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Five Things to Watch on Thursday | Broncos vs. Chiefs

Here are some notes to know going into the game

The Kansas City Chiefs will take the field under the lights on Thursday night for a divisional matchup against the Denver Broncos.

Here are five things to keep in mind heading into the Chiefs' first AFC West showdown of the season.

1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.

Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce is officially listed as "Questionable" entering Thursday's game after the All-Pro tight end suffered an ankle injury in last week's victory over Minnesota. Kelce was able to return to the game last week – and caught a touchdown, no less – but he was listed as a non-participant during Monday's estimated practice report (although no practice took place) and was limited on Tuesday.

Still, it's encouraging that Kelce was able to take the field on Tuesday, and Head Coach Andy Reid seemed to provide a positive update prior to Tuesday's practice.

"He has done well. He has [received] quite a little bit of treatment on [his ankle], so he's feeling a little bit better, which is good," Reid said. "I'm going to just see how he moves around, [and] how he feels. He has always been honest with me on things like that, so we'll just see how he does, but he's doing OK out there today, so we'll see how it goes."

The Chiefs also listed defensive end George Karlaftis (hamstring) and punter Tommy Townsend (left knee) as "Questionable" for Thursday's game. Townsend was a new addition to the injury report on Wednesday.

In some good news, linebacker Nick Bolton – who has missed each of the last three weeks with an ankle injury – has no injury designation for Thursday, meaning that he's in line to play.

As for the Broncos, they'll be without defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee) and defensive end (and former Chief) Frank Clark (illness). Outside linebacker Baron Browning, who is making his way back to the field from a knee injury suffered last season, will also not suit up on Thursday night.

Tight end Greg Dulcich, meanwhile, is listed as "Questionable" after missing the last four weeks with a hamstring injury.

2. The Broncos have scored the second-most points in the NFL on opening drives.

Denver currently owns the No. 10 scoring offense in the NFL, but interestingly enough, 25 percent of their 107 total offensive points this year have been scored on opening possessions. In fact, the Broncos' 27 points on opening possessions this season rank second in the NFL to only the San Francisco 49ers.

The Broncos have found the end zone on four of their five opening possessions this season, and in the lone game in which they didn't score on their initial drive (Week 3 vs. Miami), Denver scored a touchdown on its second series.

It sets up a great matchup on Thursday against the Chiefs' defense, which has yet to allow a single point on an opening possession this season. Additionally, Kansas City has allowed a grand total of 77 offensive yards to opponents on opening possessions this year, forcing four punts, two "three-and-outs" and a fumble.

The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL to hold the opposition under 22 points in all five games this season, and in terms of offensive points allowed, Kansas City has yet to yield more than 20 in a single contest.

3. Chiefs' wide receiver Rashee Rice appears to be carving out a role within the offense.

Rice caught four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's victory over Minnesota, which marked his second score of the season. That touchdown tally could quite realistically be at four, too, as Rice was tackled at the Chicago Bears' 1-yard line on two occasions back in Week 3. Regardless, the rookie wide receiver currently ranks second on the team in receptions (17) behind only Travis Kelce, and according to Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy, the former second-round pick has earned more snaps moving forward.

"I absolutely think [Rice] is [earning more snaps]. I think it's a growth process for him, and just as we've talked about, this process for these wide receivers – learning these positions and learning what they're supposed to do within the route – does take time," Nagy said. "What I think we're seeing right now with Rashee is someone that's slowly gaining confidence in himself. He knows that we as coaches are slowly gaining more and more confidence in him. There's immense growth ahead of him, and I think that's the exciting part that we all see."

Rice was the Chiefs' top offensive performer on Sunday in terms of his Pro Football Focus grade, and so far on the season, only the Los Angeles Rams' Puka Nacua owns a higher overall PFF grade than Rice among all rookie wide receivers.

4. Edge rusher Nik Bonitto is a player worth knowing on the Broncos' defense.

A second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Bonitto currently leads the Broncos with 15 total pressures, eight tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound edge rusher has seen his playing time increase significantly in recent weeks, as he has tallied at least 45 snaps in each of the last four games after recording just 15 snaps in Week 1. For further context, Bonitto was on the field for 40+ defensive snaps just once last season, recording 19 total pressures in 15 games.

Bonitto's emergence is likely a significant reason why the Broncos felt comfortable trading away former starting edge rusher Randy Gregory last week, and while Denver's defense has struggled this year, Bonitto has shown the ability to make game-changing plays.

Fortunately, Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been sacked the fewest times (4) of any quarterback with at least 100 passing attempts this season. Mahomes also owns the top Pro Football Focus grade of any player when under pressure this year.

5. Broncos' wide receiver Marvin Mims and running back Jaleel McLaughlin are two players to watch out for on Sunday.

Denver features a handful of familiar names on offense with which Kansas City is plenty familiar, such as wide receivers Courtland Sutton (21 catches for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Jerry Jeudy (17 catches for 208 yards), but the Broncos' offense is currently led statistically by a pair of rookies in wide receiver Marvin Mims and tailback Jaleel McLaughlin.

Mims leads the Broncos in receiving with 246 yards through the air, doing so – remarkably – with only 10 catches. In fact, five of Mims' 10 receptions this season have covered at least 25 yards, including grabs of 60 yards, 53 yards and 48 yards. Only Eagles' wide receiver A.J. Brown (8), Texans' wide receiver Nico Collins (8), Dolphins' wide receiver Tyreek Hill (8), Vikings' wide receiver Justin Jefferson (8) and Bears' wide receiver D.J. Moore (8) have more 25-yard catches than Mims, and all five of those players have at least twice as many targets as Mims (12) this year.

It's all to say that Mims' number may not be called often in Thursday's game, but when Broncos' quarterback Russell Wilson throws the ball his way, the Chiefs will need to be ready for the big play.

The Broncos' other offensive rookie of note is McLaughlin, an undrafted free agent from Youngstown State who currently leads Denver in rushing yards (160). The speedy rookie is averaging more than seven yards-per-carry on 22 attempts, and while he has yet to receive more than nine carries in a game this season, McLaughlin has certainly made the most of his limited work. Additionally, his workload has increased over the last two weeks in lieu of starting tailback Javonte Williams, who has been dealing with a quad injury. In that time, McLaughlin has carried the ball 16 times for 140 yards, averaging 8.8 yards-per-carry.

Depending on Williams' availability on Thursday, it's quite possible that McLaughlin will see an even heavier workload against Kansas City.

Catch the Broncos and Chiefs on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. CT on Amazon Prime Video.