Just one game separates the 6-5 Denver Broncos from the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West as the two teams prepare to do battle this Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Yet the way Colorado’s online sportsbooks see it, there’s a massive gulf between the two teams — in terms of both their short- and long-term prospects.
The consensus spread, as of Thursday afternoon, was the Chiefs laying 9.5, with outliers WynnBET (-10) and MaximBet (-8.5) offering a slender arbitrage opportunity for bettors who think Kansas City will win by exactly 9 points. If you like the Chiefs to cover, Betfred’s the lone book offering even money (+100 at -9.5), while MaximBET is offering -108 both ways in the most attractive all-around proposition for Bronco backers. Most books saw the line move a half-point in Denver’s direction between Wednesday and Thursday, for what it’s worth.
For those who like the Broncos on the moneyline, the SuperBook (+375 as of Thursday) is where it’s at, while the total ranged from 47 to 47.5, with Betfred distinguishing itself by offering -105 both ways.
FanDuel (-114) and MaximBet (-111) both expect the game to go under 47.5 points, which makes sense when you consider that Denver and its opponents have hit the under in their last six games, while five of the Chiefs’ last six contests have failed to reach the prescribed total as well.
The latter factoid might surprise casual fans who figure the Chiefs’ offense has gotten back to being its high-octane self during the team’s current four-game winning streak. But aside from a 41-point outburst against the Raiders, Patrick Mahomes & Co. have still looked pretty creaky. Instead, the key to the Chiefs’ climb back into title contention (7/1 to win the Super Bowl and +325 to win the AFC at WynnBET) has been a stoutening of its D.
“It’s definitely the defense,” said WynnBET Trader Sawyer Johnson. “Everyone is kind of overreacting because they’ve assumed the offense has turned around the same way and they really haven’t. When you look at the defense, the biggest transition they’ve had is moving Chris Jones from defensive end to defensive tackle. The trade for Melvin Ingram has allowed them to do that, to have an edge presence. It was definitely a weak spot. And their two young corners, [L’Jarius] Sneed and [Rashad] Fenton, have both been playing well the past couple of games.
“I think you do have to say they’re a championship contender given the fact that they’ve represented the AFC the past two years [in the Super Bowl] and with their potential on offense,” Johnson continued. “But we haven’t seen that offense this year. Until they really turn that around, it’s tough to put them in that first class. But they don’t need to flip that switch until they’re in the playoffs. That’s enough time. If they can get hot, they can compete with anyone.”
Chiefs have won 11 straight in streaky rivalry
The Broncos-Chiefs rivalry has been a streaky one this century, with Kansas City winning the last 11 matchups after dropping the previous seven. The Chiefs’ recent dominance of Denver probably explains the aforementioned gulf in expectations, as well as Sunday’s spread.
To cross a gulf, particularly one filled with water, you need a bridge. And it just so happens that Denver (60/1 to win the Super Bowl, 10/1 to win the AFC West at WynnBET) has a starting quarterback named Teddy Bridgewater, who, in Johnson’s opinion, is only nominally capable of getting an otherwise talented team where it needs to go.
“The Broncos will look great when everyone is clicking, but when everything’s not clicking, it’s gonna fall on Teddy — and Teddy can’t carry the load himself,” said Johnson.
Exhibit A has been the disappointing production of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, which Johnson feels is “probably more on Teddy” than Jeudy, who missed several games with an ankle injury early in the year.
“Teddy doesn’t really trust his arm,” said Johnson. “The downfield throws he makes are toward the sideline, where if he misses, it’s going to go out of bounds. He doesn’t really test it in tight windows or crossing routes. With Jeudy being out, maybe some of the chemistry went away. A lot of the routes he runs are across the field or shorter window routes, which just isn’t Teddy Bridgewater’s game.”
Trading for Rodgers may be Broncos’ ‘no. 1 plan’
Johnson sees the re-signings of Jeudy’s fellow starting wideouts, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick, as a sign that Denver is “preparing to go all-in for one of the big-name guys” this offseason. Matt Ryan and DeShaun Watson are two longer-shot QBs Johnson wouldn’t be too surprised to see in orange and blue next season, but by “big-name guys,” he means Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.
While Johnson considers trading for Rodgers to be the Broncos’ “no. 1 plan,” he says Wilson “hasn’t been great lately,” adding, “Him and Pete [Carroll, the Seahawks’ coach], all good things come to an end, and it’s right about their end.”