The Broncos will arrive at their regular-season finale Sunday with plenty on the table.
They'd like to keep the playoff bye — a victory over Kansas City makes that happen — and they'd like to keep momentum heading into a postseason carrying the most optimism since their 2005 season.
But first things first, and that is the Chiefs. For the Broncos to stretch their winning streak to 11 games, they have to:
• Play old-school defense. In almost any other season, Jamaal Charles would be on the fringe of MVP talk. But this is a Barry Sanders-type deal. Sanders had 1,553 yards for a 5-11 Lions team in 1996, and 1,491 yards in his final season in 1998 for a 5-11 Lions team.
Charles leads the AFC in rushing with 1,456 yards. He has seven 100-yard games and two 200-yard games, and is the only player in the NFL with three touchdown runs of at least 80 yards this season. Vikings star Adrian Peterson has two.
Charles has rushed for 100 yards in four of his past five games and in five of his past seven. He is also the only guy to crack the Denver defense for at least 100 yards during the Broncos' 10-game winning streak.
The Broncos have to swarm to the ball and keep the cutback lanes closed when the Chiefs go to their zone-run look.
If the Denver linebackers don't lead the team in tackles in Sunday's game, it's a sign of trouble.
• Keep the Chiefs stalled. The Chiefs rank last in the league in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game. They have had five games this season when their offense didn't score a touchdown and six games when their offense scored only one touchdown.
The Broncos have the league's No. 2 scoring offense, so that means if the Denver defense holds up its end of the bargain, the Broncos need to hang onto the ball and the offense to needs to finish drives. Turnovers and poor play in the red zone are the recipe for an upset.
The Chiefs are the only team to hold the Broncos to fewer than 21 points this season — a 17-9 Denver victory last month.
• Give Manning some personal space. Kansas City was the site of the hit that almost changed everything for the Broncos. The Chiefs' defense was the one that delivered it.
Manning took what is likely the biggest hit of his season, then threw a touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme with 18 seconds left in the first half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City's Tyson Jackson knocked Manning to the ground on the play.
Manning was given a concussion test at halftime of that game and was cleared. He played in the second half and hasn't missed any time since.
But the play is a split-second reminder that for all Manning has done in a remarkable season, he is a 36-year-old quarterback coming off four neck surgeries. The Broncos have to keep things clean in the middle of the field, because that's where the playoff defenses will come after Manning.
• Keep the advantage in home-field advantage. Whether it's running their no-huddle look at legitimate no- huddle speed in the thin air, or crowd noise or anything else the Broncos can have on their side in their own stadium, it's time to have it.
Sunday is a playoff rehearsal for a team that believes it can go deep into the postseason. And how it plays will be an indicator of just how much it understands the opportunity in front of it.