Rarely flashy, the Kansas City Chiefs keep finding ways to win for coach Andy Reid, who made his reputation as an offensive architect but is now building a contender with defense.
The Chiefs are 9-0 with two one-point victories, and none of those nine opponents currently has a winning record. Are they for real or undefeated frauds? It finally might be time to find out.
Kansas City ranks No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 12.3 points. But the Chiefs are 7½-point road underdogs today to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who lead the league in scoring offense at 41.2 points per game.
“I can’t remember a 9-0 team ever getting points in a game, let alone more than a touchdown,” said Micah Roberts, an analyst for “The Linemakers” on SportingNews.com and a former sports book director. “Is the high line warranted? Probably, and most of it has to do with the Chiefs, a team that has avoided being upset in its past three games against Buffalo, Cleveland and Houston.
“The Broncos covered lofty spreads in only two of their past five games, and they also have Manning on a gimpy ankle behind a makeshift offensive line that will be protecting him against a defense that leads the league in sacks.”
Denver’s 28 points against San Diego last week marked its lowest offensive output of the season. Manning has a league-high 33 touchdown passes for the Broncos, who are 8-1 over the total.
Alex Smith has just nine touchdown passes for the Chiefs, who have gone under the total in seven of nine games. The total today is 49½.
“It’s unlikely the Broncos will reach their scoring average against the Chiefs, but let’s not put the Kansas City defense in the class of the 1985 Bears or ’86 Giants just yet,” Roberts said. “The reason for them staying under the total in seven games is because their methodical offense has controlled the ball. In this situation, they will not dictate pace against the No. 1 offense in the league.
“I think the Chiefs will be forced into a situation they haven’t been in all season, which is playing catch-up early. That would force them to shake the cobwebs off their little-used wideouts and have Smith go up the field vertically more than Reid would like, putting Smith in a vulnerable position. The tempo in this game should favor the Broncos.”
Roberts, who picks Denver to win 38-24, breaks down the rest of today’s Week 11 lineup:
■ Atlanta at Tampa Bay (Pick): I don’t see a strong betting angle with the side or total. The Falcons have the league’s worst rushing offense (64.3 yards per game). The Buccaneers come off their first win, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon looks to be getting better and motivated. Matt Ryan looks ready for vacation to begin, as Atlanta has failed to win or cover all four of its road games. If I had to bet it, and I won’t, I would side with Tampa Bay. Buccaneers, 23-20.
■ New York Jets (-1) at Buffalo: The Bills have lost three straight, and the Jets are in playoff contention. However, the Jets can‘t put two good games together in a row while alternating with a win and loss each week. Buffalo’s only positive has been its play at home, with four covers in five games. Look for the Bills to get back to scoring 20-plus points, as they did in their first seven games, and that should be enough. Bills, 23-17.
■ Detroit (-2½) at Pittsburgh: This total (45½) is the highest on the Steelers all season, and it’s a surprising number considering the Pittsburgh defense has played well lately. The Steelers stayed under the total in four of their past five games, and their offense doesn’t figure to generate too much. The Lions are a completely different team away from home, averaging 21.8 points and staying under in four of five game. Rain is expected, and I like this one to stay under. I also lean to Pittsburgh in a game that probably should be a pick-’em. Steelers, 23-21.
■ Washington at Philadelphia (-4½): The road team has covered seven of the past nine meetings, including the Eagles’ 33-27 win in Week 1. The problem for Philadelphia is it has failed to win or cover its past 10 home games. Robert Griffin III and the Redskins were 3-6 last year at this juncture and reeled off seven straight wins and covers. It’s unlikely Washington will roll again, but the one positive is that at least RG3 is utilizing the read-option aspect of the offense more. The Eagles offense should dictate the pace, and the Redskins will be fine with it. Redskins, 33-30.
■ San Diego (-1½) at Miami: The Chargers play their fifth game in the Eastern time zone and have fared well, going 2-2 straight up and 2-1-1 ATS. The Dolphins, who have lost five of their past six, are dealing with a lot of issues. But while the Richie Incognito side story was a good reason to go against them last week at winless Tampa Bay, it’s also a good reason to side with them this week. The shock has worn off and likely made this team more unified and ready to put in a full effort. Dolphins, 23-21.
■ Baltimore at Chicago (-3): The Ravens have been an awful road team, going 1-4 and failing to cover in all four losses. Jay Cutler went down with an ankle injury last week, but backup quarterback Josh McCown is proving to be just as effective and maybe even better at decision making, as he’s yet to throw an interception. I lean to the Bears, but I won’t be playing it just because Chicago has yet cover at home (0-4-1 ATS) and continues to get let down by its defense. Bears, 24-20.
■ Cleveland at Cincinnati (-5½): This is one of my favorite plays of the day, even though the underdog in this series has covered 12 of the past 16 meetings. The Bengals, out for revenge after a Week 4 loss at Cleveland, have been brilliant at home, winning by an average score of 29-13 and covering all four games. Bengals, 30-13.
■ Oakland at Houston (-9): The Texans have improved since Case Keenum (seven touchdown passes, no interceptions) took over, and their defense ranks No. 1 by allowing 280 yards per game. But the bottom line is they have lost seven straight and have not covered a game at home (0-4 ATS). Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, 5-2-1 ATS as a starter this season, is out with a sprained knee. Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin will start. I’ll pass on the side, but the low total (41) looks interesting. Texans, 27-24.
■ Arizona (-8) at Jacksonville: There’s no need to get excited about the Jaguars winning and scoring a season-high 29 points last week, because they still average only 12.8 per game. They’re even worse at home, where they average 3.7 points in front of the least-feared crowd in the league. But, really, laying 8 points with the Cardinals on the road? I look for a low-scoring battle similar to Arizona’s 13-10 win at Tampa Bay in Week 4. Under the total of 41 is one of my favorite plays. Cardinals, 16-10.
■ Minnesota at Seattle (-12½): The Vikings’ coaches don’t seem to like quarterback Christian Ponder much, but I do because I know he’s going to score somehow, with his legs or arm. Even though Minnesota won with him last week for the first time in six starts, he has posted at least 23 points in every game. For totals bettors, he has been awesome, going 5-0-1 to the over. The total is 45½. It’s the Vikings’ crummy defense that is costing them games, and that won’t change. Seahawks, 34-24.
■ San Francisco at New Orleans (-3): This should be a treat to watch with lots of scoring, and look for the Saints to win, just as they have in every home game (5-0 ATS) this season. New Orleans has covered 18 of its past 22 at the Superdome. Jim Harbaugh is 2-0 against the current Saints regime, but his 49ers might not be as good as we thought they were, or at least worse than the past two seasons. That became evident after a 10-9 home loss to Carolina. Saints, 37-24.
■ Green Bay at New York Giants (-4½): I don’t see this game featuring many points, just because the Packers probably won’t score much. Eli Manning and the Giants remain shaky, yet they have won three straight while averaging 20 points a game. This is a tough place for Packers third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien to make his first career start. I can’t play Green Bay, but I still can’t trust the Giants, so under the total of 41½ looks to be the better bet. Giants, 20-16.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS