This week's Sunday Night Football bout between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs will, without question, be a test for both teams. The Chiefs, the league's only remaining unbeaten team at 9-0, will have to face the league's No. 1 offense in the Denver Broncos.
There's no reason to complain about the way this season is going in Kansas City, yet it's not too often that we see a team go 9-0 while only ranking 24th in the league among total offenses. Clearly, the Chiefs record is a testament to their ball control (+15 turnover differential, No. 1 in the NFL) and their defense, which has surrendered a league-best 12.3 points/game.
Can the Chiefs defense keep them in the game against a superior offense? And can the Chiefs offense step up and put points on the board? These are the two questions that head coach Andy Reid will have to make sure his team answers if the Chiefs want to win on Sunday night in Denver.
As for the Broncos, the Chiefs will be testing them as well. Besides managing takeaways and being productive on offense, the Broncos' No. 1 priority needs to be protecting quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Chiefs have walloped opposing quarterbacks a league-best 36 times this year. The Broncos allowed just five sacks during the first six games of the season, yet over the past three games, Manning has been dropped eight times.
The Chiefs' pass-rushers are drooling at the thought of getting past Denver's vulnerable offensive line and taking down the 37-year-old Manning, who has been dealing with an ankle issue all week and even sat out Wednesday's practice as a result, per Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today.
It's easy to assume that Denver's issues on the offensive line are a direct result of left tackle Ryan Clady's absence, yet the team has been without the three-time Pro Bowler since Week 2, when he went down with a season-ending foot injury that he suffered against the New York Giants.
Chris Clark moved to the left tackle position, and the Denver offensive line continued to play strong for the first four games. Clearly, the unit is capable of protecting Manning without Clady, and they simply need to regain their chemistry.
Clark, in comments to USA Today's Jones, summed up, to a "T", the current state of the Denver offensive line: "It hurts the O-line to see that, your quarterback on the ground, no matter what...As an O-line, we just have to get better."
Often times, simple says it best.
All stats are courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted.