Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs: Defenses to dominate at Arrowhead

Past his Prime: Peyton Manning lacks the arm strength to hurt the Chiefs
Past his Prime: Peyton Manning lacks the arm strength to hurt the Chiefs

Both Denver and Kansas City will be desperate to keep their winning form going when they do battle on Thursday night. Don't expect too many scores though according to our analyst Neil Harvey, who predicts a grinding win for the home side....

"The prospect of Manning having an improved game against a Kansas pass-defense that ranked second in the league last season, looks unlikely"

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
Friday, 01:25
Live on Sky Sports

Ok. I'm just going to come out and say it. I think that Peyton Manning is past his best and with him under centre the Broncos - 18.017/1 sixth favourites - can't win the Super Bowl this season.

There's no doubting that Manning has been a fantastic QB during his career. But all good things must come to an end and the evidence has been there from the back end of last season, through to the start of this, that the Peyton of today is playing at a considerably lower level than the Peyton of old.

A key indicator of this is Manning's apparent lack of arm strength. Wobbly throws are now becoming a sad regularity for the Denver QB. Against the Ravens in Week One he managed to complete only two out of eight passes when attempting to throw more than 10 yards.

Of course Denver still won that game. Manning has decades of experience and can still captain a ship. But if this Broncos team is to succeed it will be more because of the defence and running game than the quarterback. Manning managed to miss a wide-open Demaryius Thomas on several occasions last Sunday. He threw for just 175 yards and zero touchdowns. And when he did eventually contribute to the scoreboard, it was for the other team, gifting them a pick-six.

The prospect of Manning having an improved game against a Kansas pass-defense that ranked second in the league last season, looks unlikely. There could be some joy though for Denver's running game. The Chiefs gave up big chunks of running yards to opponents last year. The fifth most in the league. And that could mean a big day for Ronnie Hillman, who impressed after coming in for the injured CJ Anderson last week.

Don't bank on him to score though. Bizarrely, Kansas struggle against the run, right up until it reaches the red zone, at which point they become astonishingly effective, with their four runnings TDs conceded last season - the lowest in the NFL. All this points to Denver struggling to put many points on the board. And with Kansas proving a tough nut to crack in the red zone, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus could see plenty of action after playing a starring role last week with successful kicks from 33, 43 and 56 yards.

As poor as Denver's offense was though, their defense was impressive, limiting the Ravens to a mere 100 passing yards and shackling last year's breakout running back Justin Forsett to just 43 yards. The Broncos ranked second in the NFL against the run last year and this time will be trying to contain the Chief's key weapon Jamaal Charles. The problem Charles poses though is his ability to become part of the passing game if there's not much happening on the ground. That's exactly what happened against Houston in Week One, when he hauled in 46 yards and a touchdown through the air after scrapping for just 57 yards rushing.

Charles' ability to take the short pass will likely be the main threat that Denver will need to deal with. Alex Smith's game at quarterback is built around making short passes. So many short plays eat up the clock though. And considering nobody in the league gave up fewer yards per pass than the Broncos last year, there's good reason to think that if Kansas are to make progress with the passing game, it will likely be extremely slow progress.

All of this points again to a low scoring encounter and plenty of action for the punters. If so, special teams and the kickers become crucial. With McManus again likely to be asked to attempt some long range kicks. But he can't keep making them from 50 yards plus. And so a bet on there being a missed field goal, which won for us at the weekend, looks well worth taking once again.

It's Kansas who look to have the more potent offense. Baltimore could have beaten the Broncos if they'd had a genuine weapon at receiver. They didn't. But Kansas do, in the form of Jeremy Maclin. And they have another in tight end Travis Kelce, who snaffled two touchdowns in the opening quarter last week. With Denver focused on stopping Charles, he could well strike first again, with the odds of around 9.008/1 looking big.

Recommended Bets
Total Points Under 41.5 @ 2.0621/20
First Half Total Points Under 21 @ 2.001/1 or better
Spread/Points Double - Kansas/ Under 41.5 @ 4.003/1 or better
Field Goal to be missed @ 2.001/1 or better
Travis Kelce to score first touchdown @ 9.008/1 or better

Neil Harvey's 2015 NFL P&L

14 staked
10.44 returned
-3.56 p/l

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