The AFC West is now the Kansas City Chiefs’ to lose.
The Chiefs reached the halfway point of their season Monday night with a holding-serve-at-home 29-19 victory over division rival Denver, dropping the Broncos two games behind and upping their lead over Oakland and the Los Angeles Chargers to three games.
The Chiefs complete their five-game gauntlet on Sunday at Dallas, which could very well be without Ezekiel Elliott, who once again is facing suspension and is hoping for a stay to allow him to keep playing. An Elliott-less Dallas would be much easier to defend, given how the Chiefs’ defense continues to be porous against the run.
The Chiefs were able to get by with less than their “A” game. They jumped out quickly when the defense provided the game’s first points on a Marcus Peters strip and return. KC quickly went up 14-0 on a Alex Smith toss to Travis Kelce.
With a chance to put the hammer down and go up 21-0, the Chiefs turned it over when Tyreek Hill wobbled an ill-advised halfback pass that was easily picked off in the end zone. It was one of those plays that drives Chiefs fans crazy as sometimes they outsmart themselves in the red zone with trickeration.
From there, the Chiefs just kind of hung on as they flattened out after their spirited start. Their run defense was gashed again for 177 yards and nearly 6 yards per carry. The saving grace was that Trevor Siemien was so bad that he never gave the Broncos a semblance of hope. When Brock Osweiler is your other option, I guess Siemien is the lesser of two evils.
The Chiefs had one of their worst offensive games of the year. The normally pinpoint Alex Smith was hurried time and again by that tremendous Bronco defense as his numbers were lowly by his standards — 14 of 31 for 202 yards and just one TD.
Rookie sensation Kareem Hunt was stuffed, carrying 22 times for 46 yards. The Chiefs as a team accumulated only 79 and that’s not going to get it done most nights.
Kelce continues be a Bronco-slayer. He worked his way open to catch 7 balls for 133 yards. The rest of the receivers accounted for just 69.
But this is good for the Chiefs. It shows they can grind their way through games even when faced with adversity. Their defense gave up only 19 points, though Kenneth Acker became the new Terrance Mitchell as the Broncos, even with their awful passing game, wore him out. Steven Nelson returned for the Chiefs and was an upgrade as Philip Gaines was nowhere to be found.
If the Chiefs can somehow win at Dallas this week — but I don’t like their chances with it being on the road and a short week — they are practically home free. Denver’s next two games are against Philadelphia and New England and given how anemic the Broncos’ passing game is, I can’t see them winning either game.
After the Dallas game and the bye, the Chiefs return with three highly winnable games against the New York Giants, Buffalo and the New York Jets.
If the Chiefs can stay the course, they could earn a first-round home playoff game. They have the same record as New England and Pittsburgh.