- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: It means we get an AFC West showdown next Sunday night when the 9-0 Chiefs come to Denver to face the now 8-1 Broncos. It will offer the age-old question about defense against offense, with the highest-scoring offense in the league’s history after nine games facing the league’s sack leaders who have not surrendered more than 17 points to any opponent this season.
Stock watch: Tight end Julius Thomas was limited in practice this past week because of an ankle injury, but it took just one play for Thomas to show he felt just fine and what he means to the offense when he is healthy. On the third play from scrimmage for the Broncos, Thomas took a short flip from Peyton Manning 74 yards up the right sideline for the Broncos’ first touchdown. In the Broncos’ three-wide receiver set Thomas continues to be the riddle for opposing defenses when they move their help toward Denver’s wide receivers.
Blindside issues: In Week 7, the Colts’ Robert Mathis terrorized Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, putting two of the hardest hits on Manning of the season from the blind side -- a rush from the defensive right -- including one that caused a fumble. The Chargers’ Tourek Williams beat Broncos left tackle Chris Clark Sunday to swipe the ball out from Manning’s blind side. The momentum changed in the game for a bit and with the Chiefs next up on the docket, it is a concern.
Variety pack: With cornerback Champ Bailey having missed his seventh game of the season because of a foot injury and safety Duke Ihenacho out with an ankle injury, defensive coordinator/interim coach Jack Del Rio obviously made the decision to use everybody else in uniform Sunday. Del Rio played all nine active defensive backs at some point in the defense. He mixed and matched in all of the personnel groupings, especially at cornerback, where Quentin Jammer got the start in the base defense. Kayvon Webster, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris also played at cornerback in the base defense during the game.
What’s next: The Chiefs (9-0) are coming off a bye, so they will have had some extra time to get ready for the Broncos’ offense. Kansas City has 36 sacks, but while Justin Houston (11.0) and Tamba Hali (9.0) are the outside rushers who have done the most damage, it’s Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (4.5) who may be the most difficult matchup for the Broncos overall.
5mEric D. Williams