NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 6 of the NFL season is upon us, and the Thursday Night Football matchup pits two old AFC West rivals against each other as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs play host to the Denver Broncos

Patrick Mahomes and Co. have won four consecutive games since losing the season-opener to the Detroit Lions, while Sean Payton's boys got their only win with a massive comeback victory against the Bears two weeks ago, then dropped a home game against Zach Wilson and the Jets last week. Kansas City looks like it will have Travis Kelce for this matchup despite his suffering an ankle injury last week, and that's bad news for a Broncos team that hasn't been able to stop anybody on offense all year long. 

Can Kansas City extend its winning streak, or will Denver pull off the upset? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game. 

How to watch 

Date: Thursday, Oct. 12 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
Stream: Amazon Prime Video
Follow: CBS Sports App   
Odds: Chiefs -10.5; O/U 47 (via SportsLine consensus odds)

When the Broncos have the ball

How well you think Russell Wilson is playing this season likely depends on what you're looking at. On the surface, Wilson's numbers look quite good, and pretty close to in line with what we saw for much of his career in Seattle: He's completed 66.9% of his passes at an average of 7.4 yards per attempt, throwing 11 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, giving him a 106.1 passer rating. He even checks in a respectable 14th in Tru Media's EPA/dropback. 

But those numbers belie the reality that Wilson has been a liability when the game is still in the balance. In contests where the game was within one score, Wilson has steadfastly refused to push the ball downfield, and it has considerably hampered Denver's offense. He's averaged just 4.5 air yards per attempt in those situations, according to Tru Media, nearly a full yard less than the next-closest quarterback. He's also taken a sack on more than 10% of his dropbacks. As a result, despite completing 71.6% of his passes in one-score games, his average dropback has generated -0.08 EPA for the Broncos, a figure on par with that of Ryan Tannehill in similar situations. 

In other words, Wilson has largely put the Broncos in disadvantageous situations with overly conservative play while games are still in the balance, then dialed up the aggression later and saved his overall numbers in the process. But against the Chiefs, that is not going to cut it -- especially not given that their defense is actually playing at the highest level of the Patrick Mahomes era, while Denver's own defense sits in the basement in just about every metric. 

To compete with Kansas City, Wilson needs to be aggressive right out of the gate. Unfortunately for the Broncos, it appears that Wilson and Sean Payton have designed an offense that is focused on getting the ball horizontal rather than vertical until it is too late to matter. (Except if it's against the Bears, because they'll let you back in the game with their own ineptitude.) 

The Denver offense runs through the running backs more than anyone else -- even in the passing game. (The backs account for one-third of the Broncos' receptions.) Samaje Perine and Javonte Williams are third and fourth on the team in targets, and Williams' passing-game looks have been particularly inefficient. Neither back has been efficient on the ground: Perine is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and Williams is at 3.6. Williams is set to return from the hip/quad injury that kept him out of last week's loss to the Jets, but he's clearly still working his way back from last year's ACL tear and not yet back to the player he once was. Perine has never been all that efficient a runner, but he is the type of reliable pass protector and grinder that coaches seem to value having on the team. Undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin has easily been the team's most effective back, but the investment the Broncos have in Williams and Perine seems likely to keep McLaughlin in a limited role at best. 

No matter which of them is on the field and/or getting the touches, the Broncos will be at a disadvantage generating offense against Steve Spagnuolo's unit, given how conservatively Wilson has led the attack, and how well Kansas City's secondary matches up with Denver's receivers. L'Jarius Sneed is likely to spend a lot of time on Courtland Sutton, with second-year breakout Trent McDuffie wrangling with Jerry Jeudy on the inside. Neither Broncos wideout is likely to generate too much separation in those matchups, which seemingly points toward even more checkdowns and conservative play until its too late to matter. 

When the Chiefs have the ball

For the first time in his career, Patrick Mahomes will face a defense that is ranked 32nd in opponent scoring entering the game. So, uh, get ready for some fireworks. 

The Denver defense has been an absolute disaster, allowing each of its last four opponents to score at least 28 points, and famously yielding 70 to the Miami Dolphins. The Broncos are 32nd in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed, as well as 32nd in yards per play and points per drive, 32nd in FTN's defensive DVOA, and 32nd in Tru Media's version of defensive EPA/play. 

The Broncos have have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a league-high 77.3% of their passes at a league-high average of 9.1 yards per attempt, with a league-high 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Denver has been dreadful against passes to players of every positional archetype, and to every area of the field: The Broncos rank 24th in DVOA against WR1s, per FTN, as well as 31st against WR2s, 32nd against WR3s, 29th against tight ends, 27th against running backs, 30th on throws to the left, 31st on throws over the middle, 32nd against throws to the right, 31st against deep passes, and 32nd against short passes. You are safe attacking in just about any way you choose.

Amazingly, they have somehow been even worse against the run than they have against the pass, with opponents breaking off an astronomical 5.9 yards per carry and eight scores on the ground. Vance Joseph's unit has been inept in all situations, getting blown off the ball by opposing offensive lines and allowing ball-carriers to break tackles in the open field. The Broncos have given up an average of 2.38 yards before contact per carry, according to Tru Media, the single-worst mark in the league. Only the Bills have allowed more yards after contact per carry than Denver's 3.56 mark, and only the Bills have seen runners post a higher tackle-avoidance rate (30.4%) as well.

All they have to do now is try to stop the league's best quarterback, so none of this should be a problem for them! 

Mahomes is off to a relatively slow start by his standards, averaging just 257.4 passing yards per game and just 7.0 yards per attempt, with a 5.4% touchdown rate that would match his career low. But he is avoiding negative plays by taking sacks less often than any other quarterback in the league, and he remains nigh impossible to stop on third downs. This is a blowup spot for him, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him post by far his best game of the year as the Broncos struggle to deal with every one of his weapons. Why the Chiefs insist on a wide receiver rotation that sees their two least-threatening wideouts (Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore) log the most snaps while the players who have most consistently gotten open (Kadarius Toney, Justyn Ross, and rookie Rashee Rice) lag behind is a mystery, but it might not matter in this matchup. 

Then again, the Chiefs might not even have to throw all that often, because Isiah Pacheco is in a bit of a rhythm as a runner right now, averaging 5.1 yards per carry across his last four games since being eased into action in Week 1 after sitting out much of training camp with an injury. Kansas City's offensive line has consistently gotten a pretty strong push up front, and as previously mentioned, it has been incredibly easy to move the ball against the Broncos on the ground. 

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Broncos 14

Denver has managed a win only against the Chicago Bears, and even that necessitated a second-half implosion on Chicago's part. The Chiefs are not the Bears. They at times play down to their competition, but the gap between them and the Broncos is wide enough so as to make that nearly impossible here -- especially at Arrowhead. 

I'm pretty confident the Chiefs are going to roll, but you should check out Sportsline expert Matthew Severance, who is 16-5 with his last 21 picks involving the Broncos. We can tell you he is leaning Over the total and knows a crucial X-factor that makes one side of the spread a MUST-BACK! You ABSOLUTELY need to see what it is before locking in any picks of your own.