A difficult season both on and off the field will mercifully come to an end for the Kansas City Chiefs when they visit AFC West champion Denver on Sunday.
For the Broncos, they hope a Week 17 matchup with their long-time rivals results in just the latest step toward a Super Bowl championship.
Denver currently holds the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff race and could still gain home-field advantage throughout if they top the Chiefs and Houston loses at Indianapolis in Week 17.
The Broncos won their NFL-high 10th straight game last Sunday when Peyton Manning finished with a season-high 339 yards passing and three touchdowns on 30-of-43 accuracy during an easy 34-12 decision over the Cleveland Browns.
Demaryius Thomas posted 102 yards and a score on nine receptions and Eric Decker added two TD receptions among his six catches for 65 yards for Denver, which has put together its first double-digit win streak since beginning its Super Bowl season of 1998 with 13 consecutive victories.
"Our goal is just to keep winning," said Thomas. "That's what we've done. We've won all 10 as a team. That's all that matters."
Knowshon Moreno totaled 78 yards on 22 carries and Jacob Hester added a touchdown run as Denver kept pace with AFC South leader Houston in the race for the top seed in the conference.
"We'll be putting all our focus and attention to Kansas City to finish out the regular season and then the chips will fall where they are," Denver coach John Fox said.
Kansas City enters its final contest of the season with a moribund 2-13 record after falling 20-13 to the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday.
The poor play on the field, however, pales in comparison to numerous off-the- field issues. Nothing can compare to Javon Belcher's murder-suicide spree back on Dec. 1, which shook the entire foundation of the league, but assistant linebackers coach Adam Zimmer added to the misery when he was arrested after the game last week for driving while intoxicated after crashing his vehicle.
"In this business, a coach told me that there are three things that happen every day that you cannot plan for, you don't expect to happen, and generally that's the case," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said when asked about the off- the-field issues. "So you have to be flexible, you have to deal with whatever comes up and you have to go forward."
Against the Colts, the Chiefs racked up 352 rushing yards on 44 carries behind Jamaal Charles second 200-yard performance of the season, The speedster recorded 226 yards on 22 carries, including an 86-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Teammate Peyton Hillis contributed 101 rushing yards, marking the first time Kansas City has had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Christian Okoye (122) and Harvey Williams (103) each accomplished the feat versus Buffalo on Oct. 7, 1991.
"You know that the runners, particularly Jamaal (Charles), have been a bright spot for this team all year," Crennel said. "He's been consistent with his ability to make big plays, and we've been able to run the ball against many teams. That's something that we need to do and have to do to give ourselves the chance to be in the game, to be competitive and go from there."
Brady Quinn, however, connected on just 10-of-22 passes for 162 yards and two interceptions in the setback for the Chiefs, and took the blame for the loss.
"Sounds like he's a standup guy," Crennel said when talking about the former Notre Dame star. "He understands that the quarterback position -- just like the head coaching position -- the buck stops at your desk. He understands that, and when things don't go well offensively, he knows that the quarterback is scrutinized. He understands that, so that's a standup guy who will stand up and say that."
The Chiefs lead the all-time series 56-48 but Denver has won five of the past eight meetings, including a 17-9 win at Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 25 behind two Manning touchdown passes.
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Denver ranks second in the NFL in scoring at 29.5 points per game and six of the team's wins during its current streak have been by double digits with the last three coming by a combined 52 points.
This team has just kept getting better and more explosive as Manning gets more comfortable with his surroundings. That said the Broncos have scored only 43 points in their last four tries against Kansas City and you can correctly point out Manning wasn't there for three of those games but understand Denver managed just 17 points in the City of Fountains back in November.
"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."
Overall, though, Peyton is 8-1 in his career versus the Chiefs.
For Denver's defense, it will be all about stopping Charles since Kansas City's offense is so one-dimensional. Charles, who rushed for 107 yards on 23 carries against the Broncos in the first meeting this season, leads the AFC in rushing with 1,456 yards and needs just 12 more to surpass his career high set in 2010. Denver's run defense, meanwhile, is third in the league at 91.0 yards per game.
It's hard to imagine Kansas City being anything more than a speed bump for a Broncos team intent on earning a first round bye.
"I think it's real important that we win this week against Kansas City -- all our focus will be on that," Fox said. "Whatever that brings, we'll react to."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10