Broncos, Chiefs a Combined 17-1**
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the .944 combined winning percentage of Denver (8-1) and Kansas City (9-0) coming into this week's game represents the highest such figure for a matchup this late in the season since 1969. In that game, the Minnesota Vikings (10-1) defeated the Los Angeles Rams (11-0) by a score of 20-13.
Kansas City is the NFL's lone unbeaten team this year, while Denver joins Seattle as the only two teams that have only lost one game this year.
"There's no blueprint for how to beat them yet – they're undefeated," safety Rahim Moore said. "There's a reason why they're number one in the division. I mean, the film doesn't lie. We respect them. It's going to be a good game and the best team is going to win."
The Chiefs lead the all-time series between the two teams 56-49, but the Broncos are 33-20 at home and have won the past two matchups.
"This is what it's all about," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "Coming down to all these games at the end of the season to give yourself a position going into the playoffs. They are number one in our division, number one in the NFL right now and this is a good challenge for us to see what we have as a team. We're at home, which is always a good advantage and we're excited. These challenges are what it's all about."
NFL's Best O vs. Best D
The Broncos' offense leads the NFL, scoring an average of 41.2 points per game this year.
The Chiefs' defense leads the NFL, allowing just 12.3 points per game this year.
Something has to give, right?
"There's a lot of things that jump out at you," quarterback Demaryius Thomas said of the Chiefs' defense.
"Statistically, they're No. 1 in all the major categories, but yeah their ability to create points themselves as a defense, and certainly not giving up points – those are certainly two that jump out at you. There is quite a list of others that is impressive."
Since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos prior to the start of the 2012 season, only one team has held Denver under 20 points in a game.
That team was the Kansas City Chiefs in last year's 17-9 Broncos win at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
"I don't know. I mean, it's any given Sunday," linebacker Von Miller answered when asked whether offense or defense would prevail in this game. "You never know. It's a lot of factors that go into it and on paper, it's number one offense, number one defense. But it's a lot of factors that go into it.
"They've got a great offense, they've got a great defense, but I think we have a pretty good defense, too. And I think they have a pretty good offense, too. We'll just take it one play at a time. We just have to wait until in the game Sunday to see."
Limiting Jamaal Charles
Only one player has more yards from scrimmage than Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles does this year, as his 123.8 scrimmage yards per game are just behind LeSean McCoy's NFL-best 125.8.
His 725 rushing yards are fifth in the NFL and his 389 receiving yards are third in the league among running backs.
"Well, he's a good football player," Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "That's
one way they get him the ball. I think just getting him the ball has been good for them. They get him the ball whether he's carrying the ball out of the backfield or getting the ball on passing routes, including screens, so he's a big weapon for them. He's a good football player and does a nice job."
Charles leads the Chiefs in receptions with 47 on the season – 14 more than their top receiver, Dwayne Bowe. His 389 receiving yards are second to Donnie Avery's 396.
Charles has reached the end zone eight times, which is tied for third among the league's running backs this season.
In his six career starts against the Broncos, he has averaged 125.3 scrimmage yards with four touchdowns.
"He has unbelievable speed," Moore said. "He has no weaknesses. He can block, he can run, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He's a complete back, man. He's the future for the Chiefs. He's like their infrastructure – along with Alex Smith and their offensive line and their receivers they have, too. Dwayne Bowe and all those guys, they do a great job."
Quarterback Peyton Manning has missed two practices over the past three weeks as he rests a sore ankle.
While the hit Manning took late in Denver's Week 10 win at San Diego has magnified questions about keeping the MVP candidate on his feet, that's something that the team's offensive line has done well this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Broncos' offensive line has registered a league-best 84.3 pass-blocking efficiency rating, which leads the NFL.
The offensive line has surrendered a league-low 54 hurries, despite having to pass protect for 386 dropbacks this season – ninth-most in the league.
"We're playing football. People are going to get hit," Del Rio said. "We do as good a job as anybody out there in terms of protecting our guy. It's important to us. We'll continue to do that. But at the end of the day, it's football. We're going to play football. We're going to let the people that are in charge of making the game what it should be – we'll let them do their jobs and we'll just do our jobs."
On the other side of the ball, Kansas City leads the NFL with 36 sacks this year. Outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have 11 and 9 sacks, respectively with each ranking in the top league's top five in quarterback takedowns.
"I think anytime you're talking about pass rush, it goes hand-in-hand with coverage," Del Rio said. "If you've got rush, you've got coverage. It goes hand-in-hand. That's how you play good pass defense. They're doing that. They're getting off on third down. They're forcing turnovers. They have limited people in their ability to move the ball through the air quite a bit. That's why they're sitting there at 9-0. Having some talent helps. Having some good design helps. And I think they have both."
Fit for Primetime
The NFL utilized its flex-scheduling option to move this week's game from its original kickoff time of 2:05 p.m. MST to primetime on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
Given the record-setting combined winning percentage of the two teams mentioned above, it makes sense that the league would want to broadcast this matchup to a larger audience.
"I mean it seems a little bigger – for the past three or four weeks, this is the game everyone's been
talking about," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "We'll be juiced up, just like the fans will be juiced up. Everybody is wanting to see it so they moved it to a prime time game. We'll just go out there and execute and try to ruin their undefeated season."
The two teams will meet again just two weeks later in Kansas City – another game that was flexed to a 3:25 CST kickoff to give it a larger television audience.
That means the two teams atop the AFC West standings will meet twice in a three-week span with major postseason implications on the line
"It's a big game because it's a division game," Manning said. "I know there's a lot of other things that go into it, but it's an AFC West game. It's our first time playing the Chiefs and we play them two-out-of-three weeks, which is kind of unique from a scheduling standpoint. It's kind of different only playing our third division game this late in the season. That's why it's important, and that's why all of our players, including myself, are working as hard as we can to be ready to go."
The challenge of matching up head to head against an undefeated team is something that the players are embracing.
"It's what you live for," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "I think we have the best job in the world – coming out every Sunday just doing what we do. You prepare for this and you live to play ball so it's definitely going to be geeked up, it's going to be a playoff atmosphere so it'll be good."