Streak: Lost 2
All-time vs. Denver: 56-50-0
Last time: Broncos 27, Chiefs 17 (11/17/13)
The Line: Broncos by 4.5
Two teams that started the season red-hot now limp into their encore matchup this Sunday as the 9-2 Chiefs host the 9-2 Denver Broncos. Kansas City has lost two straight, including a 27-17 primetime match against the Broncos in Week 11, and has suffered a number of critical injuries since we last looked at their playoff-bound team. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali both suffered injuries, leaving their availability in doubt (though Hali plans on playing).
The Broncos have also lost since these teams last faced off, an overtime heartbreaker to the New England Patriots, and also have a slew of injuries they are trying to overcome. Two high-impact starters, running back Knowshon Moreno and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, missed practice Wednesday with ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively.
Where the Nov. 17 game was a high-octane matchup between two weekly winners, this game feels a bit more like a match between the walking wounded. There is one important catch - this game is for first place in the AFC West. Let's quickly break down the Chiefs.
QB Alex Smith. Alex Smith, gun-slinger? A little bit. Smith has been throwing it deep the past two weeks, going 18 of 27 (66.67%) for 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in pass attempts of 10 or more yards. Watch Smith hit Avery for 36 yards here, then throw for a 32-yard touchdown to Avery later here.
CBs Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a field day against these two cornerbacks most of the day. Rivers was incredibly effective attacking each, throwing the game-winning touchdown with Smith in coverage while connecting with six different receivers on 15 pass attempts throughout the day. His totals - 12 catches for 205 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, good for a 156.3 passer rating against Flowers and 158.3 passer rating against Smith, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Yes, that latter number is a perfect passer rating.
Matchup to Watch
Von Miller and Shaun Phillips vs. Branden Albert and whoever plays right tackle. With Eric Fisher still recovering from injury, it's unclear who will start at right tackle for the Chiefs. Still, it's the matchup to watch. It was good to see Shaun Phillips destroy the Chiefs offensive line two Sunday ago, and it was just fun watching Von Miller do the same to the Patriots last Sunday. The two have emerged as Denver's dual pass rushing threat in 2013, just as Miller and Elvis Dumervil served that role in years before. Meanwhile, while QB Alex Smith has shown improvement, he has also shown he is susceptible to succumb to pressure, Alex Smith's passer rating fell from 125.9 when not pressured to 42.1 when faced with a rush on 13 drop-backs, according to PFF. Miller and Phillips need to make sure Smith remains uncomfortable all day.
First place in the AFC West - and the AFC overall - is on the line Sunday as the Broncos face the Chiefs. Arrowhead has always been a nightmare for the Broncos, especially in the month of December. What are your Keys to the Broncos-Chiefs game from Denver's perspective?