It’s almost like the Denver Broncos do their best work on their main stage, their home field. But the road company? Not so much.
The Broncos (8-3) have an opportunity to tighten their grip significantly Sunday on what would be their fourth consecutive AFC West title. But to do that they will have to not only defeat the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4), but they will have to do it in Arrowhead Stadium.
And just put aside for the moment that in the franchise’s history, the Broncos are 4-14 in regular-season games at Arrowhead on Thanksgiving or later. The Broncos have not been anywhere close to their best on the road anywhere this season. They are 2-3 away from Sports Authority Field at Mile High this season with those road wins coming against the 1-10 Oakland Raiders and the 2-9 New York Jets. They have also lost at New England, at Seattle and at St. Louis.
“We know that has to change,’’ said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “We’ve had some things we usually do well that we haven’t done well in those games. Everybody just has to pick up their game, you want to play your best late in the year and into the playoffs.’’
So, logic would suggest Sunday night’s affair at Arrowhead would be an uphill battle for the Broncos, that the Chiefs have the league’s top pass defense (198.9 yards allowed per game). But logic also says of the four Broncos’ wins at Arrowhead Thanksgiving or later on the calendar, Peyton Manning has started two of them, in 2012 and 2013.
In the end, however, it will likely fall on which team’s run defense finds a way to hold up better than the other that will ultimately decide the issue. And if the Broncos keep themselves as committed to running as they were this past Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, they will have a far better chance to give Manning the room he needs to throw the ball.
My prediction: Broncos 35, Chiefs 31.