Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver - TV: NBC
*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
*Keys to the game: The Broncos average just 3.7 yards per carry, but they can't leave gimpy QB Peyton Manning in constant long passing situations and expect him to finish the game. The Chiefs lead the league with 36 sacks, while Manning's protection has become an increasing concern as he deals with an aggravated ankle sprain. When Manning played on a tender ankle in Indianapolis, his accuracy and zip faltered as the offense sputtered. RBs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball are carrying to brunt of the workload in the backfield these days and must be productive against a Chiefs defense allowing 5.0 yards per carry. Kansas City is fresh coming off its bye week, which is especially important for RB Jamaal Charles, who is averaging 24 touches per game and has been on the field for 87 percent of the offensive snaps. QB Alex Smith still struggles to push the ball down the field (6.1 yards per pass attempt), but his legs have been a complementary weapon to Charles. Smith has 265 rushing yards, and look for the Chiefs to utilize his mobility to counter the Broncos' strong pass rush (26 sacks).
*Matchup to watch - Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers vs. Broncos WR Wes Welker: The emergence of rookie CB Marcus Cooper has allowed the Chiefs to slide Flowers inside on nickel packages and reduce the wear and tear on his knees. Welker has 13 catches for 160 yards in four career games against the Chiefs.
*Player spotlight - Broncos LT Chris Clark: Charged with protecting Manning's blind side, Clark will require some help in dealing with Chiefs' OLB Tamba Hali in passing situations.
*Fast facts: The Chiefs are the 19th team in the Super Bowl era to begin a season 9-0; seven have gone on to win it all. ... Manning is 9-1 in his career against the Chiefs.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
This is a key litmus test for the Chiefs, who do not have a victory over a team that currently sports a winning record. Coach Andy Reid was 13-1 in games immediately after a bye in Philadelphia. He has the formula for getting his players rested and focused - and it doesn't hurt that Broncos QB Peyton Manning is facing the league's best pass rush while less than 100 percent.
*Our pick: Chiefs 24-23