Romilly Evans previews a pivotal MNF clash, where he expects Mile High advantage to make the difference for the Denver underdogs in a telling AFC West encounter
"Mahomes holds the launch codes to the NFL's most lethal deep-field missiles"
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
On the Case: Broncos QB can buck recent woes with home stand
Mankind has got a handle on the tides, thanks to understanding the moon's gravitational pull. However, the tides of Case Keenum's form are far harder to comprehend: one year he's a dazzling comet, the next his ascendant star is crashing back down to earth.
For trademark erratic quarterbacks, of course, confidence and performance invariably come in waves. So the challenge is to illuminate and isolate the levers that pull their strings most effectively. Keenum played behind a more talented O-line in Minnesota last year, and the suspicion was that he was getting by with a lot of help from his friends, not to mention a D that kept CK on the park.
His new era in Denver has hardly got off to the most promising of starts. Although the Broncos currently sit at a credible 2-1, Keenum couldn't even muster a paltry 200 yards last week, and hasn't connected for a touchdown in a fortnight.
In short, a Passer Rating of 50 has put the needle well into the red for a team which sported the lowest red-zone conversion percentage last term. Old habits dies hard, it would appear.
Despite missing some open targets, though, now is not the time to stick a fork in Keenum, especially at Denver's home fortress. The towering Mile High altitude takes some adjusting to, but there were signs that this 30-year-old was making the adjustments when he atoned for some early errors against Seattle. Granted, the Legion of Boom is no more, but they are still a well-marshalled D and Keenum fond the gaps when it mattered most. He can remind his doubters that his Vikes' redemption season was no flash in the pan tonight.
On the other side of both the pitch and experience stands 23-year-old Patrick Mahomes for Kansas City. Yet, despite his tender years and fledgling career, Mahomes has made bold strides with a jaw-dropping Passer Rating of 137.4, which tops the league and features a mouth-watering 896 yards.
Mahomes also holds the launch codes to the NFL's most lethal deep-field missiles (including the explosive Tyreek Hill), with 13 TDs already secured over the first three weeks of the 2018 campaign. He also has zero interceptions, which many prominent TV analysts seem keen to point out is "the fewest in the league". Talk about a state-the-obvious competition.
Now, however, he goes under the national spotlight in a rarefied air with huge hype and expectation swirling around him. It's a recipe for a dizzying fall from grace, especially with sack-master Von Miller baying for his blood.
Kansas tight end Travis Kelce fears few people, but admitted that Miller (who has registered four sacks, 14 tackles and two forced fumbles to his name) "strikes fear" into any rival offense, such is his power, commitment and inspirational flair.
Chiefs' porous D will struggle to make the Mile High adjustments
True, much like the aforementioned Hawks' LOB, Denver's No Fly Zone is not up to its recent Super Bowl-winning standards, when its dominant D afforded an ailing Peyton Manning his second Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, at a time when Mahomes' numbers are prematurely being compared to Manning's, Miller can again bring enough heat here to ground Mahomes in a reality-check performance. Denver's D have managed 25 QB pressures and 9 sacks so far, so double-digits seems a certainty here.
After all, Denver's defense shut down Russell Wilson, so they can definitely expect to slow the marauding Chiefs at home. Then it's just up to Keenum to keep pace and apply the finishing touches. Re-establishing Royce Freeman's ground game - which averages 5.2 yards per carry against eight-man fronts - would also free up his throwing arm. And we all know how surprisingly profligate Kansas' own defense has been.
In short, Keenum, won't get a better chance to rubber stamp his contract and get the Mile High faithful on side in a potentially pivotal divisional duel.
Sure, it's hard to predict the tides. But when Keenum's finally comes rushing it, it can lift all Broncos boats in unison. Look to Emmanuel Sanders, who heads the Broncos in receptions (19) and yards (269), and a strangely out-of-sync Demaryius Thomas (although he's been unlucky with some recalled plays) to be the prime beneficiaries this evening.
Back Denver Broncos' Half-time / Full-time Double Result @ 13/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back D. Thomas to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 10/1 / 5/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back E. Sanders to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 10/1 / 5/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook