Is this the year the Broncos' reign as AFC West champions finally ends? That question be answered by what happens on Thursday night in KC. Let's examine some Broncos NFL prop picks for the game.
First off, why is Kansas City a 3-point favorite on the NFL odds board? Sure, the Chiefs are at home but Denver is 6-0 against them since Peyton Manning arrived in town. And as far as a I know, he's playing in this game. Also, dating to the 2011 season, or the year before Manning arrived in the Mile High City, Denver has won 12 consecutive road games against divisional opponents, tied with the San Francisco 49ers (12 from 1987-90) for the longest such streak in NFL history. So the Broncos can make history on Thursday.
Peyton Manning 'Over/Under' 265.5 Passing Yards, 1.5 TD Passes, .5 INTs, 23.5 Completions
Manning looked rather old at the end of last season, when his passes really started fluttering and his production severely dropped -- he wasn't even close to being the best quarterback on the field in the AFC divisional-round home loss to Andrew Luck and the Colts. Manning looked much the same in Week 1, although he did face a very good Baltimore Ravens defense. He was 20-for-40 for 175 yards (just 4.38 yards per attempt; there's that arm strength issue again) with no touchdowns and one interception returned for a touchdown -- the Ravens' only TD.
But history hints that Manning could have a big night here. For one thing, he is 13-1 all-time vs. the Chiefs and has won eight straight against them. No quarterback has ever won nine in a row against Kansas City. Since arriving in Denver, Manning has those six wins with 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He didn't have huge yardage totals in either win last year but had five total TDs and no picks. In addition, Manning owns Thursday night games. He is the all-time leader on Thursdays with 3,591 passing yards, 38 touchdown passes and a 123.7 passer rating. Since joining Denver, he has 1,347 passing yards and 13 touchdowns for a 118.1 passer rating on Thursdays.
Kansas City was No. 2 against the pass in 2014, allowing 203.0 yards per game. That was in part to having the NFL sack leader in Justin Houston. In last week's win vs. Houston, the Chiefs allowed 298 yards passing, two touchdowns and a pick. Those numbers are somewhat inflated, at least the first two, as Houston had some garbage-time yards and scores.
Barring getting knocked out early vs. the Chiefs, Manning is going to join Brett Favre in the 70,000-yard club as Manning is at 69,866 yards. He will need a few more games to catch Favre, who has 71.838.
NFL Free Picks: 'UNDER' yards, 'OVER' the rest.
Demaryius Thomas O/U 6 Receptions, 72.5 Yards
Emmanuel Sanders O/U 5.5 Receptions, 67.5 Yards
Anytime TD Scorer: Thomas +120, Sanders +140
Sanders led the Broncos with 12 targets, eight catches and 65 yards in Week 1, while Thomas had 11 targets, seven catches and 60 yards. Again, you can see that Manning is throwing short passes, even more so than in recent years. Last year in the two games vs. the Chiefs. Sanders had 14 catches for 181 yards. Thomas had 11 catches for 125 yards. He has a minor hand issue but will play. Since Manning has thrived on Thursdays since joining Denver, it figures that Thomas would too. He has the second-most receiving yards (394) and tied for the fifth-most receptions (22) in the AFC over the past three seasons on Thursdays making him a wise pick to go off tonight.
NFL Free Picks: 'OVER' Receptions on both and Thomas yards. 'UNDER' Sanders yards. Sanders does score.
Total QB Sacks By Broncos O/U 2.5
Note that there are no rushing props for Denver as of this writing because No. 1 tailback C.J. Anderson is questionable, although the Broncos think he will play. But obviously that would determine any totals for him and backup Ronnie Hillman. The Broncos have one of the best 1-2 punches from a pass-rushing perspective in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Miller, my preseason choice for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was held without a sack vs. Baltimore, while Ware had one. The Broncos had two overall. Chiefs QB Alex Smith was sacked twice by J.J. Watt and Co. last week.
NFL Free Pick: 'UNDER' Chiefs have a quick, short passing game that should largely keep Smith out of harm's way.