LB Mike Maslowski, the Chiefs starting Mike backer who has missed the last two games, did only some light running in Wednesday's practice and is truly questionable for the Broncos. Rookie Kawika Mitchell, who has been merely average in his two NFL starts, would start a third game in his absence.
RB Priest Holmes has three of the seven 100-yard rushing games given up by the Denver defense since 2001. Holmes is coming off his best rushing day of the year, 162 yards vs. San Diego. Last year he was the first opposing back to rush for 100-plus at Invesco Field since its 2001 opening. He had 161 last year before being injured at the end of a long run.
TE Tony Gonzalez has caught eight TD passes in his last nine games. He leads all NFL tight ends with 631 receiving yards.
KR Dante Hall says he's growing weary of being stuck on four kick returns for touchdowns this season. That ties an NFL record shared by eight people. Hall wants badly to hold it alone, but you know Denver will be ganging up on him in this rematch.
DE Gary Stills, a pass-rushing specialist at DE, is working with the linebackers this week. The Chiefs had only four healthy LBs for San Diego. Stills began his career as a strong-side LB before moving to the rush-end position in nickel defenses.
Defensively, the Chiefs didn't have much luck stopping Clinton Portis last October when he for 141 yards -- second-most against the Chiefs this year. Portis is coming off a fine 170-yard rushing effort in last week's win over Oakland. Kansas City's defense may have better luck limiting Jake Plummer and Denver's 27th-ranked passing offense. If they can force Plummer's hand, they stand a better chance of getting the turnovers they need to win on the road.
Offensively, KC will be tested by Denver's second-ranked defense. Yards may be hard to come by, so KC must avoid taking unnecessary chances that can produce the turnovers that are killers on a road team. They can score just enough points by mixing the play-action passing game with a solid performance by Priest Holmes. They also need to exploit Tony Gonzalez's advantages against Denver's injury-depleted linebacking corps.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Denver rush defense vs. Priest Holmes. Holmes is coming off a big game against San Diego and is in a rhythm. He's got to establish something against a good Broncos run defense to take some pressure off QB Trent Green and the Chiefs passing game.
Kansas City rush defense vs. Clinton Portis. See above, substituting "Portis" for Holmes and "Jake Plummer" for Green.
Denver cover units vs. Dante Hall and Chiefs return teams. If the Chiefs offense struggles against the Broncos defense, as expected, the Chiefs will need field position -- or points, preferably -- from Hall or the KC defense. Those units have to help the offense if the Chiefs have a shot here.
LB Monty Beisel, a key special teams contributor, is out with a groin injury. Starting MLB Mike Maslowski (questionable, knee) did not practice Wednesday and could miss a third straight game with a left knee that's caused him to miss games in the past.
Reserve LB Quinton Caver (questionable, back) is starting to look doubtful after being unable to work for a second straight week. No other Chief appears in danger of not playing.