After cruising to an 8-1 record at start of the 2013 NFL season, the Denver Broncos have been tested the past two weeks. Following a crucial 27-17 home win against divisional foe Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago, the Denver Broncos, perhaps exhausted, suffered a devastating loss to the New England Patriots last week in Foxboro.
The going won't get any easier for Denver in Week 13 as a second showdown with the Chiefs looms, this time on their home turf at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Following a rough loss to the Patriots, it's crucial Denver gets back on track and reclaims its edge in the AFC West. With the San Diego Chargers upsetting the Chiefs last weekend, the 9-2 Chiefs come into Sunday's game on their worst stretch of 2013.
To win this game, Denver must look at the last two weeks and repeat what it did well and change what it did not. While the key to winning any NFL game is multifaceted, Denver should emerge victorious if it excels at these three areas of play.
Protecting Peyton Manning
In the past two weeks, Denver has allowed only one sack on Manning, when New England's Chandler Jones got to him in last weeks game. Besides that, Manning has remained upright while on the field, and this has yielded great results for the Broncos.
The Chiefs are one of the league's top pass-rushing teams, yet they were stymied by the Broncos two weeks ago; they didn't even get a hit on Manning. This is one reason why Denver was able to win by a 10-point margin. Protecting Manning once again will be an easy task for the Broncos.
Running the Ball Efficiently, With or Without Knowshon Moreno
Currently, the status of Broncos star running back Knowshon Moreno is unknown for Week 13. In a spectacular 37-carry, 224-yard rushing performance last week against the Patriots, Moreno unfortunately injured his ankle in overtime.
If he can't run in Week 13, rookies C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball will be responsible for carrying the load. In this scenario, Ball would likely receive a bit more work than Anderson, but the split would be close to 50-50. Denver has been surprisingly effective at running the ball this season, and with or without Moreno, this cannot cease to happen.
The Passing Offense Producing, Even in Cold Conditions
For the large majority of his NFL career, Manning was an Indianapolis Colt and had the luxury of playing indoors. Now, Manning has to face the elements, both at home and on the road.
Last week, amidst bitter cold in Foxboro, we saw Manning greatly underperform. He completed only 19 of his 36 pass attempts and accumulated only 150 yards through the air. The only reason the Broncos put up 24 first-half points was because of the extraordinary play of the defense and Moreno.
The forecast for Kansas City this Sunday is a high of 48 and a low of 32, so while the conditions will be a bit more tolerable than this past Sunday in Foxboro, Manning will once again be out in the elements, with cold air pumping through his lungs.
Unlike last Sunday, he and his wide receivers will need to get on the same page, adjust to the cold weather and produce some Peyton-esque football.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.