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Chiefs-Broncos preview: Five things to know about Denver

The Chiefs will have an opportunity to open a two-game lead in the AFC West with a victory this week at Denver in a Week 4 contest.

The Broncos, 2-1, are in second place in the division after suffering their first loss to 2018 on Sunday at Baltimore. In fact, all three of the other AFC West teams were beaten on Sunday.

In Baltimore, Denver jumped to a 14-7 lead, but the Ravens scored the game’s final 20 points.

I’m providing a quick overview of the next Chiefs’ opponent early in each week, and here are five things to know about the Broncos. The game is at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN.

Secondary troubles

The Broncos traded cornerback Aqib Talib, the former KU star, before the season, and his absence is being felt in the secondary.

According to the Denver Post, opposing quarterbacks have completed 69.5 percent of their passes and have a 102.2 rating this season. Two years ago those numbers were 55.4 percent completion rate and a 69.7 rating. That Post story also noted that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had five completions of at least 16 yards, bringing the Broncos’ total on plays of that distance to 16 allowed.

Denver is 23rd in passing defense (262.7 yards per game) and has allowed three plays of 40 or more yards, which is the second in the NFL behind the Saints.

It’s not like the Broncos defense is bereft of stars. Broncos linebacker Von Miller already has four sacks, 14 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Here is a sack he had against the Seahawks earlier this year:

Fellow linebacker Bradley Chubb, who was Denver’s first-round pick this year (fifth overall), has 1 1/2 sacks and eight tackles.

Case Keenum Era

After suffering through two seasons of mediocre quarterback play with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, the Broncos signed Case Keenum in March in hopes that he would solidify the position. Keenum, who helped the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season, has had an uneven start to the year.

Keenum has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 743 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions. All three scoring passes came in a season-opening win over the Seahawks. He has a 71.6 quarterback rating, which is just behind Jets rookie Sam Darnold.

“I’ve got to do a better job at getting the ball out at the correct time and to the correct receivers,” Keenum told reporters after the Ravens loss. “It was a lot of things for us today. I missed some guys when they were open, and it seems to me we had a lot of tipped balls.”

One thing Keenum isn’t afraid to do: throw deep. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Broncos led the NFL in most pass attempts of 20 or more yards, according to ESPN.

Another plus for Keenum: he led fourth-quarter comeback wins in Denver’s first two games against Seattle and Oakland.

Thomas struggling

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is off to a slow start, with 16 receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown through three games.

There was a bit of bad luck, too.

In the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Ravens, a penalty nullified what would have been a 39-yard pass from Keenum to Thomas.

Emmanuel Sanders leads the Broncos in receptions (19) and yards (269). Sanders also had a rushing touchdown on Sunday.

Good and bad for Lindsay

Denver running back Phillip Lindsay had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in Denver’s first two games, which was a first for an undrafted player.

But in Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Lindsay was ejected after officials said he threw a punch. He had 20 yards in four attempts to that point, and it might be coincidental, but Denver didn’t score after he left the game.

Lindsay told the Broncos website that he wasn’t hitting anyone but was trying to get the ball.

“I feel horrible,” Lindsay told the Broncos site. “I feel horrible, because I’m not out there with my team. And that’s my fault. That’s something I’m going to learn from. It’s never going to happen again.”

For the season, Lindsay is averaging 6.0 yards per rushing attempt (198 yards in 33 carries).

Special teams

Kicker Brandon McManus has made all four of his field-goal attempts this season, including two from 50 yards or longer.

The Broncos’ punter will look familiar, even if he is in different colors. Marquette King, the former Raiders punter, is now with Denver. He has placed six punts inside the 20-yard line this season.

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