Sunday Night Football Pick: Broncos vs. Chiefs on the Total

Jason Lake

Friday, November 28, 2014 8:05 PM UTC

Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 8:05 PM UTC

The Week 13 NFL odds have produced the biggest total the Kansas City Chiefs have faced all season. That’s what happens when the Denver Broncos come to town. Will offense or defense prevail this Sunday?

Jason’s record after Week 12: 32-44-1 ATS, 14-20-1 Totals

One year ago, the Denver Broncos put together one of the greatest offensive teams in the history of the NFL. They broke the all-time scoring record with 606 points (37.9 per game), while Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdown passes shattered Tom Brady’s previous mark of 50. Denver scored touchdowns in nearly every conceivable way: punt and kick returns, interception and fumble returns – even a blocked punt was brought back to the house. It was glorious.

Times have changed. The Denver Broncos (OVER 8-3) still have a mighty offense, but they’re “only” scoring 30.2 points per game. And scoring will be at a premium this Sunday night when Denver travels to Arrowhead to play the Kansas City Chiefs (UNDER 7-4). The Chiefs are one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, and they run the ball with vigor, too. The total for this matchup opened at 49.5 points on our NFL odds and remains there as we go to press; our consensus reports show 61 percent support for the OVER.

Doubtful Thomas
When these two teams met last year at Arrowhead, they lit up the scoreboard – and each other – in a 35-28 Broncos victory (OVER 49.5). But again, this was a different Denver team. Eric Decker was the recipient that day of four TD passes from Manning; Decker signed a free-agent deal with the New York Jets in the offseason. Knowshon Moreno (now with the Miami Dolphins) also caught a TD pass.

Assorted injuries have also robbed Manning of some of his familiar targets. It looks more and more like Julius Thomas, who leads the team with 12 TD receptions, will miss Sunday night’s game (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with an ankle injury. Thomas missed practice on Friday after putting in a limited session on Thursday – consider him a “game-time” decision.

The good news for Denver fans is that WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) was back in action last week against the Dolphins, and he caught nine passes for 125 yards in a 39-36 shootout (OVER 47). As for the running game, C.J. Anderson exploded for 167 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, giving the Broncos the balance they needed after losing both Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) to injury. There’s still plenty of orange juice in this offense.

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Da Do Run Run Run
But will it be enough juice to drown the Chiefs defense? You may be surprised to learn that Kansas City only ranks No. 18 in the league (No. 17 pass, No. 23 rush) in defensive efficiency at Football Outsiders, despite only giving up 17.7 points per game – second only to the Detroit Lions at 17.3 points. How can this be?

Intentionally or otherwise, the Chiefs are giving up plenty of yardage between the 20s, particularly on the run – Kansas City’s defensive line ranks No. 31 in run blocking, although most of that damage comes when opponents reach the second level. Things change dramatically once the bad guys get into the red zone. The Chiefs are second in the NFL in red zone defense, where opponents score just 43.75 percent of the time. That’s down from 55.81 percent last year.

Impressive, but perhaps not sustainable. The Broncos scored on three of their four trips to the red zone in Week 2 when they hosted Kansas City. However, it wasn’t nearly enough to cash in the OVER in a 24-17 Denver win (UNDER 49). The Chiefs limited the damage by playing keep-away, as Knile Davis (filling in for the injured Jamaal Charles) carried the ball 22 times for 79 yards and a pair of TDs. Charles is back, the Chiefs are coming to work fresh off a long week, and we expect both teams to pound that rock all night long. We’re back on the chain gang.

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