Sunday's 4:25 kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium will reveal the leader in the AFC West as both the Broncos and Chiefs come into the game at 9-2.
Each conference powerhouse is coming off heartbreaking, close losses and will be refocused on capturing their right to hold the best record in the AFC.
Kansas City was once crowned as the clear-cut best defense in the NFL - despite playing a powderpuff schedule most of the time - and has given up close to 1,000 yards of offense the last two weeks.
Luckily for them they are at home, where the crowd will be ready to rock in support of preventing a dreaded three-game skid.
Denver on the other hand suffered a devastating loss in New England and will be banged up coming into this showdown. Running back Knowshon Moreno suffered a bone bruise in his lower leg but will still suit up and play.
One of the recent highly-drafted running backs (Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball) will have to step up and give QB Peyton Manning an outlet to lean on. Another high draft pick - defensive tackle and No. 28 overall pick Syvelster Williams - will have to step up in absence of starter Kevin Vickerson, who dislocated his hip and will miss the next six weeks.
Let's take a look at some bold predictions for the divisional matchup:
1. Kansas City’s suddenly leaky defense will get torched for over 450 yards.
In their last two games, the Chiefs have given up an astounding 918 yards of offense, including 715 through the air. Their two best pass-rushers, linebackers Justin Houston (dislocated elbow) and Tamba Hali (ankle sprain), are doubtful to play. Two weeks ago when Kansas City faced off against Denver with Houston and Hali, they not only lost but they didn’t sack Manning once.
With Denver RB Knowshon Moreno having his best season as a pro – including an epic 37-carry, 224-yard performance last week against New England – Kansas City’s defense will have their hands full this weekend, especially considering the weather forecast for Sunday in Kansas City: low of 34, high of 50 degrees.
Compared to Denver’s game last week in New England (4 degrees with the wind chill) the atmosphere in Kansas City will feel like summer.
2. Jamaal Charles will get fed the ball, amassing 30 touches.
Head coach Andy Reid took a lot of flak in Philadelphia for having one of the best running backs in the league (LeSean McCoy) and not feeding him the ball as much as expected. Charles is experiencing some of the same bewildering behavior from Reid in Kansas City.
Charles is still producing at a Pro Bowl level – ranking fifth in the NFL in rushing yards – but look at the last two games: Against Denver, Charles only had 72 total yards. Against San Diego, Charles had 14 carries and 4 catches (granted he produced 157 total yards) but compared to Alex Smith’s 38 pass attempts that ratio is concerning.
Smith is a very efficient quarterback but he’s not Peyton Manning and therefore should not be throwing the ball 40 times a game, especially when perhaps the best running back in the league is in the backfield. Expect Reid to feed his bellcow back (Charles) this week early and often.
3. Montee Ball will prove why the Broncos chose him No. 58 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Broncos' offense has proved to be a much more capable running team than everyone thought. Denver ranks No. 12 overall in rushing yards (1,331) and No. 3 in rushing touchdowns (14) so far this season through a running back by committee system.
After Moreno’s workload last week (37 carries) he will still play against the Chiefs but the team will need to share the wealth. Ball has lost three fumbles this season and is slowly working himself into the doghouse with Denver coaches.
Sunday’s game will be a golden opportunity that Ball will seize and prove to the world why he left college as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (77); through tough, hard-nosed running. Expect Ball to get 12-15 touches with a touchdown Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium.