The Kansas City Chiefs get their first look at Peyton Manning and the first place Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
Head coach Romeo Crennel has said the Chiefs “have to be perfect” in order to win and that will be a tall task with a potentially patch work offensive line trying to stop the best pass rush in the NFL. Starting left tackle Branden Albert is doubtful and if he is unable to play it would push rookie Donald Stephenson into the starting lineup.
Even a healthy line would have trouble stopping the Denver defense. Broncos linebacker Von Miller has already recorded 13 sacks, leading the unit to a league-best 35 quarterback take downs. Now they get a shot at new-old-new Chiefs starting quarterback Brady Quinn.
Quinn took the starting job from Matt Cassel back on Oct. 28 but quickly left that game with a concussion and after more ugly football from Cassel is now again the guy for the Chiefs. In order to avoid another head injury, Quinn better have his running shoes on.
On the other side of the field the Broncos will just continue to let Manning go to work. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has returned from multiple neck injuries to throw for 24 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards.
Manning and the Broncos are quickly approaching “clinching” territory and a win over the Chiefs would put a second-straight division title that much closer to their grasp.
As we prepare for the Chiefs to try and win their first home game of the season in front of a half-empty stadium, here are the three players to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Brady Quinn
No doubt he would love to stick it to his former team, who never even though about giving him a chance last season before turning to Tim Tebow. But more likely Quinn should just be happy to leave Arrowhead on his own two feet.
Quinn showed some poise when he first stepped in for Cassel against the Baltimore Ravens, but was bad the next two weeks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Okland Raiders before a ho-hum performance last week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In his limited action as the Chiefs QB, Quinn has been sacked four times while the Broncos defense has lived in the backfield all season long. In order for Quin to avoid spending most of the day on his back, he will need to lean heavily on RB Jamaal Charles and get the ball out of his hand quicker than he has shown the ability to in his career.
Defense: Justin Houston
Will Crennel finally allow the second-year linebacker to do what he does best? Maybe when the Chiefs see Miller and Elvis Dumervil constantly pushing their way towards Quinn, they will send Houston towards Manning.
It seems like every week we are asking why Houston isn’t allowed to get after the quarterback and every week the Kansas City defense allows opposing quarterbacks to stand in the pocket untouched.
If the Chiefs unleash the beast, they will have a chance to be competitive with the Broncos.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
Did the Chiefs try to send a message to their kicker? If so, it’s likely a terrible message, but it seems like the only reason why they would sign K Matt Szymanski during the week. Succop has only missed three kicks this season, but they have popped up at inopportune times.
Crennel’s game plan Sunday won’t allow for any mistakes on special teams. That means Succop needs to turn in another one of his perfect days at the office, meaning touchbacks on every kickoff and no missed field goals.
Look for a Chiefs defense trying to somehow slow the Broncos offense enough to keep the game low scoring. Then the Kansas City offense will hope to keep things conservative and score with Succop’s leg.