Cleat Geeks

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Week #7 Preview

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their first game of the season last week. The New England Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 on a last second field goal. The loss moved their record to 5-1. The Chiefs remain at the top of the conference because they are the only team with fewer than two losses. It was a tough loss for the Chiefs but there were some good takeaways in the game.

The Chiefs offense struggled to start but had a good second half that put them back in the game. Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns in the second half after starting the game with two interceptions. He finished the game with 352 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Mahomes performance in the second half helped rally the Chiefs back from a 15-point deficit at halftime. Mahomes was tested by the Patriots defense but adjusted in the second half and put the Chiefs in position to potentially win the game.

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Last week the Chiefs defense struggled against the Patriots offense. They gave up 500 total yards to New England. The Patriots won the game on 65-yard drive in the final three minutes. Part of the reason for the poor performance were injuries to starters. Rookie safety Armani Watts was a big loss for the Chiefs. Watts was placed on injury reserve after undergoing core muscle surgery. He only had five tackles and one sack this season but he was starting to see more playing time because of the injuries at safety. Eric Berry and Eric Murray also missed the game because of injuries. The injuries on the defense played a big role in the loss last week.

The Chiefs week #7 game will be against the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday night. It will be their third primetime game this season and their second straight on Sunday night. The Chiefs last played the Bengals in 2015. The Bengals won the game 36-21. The Chiefs have not beaten the Bengals since 2007. The Bengals are 4-2 this season and in first place in the AFC North. Both defenses have struggled this season and it should be a high scoring game. The Bengals and Chiefs are in the bottom five in the NFL in total yards per game and passing yards per game. The key for a Chiefs win will be putting up big numbers in the passing game. It should be a good match-up between two teams competing for a playoff spot.

Broncos Blast Cardinals

 

“I wouldn’t say it’s a must win, but we’re going to kick their ass, though.” -Von Miller

Von Miller is the Broncos’ best player. He’s an incredible talent and the heart that drives the engine on defense. That’s why he was the Super Bowl 50 MVP. But Broncos fans are used to him letting his play do the talking. That changed on Tuesday. In a press conference, following the team’s fourth loss and second straight game allowing more than 200 yards to a single rusher, Miller showed some fire. He offered a bold proclamation about Thursday’s tilt with the Cardinals.

And Thursday night his team backed it up. The Broncos came out with fire and more like the team that fans thought they’d see when the season began. The Cardinals (1-6), with dysfunction on offense and defense and a rookie quarterback still out of his depths, aren’t the class of the NFL. But a 45-10 win does plenty to boost confidence of Broncos nation and help embattled head coach Vance Joseph breathe a little easier, this weekend at least.

It’s been a season of record-setting, so it makes sense that the Broncos set marks again Thursday night. Todd Davis and Chris Harris, Jr., each had INTs returned for touchdowns. It’s the first time the Broncos have had two INT returns for touchdown in a game since 1989.

Offensively, Emmanuel Sanders continued his incredible season with two more touchdowns. The first was on an end around where he took the ball, rolled out and connected with Courtland Sutton on a 28-yard touchdown pass. He later caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum. With the passing TD, Sanders became the first Broncos’ receiver to score a touchdown rushing, receiving and passing in a season.

But everything began with Miller, and the game ended with Miller, who was a one-man wrecking crew. He hit Josh Rosen five times, sacked him twice, forced two fumbles and recovered one himself. He personally delivered on his promise to play better, and is starting to look like the defensive player of the year candidate that fans know and love. And his partner in crime, rookie Bradley Chubb, continues to shine, too. Chubb added two sacks of his own Thursday, with the team accounting for six. In short, Denver’s defense scored two touchdowns, grabbed five turnovers and kept Rosen under near constant pressure.

And about those rushing woes, David Johnson recorded 39 yards rushing on 14 carries, and the Cardinals amassed just 69 yards rushing on 21 carries as a team.

It was a big night, offensively and defensively, and now the Broncos have 10 days to prepare and show it wasn’t a one-time thing as they battle the red hot Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead on October 28.

News and Notes:

  • Phillip Lindsay continues to look like one of the best among a group of fantastic Broncos’ rookies. He rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, starting with a 22 yards scamper on his first carry and adding a 28-yard TD run.
  • Sanders threw that touchdown to Sutton, but also caught six balls of his own for 102 yards and a touchdown. He’s looking like one of the best receivers in the NFL in 2018.
  • Brandon McManus made his lone field goal attempt Thursday, a 41-yard kick. He also made all six of his extra points. Quietly, McManus has been one of the best Broncos this season, a perfect 11-for-11 on field goals and 18-for-18 on extra points.

Broncos Seek To Halt Skid

 

Four in a row. That’s what the Broncos have done. After starting 2-0 for the sixth straight season, the Broncos have lost four games in a row. Last season, a historic eight-game losing streak tanked the season. At 2-4, having dropped four in a row, the Broncos are in danger of heading that way again. And now they get to face the Arizona Cardinals on a short week.

It hasn’t been a great season for the Cardinals, either. They have new coaches and rookie Josh Rosen is still learning the NFL game. Aside from a win in San Francisco in Week 5, the Cardinals have stumbled. They come into Thursday’s home tilt 1-5, among the worse records in the NFL. But they still have David Johnson, and that might be enough.

The Broncos, in addition to losing four straight, have been historically bad against the run the past two games. They allowed Isaiah Crowell to run for 219 yards, a career high and Jets franchise record, on just 15 carries in Week 5. In Week 6 at home, while they held the Rams’ passing game in check, the Broncos allowed Todd Gurley to run for a career high 208 yards. And with only three days between games, there wasn’t much time to work on a good fix.

The Cardinals haven’t been good this season, but Johnson is an all world running back who’s starting to find his form. He got into the end zone for the Cardinals in Week 6 and now returns home against a reeling rush defense in Denver. If they can’t contain him, Johnson could make it a long night for the Broncos.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ defense allowed Latavius Murray to go for 155 yards on Sunday. The Broncos are averaging 5.3 yards per carry through six weeks, so if the coaches can commit to the run, it could be a good night for rookie Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. But given the recent splits, that could be a big if. And if the Broncos’ losing streak extends to five games, it’s going to be a long 10 days before the Broncos head to Kansas City to face the red hot Chiefs.

Fantasy Impact:

  • It’s hard to feel great about the Broncos’ passing game, however Emmanuel Sanders has been a solid WR2 and Demaryius Thomas, especially given bye weeks, has been a decent flex of late. Case Keenum, while not being a great NFL quarterback, has been decent for fantasy the past two weeks, and the Cardinals’ defense isn’t what it once was. He might be a streaming consideration in deep 2 QB leagues.
  • I like both Lindsay and Freeman as starts this week. I know Freeman disappointed last week, but this should be a better match-up and he should be relatively fresh after getting less than 10 carries Sunday. If the Broncos can keep it close, or build a lead, they can keep it on the ground. And Lindsay provides explosive burst in the rushing and receiving game, showing he doesn’t need a lot of touches to return flex-worthy value.
  • If you are in a deep league and desperate, Courtland Sutton remains an interesting dart throw. He had a long gain on Sunday, and had a TD catch in Week 5. He’s getting plenty of snaps, and only needs one or two to salvage an OK deep league flex day.

Broncos Drop Fourth Straight

 

There was a moment near the end of the first half, with the Broncos trailing 13-3 and just a few seconds left, when the crowd let out a roar. Chad Kelly, backup quarterback, stepped on the field. All he did was kneel down to take the game to the locker room, and it was only because starter Case Keenum was being evaluated for a concussion. But on a cold, snowy Sunday in Denver, it was a sign of hope to fans desperate to see a spark.

The Broncos showed some spark in the second half. Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Courtland Sutton all had 40-plus yard receptions. Bradley Chubb, the No. 5 overall pick in April, had three sacks, and Von Miller added 1.5 sacks. And the Broncos hung tough, closing the lead to 23-20 with just under 1:30 left in the game. But in the end it wasn’t enough. The Rams moved to 6-0, and the Broncos dropped to 2-4, losers of four straight games.

And for a team that was once 2-0, and had entered the team with playoff hopes, there are more questions than answers. And not much time to get things fixed before their next contest, a Thursday night game in Arizona.

It was a game of highs and lows, as has been the case for much of the season for Denver. The offense kept it close, and Keenum tossed two touchdowns and threw for more than 300 yards. But he also threw an interception for the sixth straight game, and neither rookie Royce Freeman nor rookie Phillip Lindsay was able to do much on the ground.

On defense, the Broncos held the high-scoring Rams to 23 points, and recorded five sacks. Jared Goff was held without a touchdown pass, and to barely 200 yards. But the Broncos allowed a 200 yard rusher for the second week in a row, as Todd Gurley went for a career high 208 yards and two touchdowns.

Now the Broncos have a short week to lick their wounds, both physically and metaphorically, before trying to halt their skid in Arizona.

News and Notes:

  • Emmanuel Sanders needed three receptions to record his 500th career catch heading into Sunday, and he got it. He finished with seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
  • The Broncos played the hottest home game in team history on September 16, and less than a month later Sunday’s game was the coldest home game in October since 1969. It’s been a wild weather season for the Broncos and the season is only six weeks old.
  • The Broncos’ rushing attack cooled Sunday, as Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay combined for just 40 rushing yards on 13 carries. Lindsay did add 48 yards on six receptions to salvage his fantasy day.

Broncos Host Rams

 

The 2-3 Broncos return home, fresh off a 34-16 pounding at the hands of the New York Jets, riding a three game losing streak and hosting the best team in the NFL, the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams. Normally that would be cause for major alarm, and while the Broncos are still likely to drop their fourth straight, there is reason for optimism.

That optimism comes in one word: snow! The forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures in the 20s and snowfall on Sunday afternoon. That combined with the altitude gives the Broncos somewhat of a chance to cool off the red hot Rams offense. It might be a stretch, but for those who saw the Broncos give up long play after long play to Sam Darnold and the Jets on Sunday, hope is all we have left.

The Broncos also need to be better on offense. The weather might force the coaches to give more carries to Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, which isn’t a bad thing. If the Broncos can use the elements and put up a defensive show similar to what they did against the Chiefs, while maximizing potential on offense, they have a chance.

Stranger things have happened in the NFL in 2018, just ask the Vikings about that home game against the Buffalo Bills.

Fantasy Advice:

The Broncos have been rough for fantasy. I’m staying away from Case Keenum, though it might be an OK match-up. He hasn’t been consistent, and the elements won’t be great. I’m not high on starting any Broncos’ receivers, but if pressed I still think Sanders has the most potential. He’s more of a flex range for this game. I do like the Broncos backs given the conditions. I think Freeman might finally get more carries, and could have a chance to get a TD. But that might also be some wishful thinking.

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Week #6 Preview

The Kansas City Chiefs had a big victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They won the game 30-14. It was only their second home game this season. The Chiefs got out to an early lead and were able to prevent a potential Jaguars comeback. The win puts their record at 5-0 this season. The victory could have big implications in the playoff race at the end of the season.

The Chiefs offense had another strong performance last week. Mahomes threw for 313 yards but had two interceptions in the game. It was his fourth straight game with 300+ passing yards. Travis Kelce played well with 100 receiving yards on eight targets. He led the team in receiving yards. The Chiefs offense only had two touchdowns but they played well enough to secure the win.

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The defense had an outstanding performance last week. They had four interceptions and one fumble recovery. The Chiefs defense had one touchdown off of a turnover. The defense was considered a weak spot on the roster but their performance last week was the main reason for the Chiefs win. Defensive end Chris Jones had a breakout performance. He had one sack and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. He was ejected in the third quarter after throwing a punch. If the Chiefs defense can keep playing at this level they will take a lot of pressure off of the offense.

The Chiefs will face the New England Patriots on the road in week #6. The game will be on Sunday night. Last year the Chiefs won in New England 42-27 in week #1. The Patriots will be an interesting match-up for the Chiefs. The Patriots defense allows 366 yards per game, which is considered average in the NFL this season. The Patriots defense was expected to struggle and has played poorly in some games. They gave up 376 yards and four touchdowns to Blake Bortles in their loss to the Jaguars in week #2. Mahomes could have a big game if he has success against the Patriots secondary. The Patriots offense has been strong again this season. Rookie running back Sony Michel adds a new dimension to their offense. He started the season slow after missing a lot of the preseason with a knee injury but has played well in the last few weeks. In his last two games he has averaged 105 yards rushing and one touchdown. The game against the Patriots will be a good match-up for the Chiefs and the winner should be the favorite to be a top seed in the AFC.

Broncos Embarrassed In The Meadowlands

 

The Broncos slumped to 2-3 on the season, losing their third straight game 34-16 in the Meadowlands on Sunday. It was the team’s worst performance of the season, and one that seriously calls into question what to expect from this team the rest of the regular season.

Case Keenum, who put up some numbers in garbage time, does not appear to be the answer. The calls from fans to consider giving second year man Chad Kelly a shot are getting louder, as are calls from fans to change coaches. Last season Vance Joseph led the Broncos to an eight-game losing streak in the middle of a 5-11 season. This three game losing streak has had many feeling the Broncos are in similar peril in 2018.

Prior to the season I predicted this team could have an improved offense, a re-ignited defense and a chance to finish around 9-7 and make the playoffs. That seems like an ill-conceived pipe dream at this point.

The Broncos gave up a 77 yard rushing TD to Isaiah Crowell then a 75 yard passing TD to Robby Anderson on the next play. They surrendered more than 500 yards to the Jets’ offense, including 219 yards to Crowell, a Jets franchise record.

The Broncos host the red-hot, and undefeated, Los Angeles Rams on Sunday and then travel to play the Chiefs again on October 28. So it could be a very long month for a Broncos team that leaves New York with more questions than answers.

News and Notes:

  • It was a big day for Broncos receivers. Demaryius Thomas grabbed five passes for 105 yards and a TD, while Emmanuel Sanders grabbed nine for 72 yards. Rookie Courtland Sutton grabbed two passes for 18 yards and his first TD as a pro, while fellow rookie DaeSean Hamilton caught all three of his targets for 44 yards. All that was a promising sign on a dim day.
  • It was a frustrating day for running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who simply didn’t get enough touches. Lindsay had 61 yards on 12 carries, adding 20 more on three catches. Freeman had just 31 yards, but got just five carries. In a promising sign he did catch three passes for 16 yards.
  • Punter Marquette King could be done as a Bronco. He was placed on IR Saturday with an injury, and reports are the Broncos may release him in the next few weeks. If true, it’s a disappointing end to the tenure of one of the Broncos’ biggest off-season signings.

Broncos Look To Get Right In New York

 

We’ve reached Week 5 of the NFL season, and the Broncos come into New York to face the Jets in a slump. They’ve lost two straight, falling two games back in the , and had a short week to try and get some of their issues right. The biggest of those is the passing offense.

After tossing three TDs on opening day, Case Keenum has thrown no touchdown passes the past three games. Through four weeks the Broncos’ $18 million passer has 995 passing yards, three TDs and six INTs. There were many reasons the Broncos fell short Monday night, including a missed call acknowledged by the NFL Tuesday, but Keenum missing a wide open Demaryius Thomas to win the game is a play that looms large. And the rumblings from fans, and suggestions that Chad Kelly should get a shot, are growing loudly. It’s reasonable to say Week 5 is a huge one for the Broncos, but especially for Keenum’s tenure as starting quarterback.

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And the Broncos face the 1-3 Jets as underdogs. The game opened with the Broncos as 2.5 point underdogs, but that has since moved closer to even. It’s still a grim sign for a team that began the season with playoff aspirations. The defense played better on Monday night, holding red hot Patrick Mahomes in check for three quarters, but they need to do the same to rookie Sam Darnold Sunday. And it would help for Von Miller, who hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 2, to get to the quarterback. And maybe Bradley Chubb and Shane Ray, too.

With the Rams, possibly the best team in the NFL, awaiting the Broncos in Week 6, this Sunday’s game against the Jets is a must win and we’ll soon learn if the Broncos can get it done.

Fantasy Football Suggestions:

I mentioned Keenum’s struggles above, and for that reason I wouldn’t start him. At tight end, Jeff Heuerman looked pretty good Monday, and given the state of the position he might be worth a flier in deep leagues. Emmanuel Sanders remains the best option at receiver, though the state of the passing game has compressed his value. He’s a low-end WR2 for me. Thomas remains in flex range, and I like Courtland Sutton, who caught three passes for 51 yards Monday, as a deep league flex. One of these games I believe Keenum will find him for a touchdown.

The Broncos’ best fantasy assets are in the backfield. Both Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay have more than 200 yards rushing, with Freeman adding three touchdowns. He’s a low-end RB2/flex player who should get more work if the Broncos can build a lead. Lindsay is in the RB2/Flex conversation, too, especially in PPR and leagues that give return yardage.

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Week #5 Preview

Last week the Kansas Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 27-23. It was their third road game this season. The Chiefs have not lost to the Broncos in Denver since 2014. The win put them at 4-0 this season and in the lead in the AFC West. They are 2-0 against division opponents. The Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team in the AFC.

The Chiefs defense had a strong performance last week. They held the Broncos offense to 226 passing yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. It was an improvement from their average of 328.5 passing yards against per game. The Chiefs defense has been a liability for the team but is improving as the season progresses. Eric Murray caught the first interception of his career in the game. The defense was a big part of the Chiefs success in the game last week.

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Travis Kelce had an explosive performance in the second half. He had 78 yards receiving and one touchdown on seven receptions in the game. Kelce led the team in receiving. He is tied for the lead in touchdowns and is in the top five in yardage among tight ends. Kelce has established himself as one of the top tight ends in the NFL and appears to be one of Patrick Mahomes favorite targets.

The Chiefs week #5 opponent will be the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are 3-1 this season. Last week they beat the New York Jets 31-12. The Jaguars have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Jaguars give up an average of 259.3 yards per game, which is the fewest in the NFL. They are led on defense by cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He will likely cover Tyreek Hill for much of the game. On offense they will be without their best player, running back Leonard Fournette. He reinjured his hamstring last week and will not play in the game. T.J. Yeldon will replace Fournette. Yeldon had 58 yards rushing in his one start this season against the New England Patriots. The Jaguars offense relied on passing without Fournette. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 376 yards four touchdowns and one interception. The Chiefs could face the Jaguars again this season if both teams return to the playoffs. Last season the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship. The Jaguars should be the biggest test for the Chiefs so far this season.

Chiefs Come Back In Denver

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

As I watched the Broncos blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead Monday night to slip to 2-2 on the season, I couldn’t help but think of that classic line from A Tale of Two Cities, and how applicable it’s been to this NFL season. It’s both a microcosm of the Broncos’ 2018 season, and of each individual game, which has been a mixture of highs and lows. The team started 2-0, but never really looked dominant or in control. And they’ve since lost two games in a row, both of which had periods where the Broncos seemed to have gotten it together. In short, it’s been the best of times and worst of times for fans, and it doesn’t appear that’s likely to change the rest of this season.

Prior to 2018, I predicted the Broncos would be around .500, guessing they’d finish around 9-7 and hang around the playoff hunt. And there’s been nothing so far to suggest that won’t be the case. They are 2-2 and still have a chance in this topsy turvy NFL season. But they’ve got to step it up, and quickly, if they want to avoid the kind of slump that tanked their 2017 season.

Patrick Mahomes is a good quarterback. He came in with 13 TD passes and no interceptions through three weeks, leading the hottest offense in football. And for much of the game, the Broncos’ defense held him in check. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Broncos held a 23-13 lead and Mahomes was held without a passing TD (though he got one rushing). It looked promising.

But in the span of the final 12 minutes, Mahomes led a pair of touchdown drives. He connected with Travis Kelce for his 14th passing TD of the season, and was able to escape pressure, as he did all night, to lead a touchdown drive with less than two minutes left to give his team the 27-23 lead. The Broncos’ offense couldn’t recover, and they ended up seeing a 10-point fourth quarter home lead evaporate for the first time in more than a decade.

The Broncos’ offense was a mixed bag, too. They moved the ball well at times, but couldn’t finish drives. You can’t beat the Chiefs using field goals, and unfortunately the Broncos had to settle for a Brandon McManus kick three times Monday night. They ran the ball well, too, piling up a pair of rushing touchdowns. But they struggled to protect Case Keenum, who was sacked four times, and his touchdown drought moved to three games. But Keenum did throw another interception, as he has in each game this season.

And the final drive was a microcosm of the Broncos’ season. Keenum was sacked on first down, but connected with Emmanuel Sanders to convert fourth and 11. He hit Jeff Heuerman on a seam route for 36 yards to move into range, but missed a wide open Demaryius Thomas for what would have been the game-winning play.

And now the Broncos have six days to try and get it together before taking on the Jets on the road. Though they travel to play a 1-3 team that has looked lost, the Broncos open as 2.5 point underdogs. That just means there’s a lot of work left to do.

News and Notes:

  • Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay continue to shine. Freeman had some strong carries, going for 67 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Lindsay, meanwhile, ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, adding two receptions for 10 yards. The pair have been a bright spot for the Broncos’ offense, and part of an outstanding rookie class.
  • Courtland Sutton had three receptions for 51 yards, and it could have been more. The rookie wideout is showing that he’s the Broncos’ best deep threat, and I’d look for him to get more targets and more production as the season wears on.
  • Von Miller had three sacks in Week 1, and has just one sack since. He’s been held without a sack the past two games, though he was close Monday night. The Broncos need him to get to the quarterback, and for Bradley Chubb and Shane Ray to do the same, if they’re to hold teams in check on defense.
  • Keenum now has three TDs and six INTs on the season. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass since Week 1, and rumblings about his performances are getting louder. This isn’t what the Broncos envisioned when he signed for $18 million this season. If this continues, the Broncos may consider giving Chad Kelly a look.

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