DENVER - Last time the Kansas City Chiefs waltzed into Sports Authority Field at Mile High, they were walloped 38-3 by the Denver Broncos, bringing an end to a league-worst 2-14 season. A coaching change, No. 1 pick and a new quarterback in the offseason has changed the Chiefs fortunes to a surprising undefeated 9-0 record as they face the Broncos at Mile High once again. The Chiefs have beaten their opponents with a simple formula: Control the clock on offense and unleash their stingy defense.
The Broncos (8-1) have outpaced teams with their No. 1 ranked offense, scoring 41 points per game. The offensive line will have to keep Manning upright against a Chiefs defense that leads the league with 36 sacks. That’s just one of the five match ups to watch for in this 106th meeting between these two AFC West Division rivals.
1. Chiefs Defense Line vs Broncos Offensive Line
Without a doubt, keeping Manning healthy is the Broncos first priority. The task will be given to Broncos left tackle Chris Clark and right tackle Orlando Franklin. They will look to stop the duo of linebacker Justin Houston who has third in the league with 11 sacks and Tamba Hali who is fifth in the NFL with nine sacks.
2. Eric Berry vs Julius Thomas
In the offseason, the Chiefs added Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper to their roster in an effort to get taller cornerbacks to guard the Broncos wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. With the emergence of tight end Julius Thomas, the Broncos have a size advantage over the smaller Chiefs safety Eric Berry. With another touchdown Thomas would tie Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe with 10 TD catches in a single-season.
3. Jamaal Charles vs Wesley Woodyard
The genesis of the Chiefs’ offense starts and often ends with running back Jamaal Charles. Charles leads the Chiefs with 47 receptions, 725 rushing yards and with eight total touchdowns. Assigned with stopping the star back will be Broncos defensive captain linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
4. Alex Smith vs Peyton Manning
Both quarterbacks carefully manage the game. Manning with an explosive no-huddle attack and Smith with his meticulous ball-control offense. With Manning hobbled with a high ankle-sprain, look for him to get the ball out of his hands quicker this week. Smith will most likely have to generate more offense to keep up with the Broncos No. 1 ranked scoring offense.
5. Dexter McCluster vs Trindon Holliday
In a rivalry game, the difference could come down to the special teams. Both McCluster and Holliday are explosive return men who can turn the tide of a game with a long return. The two have returned a punt for a touchdown this season.