Thursday Night Preview: Will Kansas City Get Back on Track Versus Denver?
Oh, how much things can change in this NFL in two weeks of time.
Peeking at our power rankings, the road Chiefs still look like heavy favorites, coming in fifth by our models, but Denver has climbed all the way up to 15th.
Can Kansas City figure things out? Let's dig in and find out.
Let me save you some time with the usual introduction here -- Kansas City has a major positional advantage at quarterback coming into this contest.
Patrick Mahomes has been downright silly to start the 2019 season. Among the 30 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, the Kansas City signal caller ranks second in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.35). Veteran signal caller Joe Flacco? Not so much. He ranks 22nd in the same category (0.04).
In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- this one actually gets mildly interesting. Mahomes is still superior with a mark of 50.84%, but Flacco is not too far behind with a rate of 49.29%.
In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), this is another TKO. Mahomes is one of the league's best with a mark of 10.1, while Flacco has been playing the dink-and-dunk game with a clip of 6.5
With a clear advantage going to KC at quarterback, does either offense separate themselves at the running back position?
Running Back Play
This is not likely the running back situation you anticipated for the Chiefs just a few short months ago, and the carries have been all over the place the last two weeks.
McCoy has been wildly efficient this year. Among the 35 rushers with 45 or more carries, McCoy ranks second in terms of Rushing NEP per attempt (0.13).
However, that doesn't mean Phillip Lindsay has been a slouch toting the rock. Among that same group, he ranks eighth-best (0.09). He's also nearly doubled McCoy in terms of carries by a margin of 84 carries to Shady McCoy's 48. The backfield in Denver has been a fairly even split, with Royce Freeman getting 66 carries and 26 targets while Lindsay has logged 84 carries and 26 targets.
Long feared as an elite defensive unit, the Broncos' D appeared to be back-sliding, allowing 93 points over the first four games as the team suffered an 0-4 start. That rough beginning seems like a distant memory at this point.
Denver is now up to ninth in our per-play metrics, ranking 13th against the pass and 17th against the run. Kansas City, meanwhile, ranks 15th overall -- they've been very good against the pass (10th) while getting torched against the run (21st).
One area both teams could improve upon is in harassing the opposing quarterback. In peeking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, Denver carries a mark of 5.8% (22nd), whereas the Chiefs are at 5.6% (25th).
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