By Julie Dixon // @ABroncoNole
The Chiefs have secured their playoff spot and a win or loss changes nothing in their seeding. They can sit or start whomever they want for however long they want. On Sunday, their only known starter will be rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This could make it tough to game plan for Denver IF they really want to win.
For Denver, they could be playing to lose because general manager John Elway is scouting quarterbacks and the best way to get a top one is to lose. However, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas needs 108 yards to reach 1,000 for the season and running back CJ Anderson needs 54 yards to reach his 1,000. He’s averaging 63 a game so that one should be easy. 108 yards for Thomas will be tougher, as he’s only had one game all season over 100 yards which was against the Giants.
With two QBs only having three starts between them, it’s tough to scout this game. However, since head coach Andy Reid drafted Mahomes and wants him as his future (ironically, he wanted quarterback Paxton Lynch, but Elway moved up to take him away), he’ll put a game plan together to give him every chance to succeed and win.
With that said, It sounds like Denver will be starting their top defensive guys. This should help get the ball back to Denver quickly since Mahones hasn’t faced a defense like the Broncos. Getting the ball in Lynch’s hands will be instrumental in Thomas getting his yards. Plus Elway needs to see Lynch throw more than the ten times he did against Oakland a few weeks ago.
Head Coach Vance Joseph has said he wants Lynch to run. If he bases a game plan around Lynch running and not his arm, the Broncos may be doomed to lose at home because of his injured ankle. WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer, receivers #2 and #3 look to be out, leaving Thomas, Jordan Taylor and Bennie Fowler as the three. Taylor and Fowler will need to be at the top of their game in order to pull coverage away from Thomas so he can get his yardage if they let Lynch throw.
Kansas City has an offense built around the run, so if Denver shows up to win, they should be able to stop it and force Mahones to throw. He’ll want to toss it deep as the gunslinger he is and since defensive back Aqib Talib may not be back next season, he could make sure Mahomes remembers his name.
The key to both sides is the same. Stop these strong-armed quarterbacks from throwing deep and to their top receiver. The difference will be that Mahones has nothing to lose. If he misses, throws interceptions and incompletions, his job is secure, so he should be able to play with no pressure. The press, fans, and Reid are behind him and will excuse a new starter’s mistakes.
For Lynch, the opposite is true. Denver press has portrayed him as the enemy because they championed for QB Trevor Siemian, any mistake he makes will be ripped to shreds by the media and fans who follow them. In addition, head coach Vance Joesph is clearly not a fan.
This will put massive pressure on him to perform. If he does well, they’ll say it was against second stringers, if he stumbles, they’ll say how crappy because it’s against second stringers. His key will be to shut out the outside world and just play. A tough challenge when he could be playing for a job.
Hopefully, Joseph puts Thomas, Anderson, and winning over a handful of spots in the draft. Fans deserve it and after this crappy season, and it would be a good reward for the players. Go Broncos!
Talk Broncos with Julie on Twitter // @ABroncoNole