The Kansas City Chiefs look to bounce back from a blowout loss when they host the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Can the Chiefs honor Derrick Thomas not only with their ceremony at halftime but also a win on the field? Are the Broncos back on track after they snapped their four game losing streak last week?
Here are three players (Offense, Defense and Special Teams) from each team to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
With all of the protection issues Kansas City has had to deal with and the strength of the Denver pass rush, it will have to be the Jamaal Charles show on Sunday. He has gotten quite the beating since taking over for Larry Johnson and that isn’t likely to end with both Kolby Smith and Dantrell Savage both out with injuries behind him.
The question will be how many holes will Charles have to run through. Last week the Broncos held the Giants to 57 yards on the ground, but they were gashed for 203 and 174 yards by the Chargers and Redskins, respectively, before their impressive outing against New York.
Charles will need to continue his solid play and a big part of that will be holding onto the football. Last week’s game turned on two turnovers and the Chiefs won’t survive losing the turnover battle again.
Defense: Tamba Hali
His stats haven’t been mind blowing (3.5 sacks), but Hali has been playing at a high level all season. It sounds like a cliche, but he delivers so much more than what shows up in the box score. That being said, last week against the Chargers was the first time all year he was kept away from an opposing quarterback all game long. No knockdowns, no touches… Nothing.
With the Chiefs honoring the great Derrick Thomas at halftime, I can’t think of a better time for Hali to bust out of his sack slump and pick up the 5th multiple sack game of his career.
Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt
He set a Chiefs record last week with his 30th and 31st punts inside the 20 for the season and will need to add to his mark this week. Denver cannot be given a short field to operate with and while it starts with Charles and Matt Cassel not turning the ball over, it’s just as important for Colquitt to bury the Broncos deep in their own territory as much as he can. That along with kicking away from Eddie Royal gives him quite the “to do” list this week.
Offense: Kyle Orton
We have seen the past couple of weeks just how important Orton is the the Broncos offense. He’s not the sexiest offensive player, but all the guy does is win football games. With the Chiefs being victimized by big plays recently, Orton will be the man to keep an eye on. Kansas City is giving up 258 yards a game in the air, but Orton has only thrown for more than that twice this season.
The showdown between Orton and the Chiefs secondary should be fascinating to watch.
Defense: Elvis Dumervil
The Chiefs can’t protect Matt Cassel and Dumervil leads the league in sacks. If Kansas City has any hopes of pulling off the upset they’ll need to find a way to stop the diminutive pass rusher. He has only had four games (San Diego, New England and Cincinnati) this season without a sack and all of those teams certainly have better offensive lines than the Chiefs.
Keep an eye on No. 92 as he attempts to to imitate his favorite player growing up — Derrick Thomas — on the day the Chiefs are honoring him.
Special Teams: Eddie Royal
Royal was knocked out of the Broncos game against the Giants with a thigh injury, but practiced all week long and should be back to handling both kick and punt returns for Denver. The two games before he was hurt — San Diego and Washington — Royal had a return of 30+ yards in each and was one block away from taking a kickoff back against the Chargers.