Chiefs-Broncos Preview

While the AFC’s other top teams have stumbled recently, the

Denver Broncos look to keep rolling into the postseason.

By earning an 11th straight victory in Sunday’s regular-season

finale, the Broncos can wrap up a first-round bye in the AFC

playoffs and ensure the visiting Kansas City Chiefs land the No. 1

pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

After passing New England for the No. 2 seed on Dec. 16, Denver

(12-3) beat Cleveland 34-12 last week to put itself in position to

earn a week off during the league’s wild-card weekend. While a win

against the Chiefs will be enough to do that, a victory plus a

Houston loss at Indianapolis would give the Broncos home-field

advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

“I think it’s real important that we win this week against

Kansas City – all our focus will be on that,” coach John Fox said.

“Whatever that brings, we’ll react to.”

The Broncos’ 10-game winning streak is tied for the

second-longest in team history, behind only a 13-game run during

their 1998 Super Bowl season.

Six of Denver’s wins during its current run have been by double

digits – including the last three by a combined 52 points – but it

didn’t have an easy time last month at Arrowhead Stadium. The

Chiefs held a second-half lead on Nov. 25 before Peyton Manning led

a pair of long second-half scoring drives to give the Broncos a

17-9 victory.

Denver ranks second in the NFL in scoring (29.5 points per

game), but has only totaled 43 points in its last four games

against Kansas City.

“Some teams you match up against better than others,” Fox said.

“We had a tough game with these guys last time we played at their

place.”

Manning hasn’t had it very tough in his career versus Kansas

City. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 285 yards with two

touchdowns and one interception in the first meeting to improve to

8-1 against the Chiefs.

The four-time MVP had a season-high 339 yards and three

touchdowns against Cleveland to tie Brett Favre’s NFL record with

72 games with at least three touchdown passes.

Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combined for 15 catches, 167

yards and three TDs against the Browns. Decker needs 12 yards to

join Thomas with 1,000 and give the Broncos their first duo to hit

that mark since Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie in 2004.

Despite outgaining playoff-bound Indianapolis 507-288 last week,

the Chiefs fell 20-13 and moved within one loss of their second

2-14 campaign in five seasons. They’ll also be guaranteed the top

pick in the 2013 NFL draft should they fall in Denver.

Jamaal Charles will try to build on his big day after rushing

for 226 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Colts.

Peyton Hills added 101 on 15 carries as Kansas City rushed for 352

yards – its most since 1966.

Charles leads the AFC in rushing with 1,456 yards and needs just

12 to surpass his career high set in 2010, the year before he tore

his left ACL.

“He’s super-fast, he’s tough. He’s a scary sight for a defensive

guy,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said of his teammate. “He

opens up a lot of things for the offense. He’s a key player.”

Charles, who rushed for 107 yards on 23 carries in the first

meeting, will try to join Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes as the

only Chiefs to hit the 1,500-yard mark, but he’ll have to do it

against the NFL’s third-best rush defense (91.0 yards per

game).

Charles also has to hope he’s feeling better. He was one of

three Chiefs, along with linebacker Tamba Hali and left tackle

Donald Stephenson, to be sent home from Wednesday’s practice due to

illness.

It’s not like Kansas City has an effective passing game to fall

back on. Brady Quinn has averaged 156.8 yards in his last five

starts, and committed two turnovers in the red zone against the

Colts to give him a 40.2 passer rating inside the opponents’ 20 –

the worst mark of the 38 QBs with more than 10 attempts.

The Chiefs have totaled three offensive touchdowns and 43 points

during a five-game road skid, and Quinn has been sacked a total of

nine times in his last two starts away from Arrowhead. That’s bad

news against Denver linebacker Von Miller, whose two sacks last

week gave him the single-season franchise record with 17 1/2.

Miller had one of the Broncos’ two sacks of Quinn last

month.

Kansas City has won two of three in Denver after a 7-3 victory

there last season.