NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Public Option
by Dennis Ranahan

There are two undefeated teams left in the National Football League, one in each conference, and one of those teams is in action tonight when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Denver Broncos in an AFC West showdown.

The Chiefs are favored.

Well, of course they are favored … they are undefeated so why wouldn’t they be favored?

Sometimes it is more important to see how a team got to where they are as opposed to just what their record is at the moment. The Chiefs were underdogs in their first two road games, at Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. How significant were their wins over the Chargers and Steelers in those games?

First, the Chiefs beating the Chargers has not been a difficult task in recent years, their win three weeks ago was their ninth straight against the Chargers while they were playing in both San Diego and Los Angeles. Beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh in most seasons would be considered a huge accomplishment. But, who are the Steelers this year?

After four weeks of play Pittsburgh has only one win, a three point decision over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They tied the Cleveland Browns on opening day, and in addition to their second week loss to the Chiefs were defeated last night at home by the Baltimore Ravens.

In other words, the Chiefs have beaten three teams, the San Francisco 49ers were their third victim last week in their home opener, who do not have a winning record among them. Both the 49ers and Steelers have only one win this season and the Chargers are 2 and 2 after yesterday’s narrow home victory, 29-27, over the 49ers.

Tonight, the Chiefs meet the Denver Broncos on their home field and the Broncos have a winning record this season. The Broncos opened with wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders before losing last Sunday at Baltimore to the Ravens. In other words, it can be argued based on results that tonight the Chiefs are playing their stiffest competition of the year and for the first time they are favored on the road.

Of course they are favored, how else could it be?

One of the reasons Kansas City is so highly regarded by the wagering public is not only because they are 3-0, but because they do it with offense.

The public loves offense.

No team in the league has been more explosive as second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes has looked as good as any quarterback beginning his pro career. The Chiefs traded up in the 2017 draft to select Mahomes and the move may be one of the best draft decisions ever. As soon as he was selected, people knew that the days as a starter for incumbent Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith were numbered.

Yet, based greatly on a quick start last year, opening with a win over defending Super Bowl Champion New England on the road and including five wins to open the 2017 season, Smith kept his job until the Chiefs stumbled out of the playoff race. Once that was done, Smith was off to Washington and Mahomes was the starter without any competition.

He has stepped into the role in spectacular fashion.

Through three games Mahomes has tossed a record 13 touchdown passes and while the Chiefs defense is highly suspect, their offense has simply outscored their competition.

Tonight, the Broncos counter with perhaps the best defense the Chiefs have seen this year and are at home getting points while entering the game one back of Kansas City in the AFC West race. For the Chiefs, a win tonight would bolster their lead in their division standings and prove for one more week that a great offense can hide a weak defense.

Problem with that, is this is not a likely spot where their vulnerabilities on the defensive side of the ball can withstand both a tough division opponent and while saddled with the role of a road point spread favorite over the Broncos.

Of course the Chiefs are favored, but only because the public loves their offense. Given all the factors in this game, if the books were setting a point spread only for the wise guys, the Broncos would be a slight favorite.

Tonight, we get to have the winner with points thanks to public opinion.

Qoxhi Picks: Denver Broncos (+3½) over Kansas City Chiefs