For the Chiefs, Stopping a Slide Starts With the Run

The rest of Week 7’s N.F.L. matchups will be published on Friday.

Chiefs at Broncos, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Fox and NFL Network

Line: Chiefs -3 | Total: 48.5

Just two weeks ago, the Chiefs (4-2) were undefeated and considered so dominant that their play bordered on boring. The Broncos (2-4) had yet to win a game, were struggling to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and were making Vic Fangio seem as if he was in over his head in his first year as a head coach.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Kansas City is coming off consecutive home losses and the first two games of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’s career in which his team did not score 25 or more points. Denver, having rediscovered its defense and its running game, has won two in a row.

Regardless of those results, and Denver’s fairly extreme home field advantage, this would typically be an easy call in the Chiefs’ favor. But Kansas City has failed to generate any sort of running game over the last two weeks, a problem exacerbated by the fact that an ankle injury has limited Mahomes. And as a result, the Chiefs’ defense has been spending way too much time on the field. Pulling out of the funk will require Mahomes to get back to 100 percent or the Chiefs’ stable of running backs to figure out how to help shoulder the offensive load.

Either of those things could and should happen soon, but it has been only four days since Mahomes hobbled off the field after a loss to Houston, and the short turnaround could make this game close, or even lead to an upset. Pick: Broncos +3

Benjamin Hoffman is a senior staff editor and regular contributor to the Keeping Score column in sports. He joined The Times in 2005. @BenHoffmanNYT Facebook

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