A split decision: assessing value and popularity of Chiefs, Broncos + players to watch

Joshua Bickel/AP

Not long ago the Chiefs wouldn’t have shown up on such lists as “most popular sporting franchises in North America.”

But here they are at No. 4, based on a series of data and tables weighing such metrics as attendance, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers and search volume.

Such is the power of winning — the Chiefs are closing in on a seventh straight division title — and the fame of superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

According to Online Betting Guide (OLBG.com), the eight most popular North American franchises are NFL teams. No. 1 is the Dallas Cowboys; after that come the Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Packers, Eagles, 49ers and Broncos. The first non-NFL team on the list, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, checks in at No. 9.

The inclusion of the Broncos, the Chiefs’ opponent Sunday and non-playoff team since winning the Super Bowl for the 2015 season, speaks to their historic popularity.

One list on which the Broncos top the Chiefs is franchise value. The Broncos were sold to Walmart heir Sam Walton for $4.65 billion in August. The Chiefs are worth $3.7 billion, according to Forbes. That ranks No. 23. The top five: Cowboys, Patriots, Rams, Giants and Bears.

With the Chiefs visiting the Broncos Sunday, here are some players — besides Mahomes and Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson — who could make a difference in Sunday’s first meeting of the season between the AFC West rivals.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce

He’s coming off his worst moment of the season, a lost fourth-quarter fumble at Cincinnati that changed the game’s momentum and may have turned a Chiefs victory into a Chiefs loss. “I handed them one, man,” Kelce said on the New Heights podcast he co-hosts with his brother, Jason. “That (stuff) stings, the way I wasn’t accountable to my guys ... Ball security, you know, (is) the number one thing that needs to be on your mind when you have the ball in your hand in a moment like that. ... It obviously lost us a game, in my mind, so I’ve gotta do something to fix that.”

Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton

Bolton was busy against the Bengals, credited with a career-best 16 tackles. His 122 so far this season ranks fifth in the NFL. Wearing the green dot, Bolton could be on his way to a Pro Bowl season. But Bolton and the defense need to force more takeaways. The Chiefs are tied for 25th with 12 this season. Meanwhile they’ve committed a turnover in seven straight games, a total of 16. Maybe Empower Field at Mile High will bring out the best in Bolton and the Chiefs. In KC’s regular-season finale there last year, Bolton turned the game by returning a fumble 86 yards for a touchdown.

Broncos tight end Greg Dulcich

Dulcich was a bright spot for the Broncos in last week’s loss to the Ravens. The rookie third-round draft pick led the Broncos with six receptions and hauled in a 30-yarder. Dulcich missed the first five games with a hamstring injury but has a pair of 80-yard games since his return.

Broncos kicker Brandon McManus

McManus has been an excellent kicker throughout his nine-year career. He came up short on a 63-yarder last week that would have beaten the Ravens but made three that accounted for all of the Broncos’ scoring. He’s also the only player on the team who has beaten the Chiefs as a member of the Broncos. The Chiefs’ win streak vs. Denver is up to 13 games. It started when Alex Smith was the quarterback. Since 2000, only the Patriots’ 15 game winning streak against the Bills (2003-10) is longer.