Broncos Inside Slant - September 30

Get ready for Sunday's showdown between a pair of 4-0 teams that will go a long way toward settling the favorite to win the AFC West as the Broncos meet the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Read all the latest about the team in our weekly report, including notes, quotes, anecdotes and grades for last week's game against the Lions.

The Broncos likely will get Clinton Portis back Sunday, but they're run game could still be hurting with center Tom Nalen questionable because of a sprained ankle. That's not good news going against an opportunistic Kansas City defense in noisy Arrowhead Stadium for Sunday's showdown between a pair of 4-0 teams that will go a long way toward settling the favorite to win the AFC West.

Coach Mike Shanahan reminded everyone what a warrior Nalen is.

"I don't know if he'll be able to practice. Tom Nalen is a guy who, I wouldn't bet against him unless he's got a broken ankle. That's the type of guy he is. If there's a will there's a way."

Portis, however, should be well-rested after sitting out Sunday's game. He was still nursing a bruised sternum, and he'll be needed to get outside against the Chiefs, who have been playing very well up the middle.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES • C Tom Nalen had an MRI on his ankle and the results were negative. Nalen, though, probably won't be able to practice for a few days, which throws his availability into question.

• RT Matt Lepsis had an MRI on his knee but it was negative so coaches expected him to practice Wednesday even if it is sore.

• RB Clinton Portis reported feeling much better after Sunday's game, where he was a bystander, and should be close to 100 percent vs. Kansas City. He accounted for 205 yards the last time the two teams met.

• WR/KR Chris Cole had an X-ray on his neck but it was negative, and he has only a strain and shouldn't miss any practice time.

• DT Daryl Gardener will practice extensively Wednesday and Thursday, and if there are no setbacks Friday likely will see his first action this year. He'll provide a big push up front against one of the league's best lines.

• SS Kenoy Kennedy did not play Sunday, but will try to practice Wednesday. The Broncos have more options if he can't go because safety Lee Flowers is back from his Ephedra-use suspension.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's one of the two or three best places to play a football game." -- TE Shannon Sharpe on playing at Arrowhead Stadium. Last year he set a record for tight ends with 214 receiving yards there.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. LIONS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Jake Plummer missed on his first pass but then hit 16 in a row as Denver took a slim lead over Detroit. He stepped up as the Broncos were forced to throw more than normal, especially with Clinton Portis out and the Lions stacking the line of scrimmage.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- This was not one of Denver's better efforts, and coaches cited the group as a whole. Portis did not play but Mike Anderson and Quentin Griffin found very little room to run. It says a lot when Jake Plummer is the leading rusher with 40 yards. Denver's backs managed just 33 on 16 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos gave up a couple of big plays, including 43-yard TD pass to Scottie Anderson and 33-yard TD pass to Charles Rogers. But the Broncos hung tough when the game was on the line, and forced Joey Harrington into four consecutive incompletions to seal the win.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- This was not one of the better games for Al Wilson and he admitted it. The Broncos overall allowed a whopping 6.0 yards per carry, and let the Lions run for 144 on the day. They'll have to do better if they hope to contain Priest Holmes.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Jason Elam continues to be rock solid, hitting a pair of field goals Sunday to go 9 of 9 on the season. Denver's coverage unites were solid, holding Az-Zahir Hakim to 7.7 yards on punt returns and Avon Cobourne to 19.0 yards on kickoffs. Punter Micah Knorr continues to help with his booming kickoffs and strong leg on punts.

COACHING: B -- The Broncos forced the Lions to call four timeouts because of confusion on defense caused by Denver's five-wideout, empty backfield formations. Though Denver struggled to run the ball, it was a wise decision by coach Mike Shanahan to hold running back Clinton Portis out.

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