4:25 PM ET, December 30, 2012
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
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).
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.
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• Can Kansas City run the ball? Before the season, interior run defense was perceived to be a major weakness for the Broncos -- but they have played very well. None of these guys are household names (Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein, etc.), but they do an excellent job of filling the gaps and playing with good discipline. The only legitimate offensive weapon the Chiefs have is their run game, led by Jamaal Charles. But if he is forced to bounce runs outside all day, chances are he'll get bottled up. The Chiefs' performance last week (352 rushing yards) makes this a lot more interesting and it will catch Denver's attention.
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|Avg Points Allowed||26.6||18.1|
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 15-9|
|Nov 25, 2012||KC 9, DEN 17|
|Jan 1, 2012||KC 7, @DEN 3|
|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|
The Broncos have allowed a league-best 17.7 Total QBR when sending five or more pass rushers this season. Brady Quinn has a 10.1 Total QBR against added pressure, the worst among 38 qualified quarterbacks.
During the Broncos current 10-game winning streak, Peyton Manning has a league-best 93.4 Total QBR when defenses send four or fewer pass rushers. In their Week 12 matchup, Manning threw both of his touchdowns against the Chiefs' standard pass rush.[+]
Peyton Manning Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information