Denver Broncos (3-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)
SERIES: 96th meeting. Chiefs lead the series, 52-43, but the Broncos won a playoff game at Kansas City during the 1997 season, which led to Denver's win in Super Bowl XXXII. The Broncos have always struggled at Arrowhead Stadium under Mike Shanahan, but did get a convincing 41-7 win at Kansas City last year.
PREDICTION: Broncos 30-19
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs certainly hope CB Patrick Surtain can return to the lineup to give them a fighting chance against the Broncos' No. 2-ranked passing attack averaging 432.0 yards per game. The Chiefs rank fourth against the pass, but that's only because they're constantly so far behind that opponents call off the dogs. KC is ranked 31st against the run, and Broncos RB Selvin Young rushed for a combined 265 yards in two meetings last year. ... Chiefs coach Herm Edwards turned the offense back over to QB Damon Huard hoping the veteran can bring more calmness to the huddle and cut down on turnovers. KC can't hang in a shootout, and there's no secret the game plan is to control the clock at all costs with RB Larry Johnson. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, pass defense has been the one Achilles heel for Denver early this season.
KEY INJURIES: Broncos: WR Darrell Jackson (calf) could miss another game. Chiefs: QB Brodie Croyle (shoulder) is out for the third straight game; Surtain (shoulder) has been practicing and might play.
FAST FACTS: Broncos WR Eddie Royal leads all rookies with 18 receptions. ... The Chiefs have won 13 of the past 18 regular-season meetings at Arrowhead Stadium.
--DT Dewayne Robertson, who sat out practice on Wednesday because of his knee, returned on Thursday and should play this week.
--WR Darrell Jackson has been out with a calf injury and will probably miss his third straight game. He has started jogging and could return to practice next week.
--S Marquand Manuel is third on the Broncos with 18 tackles, although he doesn't play in passing situations. He has a key role as the safety in the box on running plays.
--RB Andre Hall is tied for the team lead with three special-teams tackles. Hall, who splits carries with Selvin Young, has the speed to be effective on special teams and the willingness to mix it up on kick coverage.
--FB Peyton Hillis has great hands, but has only one catch for four yards. Part of the reason is the Broncos are spreading the field with multiple-receiver sets, which limits Hillis' playing time.
--CB Patrick Surtain participated in Thursday's workout on only a limited basis and is not expected to play in a second straight game this week against Denver. Surtain, the starter at left corner when healthy, missed the Atlanta game with a shoulder injury.
--LB Donnie Edwards isn't expected to play against Denver with a foot/ankle injury received in the Atlanta loss. He could be out for at least two games or more.
--QB Damon Huard will start a second game this season when he gets the call Sunday against Atlanta. The Chiefs need a ball-control offense to keep the point-productive Broncos off the field, and though Huard has thrown two picks among his 16 pass attempts this year, the Chiefs like his chances of protecting the ball better than they do those of second-year man Tyler Thigpen.
--LB Demorrio Williams is expected to start at strong-side linebacker in the place of Donnie Edwards against Denver.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Moving Nate Webster and D.J. Williams back to their natural linebacker positions in the offseason has been a productive move for the Denver Broncos.
Williams has played very well at weak-side linebacker, but Webster might have had an even bigger boost. A middle linebacker most of his career, Webster started at strong-side linebacker last year and Williams started in the middle.
Back in the middle, Webster leads the Broncos with 30 tackles and has brought a lot of energy to Denver's defense. The Broncos run defense, which ranked 31st in the NFL last year, is allowing 36 fewer rushing yards per game this season.
"I feel like I'm a kid again," said the 30-year-old Webster.
Webster made two game-changing plays against New Orleans. He returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown. He also stuffed Saints running back Pierre Thomas just short of the goal line on a fourth-and-one just before the end of the first half.
Webster reported to training camp in great shape. That, and being back in a comfortable position, has helped him.
"It's a total package of knowing what you have to do out there, being in shape and just letting your ability take over," Webster said. "Once you put those three together, the game is a bunch of fun for you."
Tony Gonzalez almost has this thing set up the way he wanted it.
"This thing" is his opportunity to pass former Bronco Shannon Sharpe's NFL career receiving record for tight ends. Gonzalez, who needs only 50 yards to pass Sharpe's 10,060 career total, wanted to break the record at Arrowhead Stadium, and he'll get that chance Sunday when the Chiefs host the Broncos.
It's entirely possible that Gonzalez can get the necessary yardage this week. His best game this year was a six-catch, 55-yard game in the season opener against New England, and he's averaged 56 receiving yards a game over the course of his 10-year career.
"A division game, a home game -- it would be nice to get it this week," Gonzalez said. "A victory, obviously would be the ideal situation."
Ah, but there's the "almost" part of the occasion.
The 0-3 Chiefs have scored only 32 points all year. The Broncos are averaging 38 a game. Kansas City is more than a decided underdog, and a frustrated Gonzalez is not a happy potential record-holder.
"Right now it's kind of hard to enjoy it because we're not winning," Gonzalez said in an interview with NFL Network. "Football at this point is not enjoyable in the sense of getting up every day and appreciating the grind because you know you're getting something out of it.
"I still love football, but it's just that it gets hard at times when you're not winning football games. It's something that you don't want to get used to."
Gonzalez acknowledged in the interview that if the young, rebuilding team doesn't show some major improvements at the end of the season, he might consider asking the team to get whatever value they could in a trade for him though.
"If it was something where it was going to take three or four years or whatever before they get this thing right, I think it would be in their best interest to see what they can get and send me off," he said. "But I love being a Chief and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else at this point. At the end of this season, hopefully I don't have to ask that."
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