4:15 PM ET, January 1, 2012
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Now guiding the Kansas City Chiefs, Orton is in position to help keep his former team out of the postseason.
Tim Tebow and the Broncos can win the AFC West crown with a victory over the Chiefs in the regular-season finale Sunday in Denver, though the defending division champions hope to make the road more difficult.
Struggling to a 1-4 start under Orton, the Broncos turned to Tebow as the full-time starter beginning with their Oct. 23 game at Miami. Tebow led one of his many comeback victories in that contest, 18-15 in overtime after throwing a game-tying touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.
Orton became the odd man out, getting released Nov. 22, and Tebow went on to win seven of his first eight starts.
"We knew we may have to face him down the line and we kind of took that risk," Elway said of cutting Orton, who was claimed off waivers a day later by the Chiefs.
Even if Orton is to get the best of his old team, Denver (8-7) still can win the division if Oakland falls to San Diego.
Orton has not played up the game, saying he's focused on helping the Chiefs (6-9) end on a high note even though they were eliminated from playoff contention with last week's 16-13 overtime loss to Oakland.
"It's just another week for me to come out and prove my preparation and play to my teammates," he said.
Tebow also generalized his comments in regard to facing Orton.
"I think it's the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs," Tebow said. "That's a great rivalry and it'll be a great game. (I'm) excited we get to play at home in front of our fans. I think that as a player, as a quarterback, as someone who has dreamed of that his whole life, it'll be exciting to have one game, one last game, one last opportunity to make the playoffs."
Tebow, though, is coming off his worst performance. He had three interceptions -- a fourth was later changed to a fumble -- after throwing only two in his previous nine starts, and a pair were returned for touchdowns in a 40-14 defeat at Buffalo last Saturday. Tebow completed only 13 of 30 passes as Denver suffered its second straight loss after six consecutive wins.
If the Broncos lose a third in a row while Oakland beats San Diego, they will fail to qualify for the postseason for a sixth straight year.
"You don't get that chance too often, to win one game and make it to the playoffs," receiver Eddie Royal said. "And a lot of us know the feeling of watching the playoffs at home. We don't want that feeling, so we've got to do everything in our power to make sure that's not us this year."
Recent history appears to be on the Broncos' side, having won nine of the last 10 home games against the Chiefs. The last time the teams met in Denver, the Broncos won 49-29 on Nov. 14, 2010, when Orton threw for four touchdowns and Tebow tossed one and ran for another in spot duty.
Orton watched from the Denver sideline as Tebow attempted only eight passes, completing two, in the Broncos' 17-10 win at Kansas City on Nov. 13 this season. Tebow threw for 69 yards -- 56 to Eric Decker on a fourth-quarter TD pass -- but ran for 43 and a touchdown.
"I mean, I love Kyle, but I couldn't care less," Denver offensive lineman Zane Beadles said of facing his former teammate. "It's the Broncos vs. the Chiefs. We've got to beat the Chiefs to get in the playoffs. And it doesn't matter who's on their team."
Kansas City finished 10-6 in 2010 to win the AFC West, but its downfall this season led to the firing of coach Todd Haley and the promotion of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to interim coach.
Crennel, who coached Cleveland from 2005-08, knows he's partially auditioning to be named the full-time coach next season. The Chiefs won his debut 19-14 over previously unbeaten Green Bay on Dec. 18 before last week's letdown.
"I know there are some questions about my status and how this game might affect my status," Crennel said. "I've said all along that at the end of the year, a decision is going to be made, and I was going to do the best I could for the three games I had an opportunity to do that."
Kansas City is the AFC's lowest-scoring team, averaging 13.7 points, but is facing a Denver defense which has allowed an average of 30.8 in December.
The Broncos, whose last five opponents have averaged 154.8 rushing yards, have given up 40-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since it happened three straight times in 1964.
More from ESPN.com
Chadiha: Bailey faces rocky road in FA
The NFL hasn't been kind to aging stars seeking lucrative deals in recent years, meaning Champ Bailey may face a harsh reality on the free-agent market, writes Jeffri Chadiha.
Broncos make it official, cut Bailey
The Denver Broncos will release cornerback Champ Bailey, who had a $1 million roster bonus due March 15, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Browner must sit first four games of 2014
Former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season as part of his reinstatement after a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL and NFL Players Association jointly announced.
Fox: Broncos must reduce reliance on Manning
Now that Peyton Manning is cleared to return in 2014, the Broncos need to reduce their reliance on him, writes Ashley Fox.
Chiefs-Broncos: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in the Week 17 Chiefs-Broncos matchup.
1. Score when you get into the red zone: Against the Oakland Raiders in Week 16, Kansas City really struggled when it came to scoring points once it got inside the red zone. This week the Chiefs will face a much stouter Broncos defense. This is apt to be a low-scoring game, and the Chiefs can't squander scoring opportunities when they get inside the Raiders' 20-yard line.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||21.1||24.4|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||KC|
|Rush Yds Allowed||KC|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Denver leads 13-9|
|Nov 13, 2011||KC 10, DEN 17|
|Dec 5, 2010||KC 10, DEN 6|
|Nov 14, 2010||KC 29, @DEN 49|
|Jan 3, 2010||KC 44, @DEN 24|
|Dec 6, 2009||KC 13, DEN 44|
|Dec 7, 2008||KC 17, @DEN 24|
|Sep 28, 2008||KC 33, DEN 19|
|Dec 9, 2007||KC 7, @DEN 41|
|Nov 11, 2007||KC 11, DEN 27|
|Nov 23, 2006||KC 19, DEN 10|
|Sep 17, 2006||KC 6, @DEN 9|
|Dec 4, 2005||KC 31, DEN 27|
|Sep 26, 2005||KC 10, @DEN 30|
|Dec 19, 2004||KC 45, DEN 17|
|Nov 6, 2004||KC 11, @DEN 17|
|Sep 12, 2004||KC 24, @DEN 34|
|Dec 7, 2003||KC 27, @DEN 45|
|Oct 5, 2003||KC 24, DEN 23|
|Dec 15, 2002||KC 24, @DEN 31|
|Oct 20, 2002||KC 34, DEN 37|
|Dec 16, 2001||KC 26, DEN 23|
|Oct 7, 2001||KC 6, @DEN 20|