Weather forecast: Sunny, with a high near 51. Light northeast wind.
Line: Broncos -5.5, Over/Under: 49.5
The Chiefs are 5-1 at home
The Chiefs are 6-5 ATS.
The Chiefs are 2-4 ATS at home.
The Chiefs are 1-1 ATS as the underdog.
The Chiefs have not been a home underdog.
The Broncos are 3-2 away
The Broncos are 6-5 ATS.
The Broncos are 2-3 ATS away.
The Broncos are 6-5 ATS as the favorite.
The Broncos are 2-3 ATS as an away favorite.
Both the Chiefs and Broncos are 9-2 and coming off "gut wrenching" defeats as Andy Reid called them, with Kansas City falling by three points to San Diego and Denver losing in overtime by three points to New England.
Now, they play for control of the AFC West, and possibly the entire AFC bracket for the playoffs. The Broncos right now have the edge, thanks to their 10-point victory over the Chiefs in Denver and a 3-0 record in the division, compared to Kansas City's 1-2 mark. In the first meeting the Chiefs allowed the Broncos 27 points, the lowest total of the season for Peyton Manning and his team. Until last week's game against the Chargers, there didn't appear to be any way the Chiefs offense could score enough points to compete with Manning and his crew. But then they put up five touchdowns and 38 points and maybe, just maybe quarterback Alex Smith can have another productive game throwing the ball.
As it was in Week 11, the Broncos' first task in the rematch is to avoid giveaways, on which the Chiefs frequently feast.
Turnovers were lethal in the Broncos' only two losses this year, and the lack of takeaways helped contribute to Kansas City's recent slide. The Chiefs forced just one turnover in the last two games after racking up 24 in racing to a 9-0 start.
"You know 9-2, there's a lot of season left and a lot can happen. We have to get back to 'Let's just go 1-0 this week.' We can't be looking at anything beyond that." -- Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
"They (the Chiefs) know we what we do, we pretty much know what they're going to do. They're not going to do the same thing like they did last time but for the most part, same team, they're going to run some of the same plays." -- Broncos LB Von Miller
--Chiefs CBs Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper vs. Broncos WRs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker -- Game No. 1 between these teams saw Denver's three wide receivers catch 18 passes for 264 yards, but no touchdowns. The Broncos trio had just nine catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against New England. The Chiefs corners allowed San Diego's top three receivers to catch 14 passes for 237 yards and the game winner with 24 seconds to play. Flowers, Smith and Cooper must limit the big-play potential of Peyton Manning's favorite outside targets; another 18 catch day for 264 yards won't get it done.
--Chiefs RT Donald Stephenson or Eric Fisher vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller -- In the first game between the Chiefs and Broncos, Miller was not a factor -- he had one assist on a tackle in the 70 plays where he was on the field for Denver. The Broncos sacked Chiefs QB Alex Smith three times that day, but Miller wasn't involved. The Chiefs protection unit will need another performance like that if the K.C. offense is to be productive. Fisher did not play last week against San Diego because of a shoulder injury. If he can't go, then Stephenson will handle the spot.
--Broncos QB Peyton Manning vs. Chiefs S Eric Berry. -- The injuries to the Chiefs' primary pass rushers means that Kansas City's best hope for pressuring Manning might rest with Berry on the safety blitz. With Justin Houston nursing a dislocated elbow and Tamba Hali trying to work through an ankle injury, Kansas City might try to throw more exotic pass rushes at Manning to try and rattle him. The Chiefs can scarcely do worse; with a healthy Hali and Houston in Week 11, they never touched the 37-year-old quarterback.
--Broncos LBs [B]Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. -- Although Alex Smith threw for a season-high 294 yards last week, the Chiefs' bread-and-butter remains the running of Charles, who has averaged 109 yards in his last six games against the Broncos. With Kevin Vickerson out for the season, Woodyard might come face-to-face with Charles more often than he did in Week 11, and if he can't contain him, Trevathan, the Broncos' leading tackler, will have to pick up the slack.
ESPN Game Preview:
For the first time this season, both the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are coming off losses, and both were more disappointing than the average NFL defeat.
The AFC West rivals will meet for the second time in three weeks Sunday in Kansas City with each looking to take control of the division and avoid another week of looking for a bounce-back game.
"I know, look, everybody's going to ride that roller coaster," Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said. "Last week we're the greatest, this week not so good. We'll just keep working at it."
A number of complicated scenarios exist for each team to clinch a postseason spot with a win this week.
While the Broncos (9-2) might be feeling the majority of the disappointment after matching a franchise-record 24-point collapse Sunday in New England, the Chiefs (9-2) are likely feeling the brunt of the pressure.
They've dropped their first two games in consecutive weeks, including their first at home in Sunday's last-minute 41-38 loss to San Diego. They've also lost consecutive games at Arrowhead Stadium to the Broncos.
The more alarming trend might be a defense that has allowed season-high point totals the last two weeks. After allowing over 17 points for the first time this season in a 27-17 loss Nov. 17 at Denver that didn't exactly raise huge concerns, Sunday's game certainly exposed some holes -- and physically created them with injuries.
"Just like we were doing when we were winning, we need to go back and see what's up and correct it and just keep going to work," Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. "It's not the end of the world. But we do have a sense of urgency this week to get the things corrected that we see on tape."
Kansas City has two sacks in its last four games after piling up 35 through its first seven. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers combined for 715 passing yards in two weeks after the Chiefs had held each of their previous nine opponents under 300 yards through the air.
They now face Manning again, and this time around Kansas City won't have Tamba Hali (9.0) and Justin Houston (11.0) -- who account for over half of the team's sacks -- on the field together.
Hali suffered a sprained ankle last week, but he went through practice Friday without feeling pain and will play. Houston dislocated his right elbow against the Chargers and it's unclear when he'll return.
"Losing that caliber of players, we have to step it up, make something happen," Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "That's what we get paid to do."
Coach Andy Reid said starting defensive tackle Mike DeVito will likely return after missing last week's game with a knee injury.
The Chiefs are still best in the AFC in scoring defense, allowing 16.3 points per game. They're also holding opponents to an NFL-low 29.1 percent on third down.
The Broncos offense, however, has been another kind of elite, averaging a league-best 451.5 yards and 39.0 points, 11.2 points ahead of No. 2 Seattle. Their 48.3 percent third-down conversion rate tops the league, as does their red-zone efficiency (78.7).
Manning is within two touchdown passes of breaking his franchise record of 37. Tying that mark Sunday likely would have helped avoid a 34-31 overtime loss to the Patriots.
He finished with a season-worst 70.4 passer rating with a season-low 19 completions on 36 attempts for a season-low 150 yards.
Matching a season-high four turnovers as a team was likely the bigger issue.
"Hated the way that ended, not getting a chance to get our hands on the ball," Manning said. "We helped them with some short fields. It's hard to do that to our defense."
That hasn't been an issue for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith or the team as a whole. They've turned the ball over a league-low 11 times while creating an AFC-best 24 takeaways.
Smith has thrown five interceptions, and his 25 picks since 2010 are the fewest among quarterbacks with 1,100 passing attempts.
The Broncos aren't without injury issues of their own.
Knowshon Moreno ran for a career-best 224 yards on a career-high 37 carries against the Patriots. Though he isn't certain to play, an MRI showed a right ankle injury suffered at the end of the game caused no significant damage.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's jammed right shoulder also wasn't serious.
Del Rio said he expects cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) and tight end Julius Thomas (knee) to return after both missed the New England. Julius Thomas is tied with Demaryius Thomas for the team lead with 10 touchdown catches.
Starting defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, however, has been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a dislocated hip.