Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Denver Broncos (7-3)
The Chiefs are 7-3, but they’ve been overly reliant on close wins (4 of 7 wins by a touchdown or less), winning the turnover margin (+13 on the season, best in the NFL), and return touchdowns (+4 return touchdown margin). Those things tend to be very inconsistent from week-to-week, so they’re very tough to rely on long-term. In terms of first down rate differential, they enter this game 25th, suggesting that if we assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, they’re going to have far less success in the win/loss column. We already saw this in their home loss to Tampa Bay last week, as they lost the turnover margin by 1 and subsequently lost the game to an inferior team against whom they were favored by 7.5.
They’ve been worse in recent weeks, scoring just 3 offensive touchdowns in their last 3 games and losing at home to the Buccaneers last week. That’s no surprise, considering all of the injuries they have right now. They’re expected to get cornerback Marcus Peters back from a 1-game absence and Justin Houston should see more snaps after making it through his season debut setback free last week, but top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin remains out, as does starting defensive lineman Jaye Howard. Joining them on the sidelines this week is Dee Ford, their sack leader this season in the absence of Houston.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are as healthy as any team in the league right now coming out of their bye week, as key defenders Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib return from injury. They’ve also been significantly better than the Chiefs this season, entering this game 11th in first down rate differential. Despite a mere +5 turnover margin, the Broncos have a +50 point differential on the season, as opposed to +35 for the Chiefs. On top of that, Denver is in a better spot, as they head to Jacksonville next, while Kansas City has to turn around and go to Atlanta, a much tougher opponent than Jacksonville. There’s not enough for me to put money on the Broncos as 3.5 point home favorites, but I’m holding out hope this line falls to 3 before gametime. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so it’s a very important half point.
Denver Broncos 19 Kansas City Chiefs 13
Pick against the spread: Denver -3.5