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Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs: Five things to watch

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I give you five things to watch for during this afternoon's game between the Denver Broncos and their division Rival Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

1. Peyton Manning's health

Manning ended up on the Broncos injury report earlier this week with a foot injury. The word on the injury was that it was soreness from playing on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Sunday. Manning did not put in a full day's practice this week, but was listed as probable for Sunday's game and is expected to play.

A foot injury was the only one we all thought Manning was dealing with, but news dropped on Saturday morning when the Broncos announced that Manning was also dealing with a rib cage injury.

It's unknown the severity of the injury, and how it will affect Manning today, but this will be something to keep an eye on. In the past, we have seen injuries really affect Manning's game, so it will interesting to see how he plays with the foot and rib cage injuries.

Protecting Manning will be key for the Broncos this afternoon. The Chiefs have two very good edge rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and they will probably get to Manning a few times today. The Broncos offensive line will need to limit these hits on Manning, or his injuries could become more severe.

2. Establishing the run game:

It looked like the Broncos solved their running game struggles heading into last weekend's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Ronnie Hillman went for 100+ yards against the Cleveland Browns before the Broncos bye and C.J. Anderson went for 100+ against the Green Bay Packers.

The run game disappeared against the Colts. Anderson had 7 attempts for 34 yards, and Hillman had 7 carries for 1 yard. The Broncos abandoned the run game after trailing by 17 points late into the second quarter. They will look to reestablish a balanced attack against the Chiefs.

The Chiefs do have the 11th best run defense in the NFL. They have allowed an average of 100.6 yards per game on the ground, and a YPC of 4.0. So it won't be easy for the Broncos running backs today.

3. Replacing DeMarcus Ware:

Denver Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware is expected to miss a few weeks with back spasms that he suffered during last weekend's game against the Colts. That means linebacker Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray will have to pick up the slack in Ware's absence.

Barrett has done an outstanding job this season and did an excellent job replacing Ware in the lineup against the Green Bay Packers. He will again look to have similar success against the Kansas City Chiefs later today.

Broncos first-round pick Shane Ray will return from an MCL injury this week and will look to help out Barrett as much as possible today. Look for the Broncos to rotate their edge rushers like they have been all season. They will need to pressure Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

4. Broncos defense will not have to worry about Jamaal Charles:

Unfortunately for the Chiefs they have lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. This was a big loss for the Chiefs because Charles was their best player on their mediocre offense. In place of Charles they have turned to backup running back Charcandrick West.

West has started three games for the Chiefs and has totaled 97+ yards rushing in the past two games. He went for 110 yards and 1 touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 7, and 97 yards and 1 touchdown against the Detroit Lions in week 8. So far on the season he has totaled 288 yards(4.6 YPC) and 2 touchdowns.

So while the Broncos will not be facing Jamaal Charles, they will still face a running back who has been productive the past two games he has played.

5. Expect to see more Vernon Davis:

The Broncos acquired Davis a few weeks back and he was active against the Colts last week, but played very sparingly. With a full week of practice and knowledge of the Broncos playbook under his belt, look for Davis to play more snaps this week.

On Friday, Head Coach Gary Kubiak said to expect to see Davis involved in the offense more this week.

"Yeah, he's definitely going to play more. We got down and got into some hurry-up verbiage at the line of scrimmage. Those are the things that he wasn't up with us on, so that's why he kind of got the lost there at times. He's much more available this week from the standpoint of what he knows."

Davis will be an "X-Factor" for the Broncos today. His athleticism makes him a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties, and he will give the Broncos another weapon in the red zone.