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‘Thursday Night Football’ picks and open thread: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Russell Wilson vs. Patrick Mahomes, or something like that...

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

An AFC West clash on Thursday Night Football!!! This duel would have had a lot more luster if the Broncos hadn’t turned into one of the most unenviable franchises in the league... which is likely why DraftKings Sportsbook is listing the Kansas City Chiefs as the clear favorites in this one. The addition of Sean Payton has done little to remedy the seemingly endless issues that face Broncos country. But did you know that Russell Wilson has more passing touchdowns, fewer interceptions, and a nearly identical turnover-worthy-play percentage when compared to Patrick Mahomes, according to Pro Football Focus?

No, I am not suggesting that Russell Wilson is playing better than Patrick Mahomes, or equally, or anything really. The circumstances that have led to him throwing the ball more than 30 times per game are not entirely by the design of the Broncos’ offensive staff. But Russ is also posting the third best completion percentage of his career, far better than his career low 60.5% in 2022, according to Pro Football Reference. The simple reality here is that 2023 Russell Wilson is performing closer to the standard we came to expect during his tenure in Seattle, at least relative to 2022 DangerLess Wilson. In previous years, I would have expected this to lead to a shootout, or at least a game with a lot of fireworks. But the Chiefs are looking much more balanced this season.

The Kansas City defense is currently allowing 16 points per game, which is tied with the Buffalo Bills and behind only the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints, according to ESPN. This isn’t the product of a cupcake schedule, either. Of the teams they have played so far, only the New York Jets are averaging fewer than 20 points per game. Between Chris Jones, Trent McDuffie, and the rest of that defense, I think that the Chiefs may be in a position to survive another potential Travis Kelce-less game, as they have shown this season that they don’t need a lights out performance from their offense to get a win.

The fact that it is at Arrowhead Stadium though does not bode well. We also have to factor in the reality that the Broncos have lost 15 straight games against the Chiefs, with their last wins in KC coming in back-to-back meetings spanning the 2014-2015 season, according to StatHead. During this span of time, they have been outscored 288-434 (-146 point differential, average of 9.7 margin of defeat); it has been even worse in Kansas City, as the Broncos have lost to KC by an average of 11.7 points in the seven games they have played there since their last win. Essentially, the Broncos need to outperform their own history if they want to even cover.

The O/U at 48 points seems a bit high, but when these teams met last year, they exceeded this total handily in both games. so far, Thursday Night Football has hit the over in three of five games so far, but the single biggest factor that gives me pause is the Chiefs defense; they could take control of this game if they get after Russ and force some turnovers. The rub? Russell Wilson has never lost to Kansas City by more than a touchdown, and in only one of their four meetings did the final point total land under 50 points — 2014, in a game where Alex Smith threw 16 passes for 107 yards and the Chiefs won 24-20. Translation? I expect some scoring in this one, and I don’t expect an outcome as lopsided as the point spread would indicate.

The Pick: Over 48 points, Chiefs win straight up but Broncos cover the spread

Here are our picks from Tallysight: