ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A certain right ankle, that happens to be connected to a certain 37-year-old quarterback has dominated any and all discussions about the relative health of the Denver Broncos nine games into the season.
But beyond Peyton Manning's very sore right ankle, there are several other aches, pains, bumps and bruises that will bear watching in the coming days as the Broncos work toward a showdown with the 9-0 Chiefs on Sunday night.
Two of the most worrisome for the Broncos are in the offensive line, a group that will try to keep the NFL's leader in sacks away from Manning this weekend. Right tackle Orlando Franklin (ankle) and center Manny Ramirez (knee) were both limited in practice last week before gutting through Sunday’s win in San Diego. Both figure to be challenged plenty this weekend and may be limited this week.
Franklin will often find himself across from Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, who is tied for third in the league in sacks with 11, often coming from the strong side of the formation. Chargers outside linebacker Larry English beat Franklin around the corner Sunday for a sack and also put the first significant hit on Manning’s ankle in the game.
Ramirez will find himself across from perhaps the most athletic interior defensive player in the league in Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe. At 346 pounds, Poe has the speed and quickness of a much smaller man so has consistently disrupted offensive game plans. He has consistently taken away the area where quarterbacks like to step up to escape pressure and the Chiefs outside rushers have benefited.
Broncos linebacker Nate Irving, who left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury after a fourth-quarter touchdown run by San Diego’s Ryan Mathews, is expected to be limited in practice this week and remains a question mark for the game. Irving had an MRI Monday morning and interim coach Jack Del Rio said Irving may be able to practice this week.
“Not sure when exactly he will be able to practice, whether it’s Wednesday, it could be, but it was good news on that (MRI),’’ Del Rio said. “There wasn’t any significant structural damage or anything. He’s definitely going to be a little bit sore, but at this point there is a good possibility we’ll get him back to practice this week.’’
Irving has been a big part of the Broncos bigger personnel groupings on defense, which they figure to use at least some against the Chiefs.
The Broncos also hope to get cornerback Champ Bailey back to practice this week. Bailey, who has played in just two games because of a left foot injury he originally suffered in the preseason, did not practice last week, but worked off to the side with the team’s strength coaches.