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Monday Night Preview: Can the Denver Broncos Bounce Back Against Kansas City?

This edition of Monday Night Football features the Denver Broncos traveling to Aarowhead to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are currently 5-2 and sit at the top of the AFC West. The Broncos are 3-3 but hope a win will bring them within a game of their division rival.

Denver and Kansas City have each dropped their last two games -- the Broncos were humiliated by the Los Angeles Chargers 21-0, while Kansas City lost a nail-bitter to the Oakland Raiders 31-30.

Based on our team rankings, which are based on nERD, the Chiefs rank as the NFL's third-best team, while the Broncos are hanging onto a top-10 spot at ninth.

This matchup between two of the NFL's best teams should make for an exciting showdown. Here are a few matchups likely to influence the outcome of tonight's game.

Quarterback Breakdown

Alex Smith has provided Kansas City the spark it has been missing at quarterback the past few years. Based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Smith ranks as one of the league's top passers with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.32, which dwarfs the league average of 0.06. Among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts, he's tied with Tom Brady for the NFL's highest Passing NEP per drop back.

Smith also has a Passing Success Rate (percentage of drop backs contributing to a positive NEP) of 49.40%. Among 25 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs, Smith ranks sixth in this metric.

On the other side of the ball, Trevor Siemian has shown to be the exact opposite -- he has a Passing NEP per drop back of -0.05 and a Passing Success Rate of 43.78%. Out of 25 qualifiers, Siemian ranks 20th in both metrics.

To put some counting stats behind these advanced analytics, Siemian has accounted for a dreadful two touchdowns and five interceptions over his past four games. If he continues to struggle, his starting job may not be so secure. Denver's 2016 first-round pick, Paxton Lynch, resumed practicing this week and should be ready for game action sooner rather than later.

Running Back Breakdown

Since Devontae Booker's return from injury, the Broncos have turned to somewhat of a three-man committee. C.J. Anderson has played 46.91% and 59.38% of snaps in his last two games, respectively. These marked season lows for Anderson, who had been averaging 70.77% of the snaps before Booker's return.

Jamaal Charles' role has remained consistent throughout the season, and he's played 23.46% and 23.44% of snaps over the past two weeks. Anderson's lost snaps, however, appear to be going to Booker. Upon his return, he has logged snap shares of 12.50%, 28.40%, and 17.19%. With that said, Booker has logged a mere six carries this season, limiting Anderson more than contributing himself.

With 92 carries this year, Anderson's Rushing NEP per carry is -0.04, which is slightly above the league average of -0.05. Charles' -0.01 Rushing NEP per carry is slightly better, but he's toted the rock just 42 times. This mediocre running attack falls in line with our schedule adjusted rankings, where the Broncos rank 26th.

On the other hand, Kareem Hunt has arguably been the best running back in football. The rookie has a Rushing NEP per rush of 0.13, which is tied for first among 17 running backs with at least 90 carries. He also has a Rushing Success Rate of 45.16%, which ranks fourth among that same group. Despite a tough matchup, Hunt should be trusted as he continues his historic rookie season.

Defensive Matchup

Denver currently has the second-best defense according to our schedule adjusted metrics, while Kansas City has disappointed with the 23rd-best unit.

The Broncos are good in all aspects of their defense, ranking seventh against the pace and the NFL's best against the run. As we might expect, the Chiefs have equally disappointed, ranking 28th against the run and 19th against the pass.

There could be fireworks early and often in this contest as the Chiefs' high-powered offense battles a potent Denver defense. Likewise, this is a make-or-break situation for Siemian and the struggling Broncos offense, who against an inept Chiefs' defense.

Historical Comparison

According to our models, one game correlates 91.16% of the time with this contest.

This game occurred between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles on November 21st, 2004, which ended in a blowout with the Eagles routing the Redskins 28-6. The Eagles got touchdowns from Brian Westbrook, Terrell Owens, and Chad Lewis, while the Redskins managed only a pair of field goals from Ola Kimrin.

In this historical comparison, the Eagles represent the Chiefs, resulting in a Chiefs win and cover, who are currently 7.5-point favorites.

Game Prediction

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