The Kansas City Chiefs will look to remain perfect in the division on Sunday afternoon as they take on the Denver Broncos for the second time in three weeks.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs listed linebacker Nick Bolton (wrist) as "Out" for Sunday, but Kansas City is otherwise relatively healthy. Kicker Harrison Butker (sick) and tailback Jerick McKinnon (groin), who each missed time at practice this week, were both participants in Friday's session.
Additionally, Head Coach Andy Reid confirmed that wide receiver Justin Watson – who dislocated his elbow against the Broncos back in Week 6 – will be available on Sunday after missing one game.
As for Denver, the Broncos' only player with an injury designation is wide receiver Brandon Johnson, who is listed as "Questionable." Johnson has eight catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
The Broncos will also be without safety Kareem Jackson on Sunday as the veteran defensive back begins a two-game suspension. A significant member of the Broncos' defense, Jackson has logged the fourth-most defensive snaps of any player on the team. He also owns the top Pro Football Focus coverage grade on the Broncos while his two interceptions lead the team.
2. The red zone will be the key on Sunday.
This point seems obvious, but when reviewing the Chiefs' matchup against the Broncos two weeks ago, it's worth discussing. The Chiefs racked up 389 yards of offense in that game, moving into Broncos' territory on all but two of their 11 offensive possessions. For context, those 389 yards were the fourth-most of any team in Week 6.
Despite that production, however, the Chiefs only scored 19 points due to a 1-for-5 mark in the red zone. In fact, Kansas City marched to the Broncos' 17-yard line, 15-yard line, 6-yard line and 3-yard line in the first half, but scored only 10 points on those four possessions. It's all to say that the Chiefs moved the ball well against Denver, but a handful of plays in the red zone were the difference between a potential of 35 points vs. the 19 that Kansas City actually scored.
Fortunately, the Chiefs have otherwise been solid in the red zone this season. Outside of Kansas City's 1-for-5 mark vs. Denver, the Chiefs have scored touchdowns on 15 of their 23 red zone drives. That 65 percent success rate would rank fourth in the NFL – a significant improvement from the Chiefs' actual clip of 57.1 percent, which ranks 14th in the league.
3. The Broncos' defense has shown significant improvement in recent weeks.
Denver's early-season struggles on defense were well-documented, as the Broncos' 36.2 points allowed-per-game from Week 1 through Week 5 ranked last in the NFL. That figure was buoyed by the Broncos' Week 3 loss to Miami in which they yielded 70 points, but in the last two weeks, Denver has only surrendered a grand total of 36 points. That stretch includes a strong performance against Green Bay last week in which Denver matched a season-best with only 17 points allowed.
One key difference between the Broncos' defense that the Chiefs saw back in Week 6 and the group they'll play on Sunday is the addition of edge rusher Baron Browning, who made his season-debut last week. Browning – who ranked second on the Broncos in pressures in 2022 – returned to action last Sunday after a knee injury forced the third-year edge rusher to miss the first several weeks of the season. He was effective in his debut, too, racking up four pressures on just 17 pass-rushing snaps. It's safe to assume that Browning will see an increased workload on Sunday as the Broncos continue to ease him back into action, and the Chiefs will need to be ready for it.
With that in mind, however, Kansas City has been among the best teams in the NFL at preventing pass-rushers from having an impact. The Chiefs have yielded just seven sacks this season – the fewest in the NFL – and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is currently ranked as Pro Football Focus' top-ranked passer when pressured this year.
4. Stopping the Broncos' offense begins with containing their running game.
Denver possesses a formidable stable of running backs that includes Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine that combined for 137 rushing yards last week against Green Bay. It was the top statistical performance of the season for Williams – who racked up 82 yards on the ground – while McLaughlin continued his impressively efficient campaign with 45 yards on just five carries.
The Broncos rushed for a season-best 145 yards as a team last week, and much of that production occurred via big plays. In fact, Denver recorded four rushes of at least 15 yards last week – the most of any team during Week 7 – as Williams (2), McLaughlin (1) and quarterback Russell Wilson (1) each contributed at least one big play on the ground.
Kansas City was excellent defensively against the Broncos in Week 6, carrying a shutout into the fourth quarter. A similar effort on Sunday will begin with limiting those big plays on the ground.
5. Rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice continues to show growth within the Chiefs' offense.
Rice has demonstrated significant growth in recent weeks with his play on the field, tallying at least 60 receiving yards in each of his last two games. Additionally, Rice's 72 receiving yards vs. Denver in Week 6 – which included a critical catch on third down late in the game – marked a season-best.
The advanced metrics have been impressed with Rice thus far, too. He currently ranks as the second-best rookie wide receiver in the league according to Pro Football Focus' grading system, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams' Puka Nacua among rookies with 20+ targets.
"He has great feel, I think that's the biggest thing," said Patrick Mahomes. "Obviously, you see how explosive he is, and you see the physical talent, but he has a good understanding of when he's open and how to stay open. He's starting to recognize coverages more and more…You can tell as he's starting to learn more and get himself open, I think we'll continue to work with that, and he'll continue to find ways to get himself open whenever the necessary route is not going to."
In terms of traditional statistics, Rice currently ranks second in receiving touchdowns (3), fifth in receiving first downs (16), seventh in catches (26), eighth in receiving yards (305) among rookies.
Catch the Chiefs and Broncos on Sunday afternoon at 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS.