justin Watson could be the Chiefs’ next top target. He averaged 21.9 yards per catch, second in the NFL among players with at least 10 catches. Only Denver’s Marvin Mims ranks higher in that category.
Of course, the Broncos also have to work on stopping the run. Denver is allowing 187.6 rushing yards per game and allowed the Jets 150 yards rushing in the second half in Week 5.
“If we can’t stop the offense defensively, it’s going to be hard for us to win games, and we’ve got to clean it up,” Payton said Monday. “I would start by (filling) the right gaps and then understand from a programmatic perspective what we’re getting and how to limit those holes… It’s not communication, it’s technology, but this has to get better.”
Despite the Chiefs’ winning streak, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown eight interceptions against the Broncos in his career. That’s the most picks the two-time MVP has had against any opponent, as he’s never had more than five picks against another team. Safety Justin Simmons, cornerback Pat Surtain II and inside linebacker Josey Jewell all had multiple interceptions against Mahomes; Only two other players in the league can make the same claim. Jewell received two draft picks and nearly sparked a home comeback last season, and the Broncos will force an upset on Thursday night.
The Broncos are 0-3 this season in games losing the turnover battle, and their only win came in Chicago by +2. Denver may need to force Mahomes to make mistakes and play clean football on offense to sneak out of Arrowhead with a win.
Denver also has to find a way to improve their defense. The Broncos, who rank last in the NFL in points per game and yards allowed, will face the best third-down offense in the league. However, Mahomes and company have yet to find their normal pace in other areas. They are currently averaging 25.6 points per game and 1.6 turnovers per game. This will be their worst performance in the Mahomes era. If Denver can play closer like it did in the first half of Week 5, the Broncos can be successful.