By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos are on a roll, looking for their 11th straight win this Sunday against the 2-13 Kansas City Chiefs, but it may not come as easily as some expect.
Kansas City is fresh off three straight losses, but their running game is fifth-best in the NFL. They were the only team to gain over 100 yards on the ground against the Broncos on the winning streak, 148 yards to be exact, in Week 12 and deep-seeded rivalries are what make the AFC West entertaining.
When the two teams kickoff Sunday afternoon, Denver will likely be without three would-be starters in Trindon Holliday, Tracy Porter and Chris Kuper.
Porter, who began the season as the starting cornerback opposite of Champ Bailey, has missed all of the last 10 games save some of the first series last week against the Browns. He was suffering from seizure-like symptoms, which was quite worrisome, then took a big blow to the head in the Cleveland blowout, sustaining a concussion before exiting the game. He’ll be on the sidelines this week and his football future with the team is uncertain. That’s partly because second-year man Chris Harris has played more like an experienced veteran, picking off three passes and scoring twice, while learning how to deftly cover receivers at the professional level. Harris will start again this week, and he’s likely to remain the starter when the Broncos’ postseason begins.
Listed as “doubtful” this week is return specialist Trindon Holliday. Holliday started out his time in Denver rather bumpy, fumbling away a punt in his first game against the Chargers. But he made up for it, scoring on a kickoff return against Cincinnati and a punt return the next week in the team’s win over Carolina. Since then, he’s been less spectacular, fumbling six times in all only to lose the one while his long returns have been mostly contained by the opposition. Holliday’s ankle is hurting too badly to play this week, so taking his place this week will be veteran safety Jim Leonhard and rookie cornerback Omar Bolden. Leonhard has already returned 13 punts for 82 total yards and one kickoff as well this year as a mostly sure-handed man the team can rely on receiving the ball cleanly. Bolden was drafted partly for his speed in the return game and it would be great to see him get a chance to take a kickoff up-field and make a play.
Chris Kuper, the embattled right guard that has gone through a broken forearm, a sprained ankle and migraines, was a limited participant in practice Thursday and Friday which has him officially listed as “questionable.” Kuper’s important to the offensive line, yes, but pushing him to play in this almost meaningless game – with the Broncos winning the West weeks ago – would be silly to do. They’re most likely preparing him for the postseason, hoping he’ll be good to go with a couple more weeks of rest. That means Manny Ramirez, who’s looked lost at times and allowed multiple sacks this year, will again start. Denver and quarterback Peyton Manning hope Ramirez figures out who he’s supposed to block Sunday as to keep Manning off the turf and healthy heading into the playoffs.
Also listed but all probable are Mike Adams (knee), Ryan Clady (shoulder), Chris Gronkowski (hamstring), Jim Leonhard (thigh), Knowshon Moreno (ribs), Brandon Stokley (quadrecep), Danny Trevathan (groin) and Matt Willis (knee).
The Broncos are favorites to win by 15 points, their biggest spread in team history, and the team is expected to pull starters once a comfortable lead is built to ensure the health of their most important players.
Kansas City visits Denver this Sunday with kickoff at 2:25 p.m. MT on CBS.
- Safety Mike Adams (knee)
- Tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder)
- Fullback Chris Gronkowski (hamstring)
- Safety Jim Leonhard (thigh)
- Running back Knowshon Moreno (ribs)
- Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (quadrecep)
- Linebacker Danny Trevathan (groin)
- Wide receiver Matt Willis (knee)
- Guard Chris Kuper (ankle, migraines)
- Kick returner Trindon Holliday (ankle)
- Cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion)
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.