The Kansas City Chiefs host the Denver Broncos on Sunday and while it's very unlikely it is possible that the Chiefs actually beat the Broncos. They would have to be perfect, and have a few things go their way. But it is possible.
The way I see it, there are a handful of keys for the Chiefs. The always unspoken one is give the ball to Jamaal Charles, so I didn't include that in my five keys to the game.
1. Give Donald Stephenson some help
Von Miller is among the league leaders in sacks (13). He and Elvis Dumervil have combined for 21 sacks. The Broncos as a team lead the NFL in sacks (35).
With the way the Chiefs season has gone it's only fitting then that the Chiefs starting left tackle is not expected to play. Branden Albert is likely out, listed as doubtful for this game, which means rookie Donald Stephenson likely gets the start.
Albert was playing at an extremely high level this year, giving up only one sack all season, so this will be a big change for the Chiefs. They have to neutralize Miller and Dumervil. They should be chipped by a back or a tight end on every single play. No one-on-one matchups. This will affect the game plan greatly but they can not let those two linebackers dictate this game.
2. Don't give 'em any free ones
Same key every week. The Chiefs need to avoid turnovers. In fact, they have to be perfect, according to Romeo Crennel.
"We have to do everything in our power to be the best we can be, to be perfect," Crennel said earlier this week. "That's what I told them - we need to be perfect - because that's the only way that we have a chance, so that's what we are going to work on to try to get it done."
Being perfect means not turning it over. (I'll give you a minute to stop laughing.) For my own sanity, the Chiefs can't receive the opening kickoff and then fumble it away two plays later. I can't handle anymore turnovers. I see turnovers in my sleep. I saw them in my turkey. Turnovers are making me insane!!!
3. The Houston and Hali show
The Chiefs are going to have an extra safety on the field more than perhaps they normally do on Sunday. Romeo Crennel will need as many guys in coverage as possible to stop Peyton Manning. But they also need to pressure Manning into making mistakes.
That's where Justin Houston and Tamba Hali come in.
The Broncos' Miller and Dumervil are more productive but Houston and Hali can change the course of a game if they're both on. Not just by sacking Manning but by creating turnovers and even just pressuring him. Manning the surgeon will slice you up if he's not pressured.
Knock him on his ass one time to let him know you're there.
4. This is your game, Javier Arenas and Jalil Brown
The Chiefs cornerbacks usually stay on one side of the field for the whole game -- so Brandon Flowers covers the left side of the defense and Javier Arenas covers the other side. Flowers will match up with Eric Decker for most of the day and Demaryius Thomas, who looks like a Pro Bowler playing with Manning, will draw Javier Arenas, who is giving up six inches. On some passing downs, Arenas will transition to the slot (covering Brandon Stokley) and Jalil Brown (only giving up three inches!) would face Thomas.
Thomas leads the Broncos in receiving yards and ranks among the top receivers in the league right now. Manning's no dummy. He knows he can take advantage of Arenas/Brown. I expect those two to get picked on all game long. One of the biggest keys to stalling the Broncos offense will be keeping Thomas on planet Earth. No 200-plus yard day for him.
5. Seeking a breakout receiver
Someone has to step up at receiver. Who? I don't know. But someone has to.
The Broncos have scored at least 30 points in their last five games, all wins. The Chiefs, meanwhile, haven't put up 30-plus since a December 2010 game against the Titans. KC will need to score points and some of those will have to come from the passing game, which means there's a receiver on this team -- not sure who it is -- who will have a big game.
Dwayne Bowe will be guarded by Champ Bailey, so he may not be a reliable pass target. Jon Baldwin has been unreliable in his entire NFL career. Dexter McCluster catches passes but rarely makes a game changing play. Shit, Steve Breaston's just trying to get a snap.
Where will the Chiefs breakout receiver come from?