4:25 PM ET, December 1, 2013
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
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.
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.
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|Avg Points Allowed||26.4||17.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DEN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DEN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Denver leads 17-9|
|Nov 17, 2013||DEN 27, KC 17|
|Dec 30, 2012||DEN 38, KC 3|
|Nov 25, 2012||DEN 17, @KC 9|
|Jan 1, 2012||DEN 3, KC 7|
|Nov 13, 2011||DEN 17, @KC 10|
|Dec 5, 2010||DEN 6, @KC 10|
|Nov 14, 2010||DEN 49, KC 29|
|Jan 3, 2010||DEN 24, KC 44|
|Dec 6, 2009||DEN 44, @KC 13|
|Dec 7, 2008||DEN 24, KC 17|
|Sep 28, 2008||DEN 19, @KC 33|
|Dec 9, 2007||DEN 41, KC 7|
|Nov 11, 2007||DEN 27, @KC 11|
|Nov 23, 2006||DEN 10, @KC 19|
|Sep 17, 2006||DEN 9, KC 6|
|Dec 4, 2005||DEN 27, @KC 31|
|Sep 26, 2005||DEN 30, KC 10|
|Dec 19, 2004||DEN 17, @KC 45|
|Nov 6, 2004||DEN 17, KC 11|
|Sep 12, 2004||DEN 34, KC 24|
|Dec 7, 2003||DEN 45, KC 27|
|Oct 5, 2003||DEN 23, @KC 24|
|Dec 15, 2002||DEN 31, KC 24|
|Oct 20, 2002||DEN 37, @KC 34|
|Dec 16, 2001||DEN 23, @KC 26|
|Oct 7, 2001||DEN 20, KC 6|
With Justin Houston on the field this season, opposing QB are posting a 27.9 Total QBR, while completing 54.8 pct of their passes. Opposing QB have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns with Houston on the field. Without Houston, opposing quarterbacks are much more productive, completing just under 66 pct of their passes, while posting a Total QBR of 94.4.[+]
Opposing QB This Season - With Justin Houston On/Off Field
Here's a look at the impact that Tamba Hali and Justin Houston have on defense. Hali and Houston have 1 more forced fumble and 3 more sacks than the rest of the team combined this season.[+]
Dynamic Duo - Chiefs Defense This Season
A big reason the Broncos were able to hand the Chiefs their 1st loss in Week 11 was Peyton Manning's ability to be productive on offense, despite Tamba Hali and Justin Houston's presence on defense. Manning completed 6 pct more of his passes than all other opposing QB vs the Chiefs combined this season, while posting a 66.5 Total QBR (41.7 points better than all other QB combined).[+]
Jamaal Charles had 21 touches for 120 yards Sunday, almost twice as many yards from scrimmage as in the Chiefs' Week 11 loss to the Broncos (66). Charles has at least 120 yards from scrimmage in eight games this season, most of any player in the league.
Demaryius Thomas' 77-yard catch had 55 yards after the catch. That's the fifth play this season on which the Chiefs defense has allowed at least 40 YAC, tied for most in the league (Rams).
Peyton Manning had a 97.2 Total QBR Sunday, his highest in a game since Week 17 last season, also against the Chiefs (99.0). Manning has posted a Total QBR above 90.0 in 13 games since he joined the Broncos, easily the most in the NFL.[+]
Eric Decker: 1st player in Broncos history with 4 Rec TD in game
Peyton Manning completed 8-of-10 passes 15 or more yards downfield for 268 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Entering Sunday, Manning had been off-target (over or underthrown) on almost 60 percent of his deep attempts in the three games since Denver's bye. Manning missed on one of his 10 deep attempts Sunday. - Manning completed as many deep passes to Eric Decker (5-of-6, 3 TD, Int targeting Decker at least 15 yards downfield) as he had total deep completions in his previous three games combined. - Decker is the first player to catch three passes more than 30 yards downfield in a single game since Malcolm Floyd in Week 5 of 2010 against the Raiders. - Manning's completion percentage on deep throws (80 percent) was his highest since the start of 2006 (Stats and Info's data set) in a game with more than five deep attempts.[+]
Peyton Manning Passing At Least 15 Yds Downfield, Last 4 Games
The Broncos sent at least five rushers after Alex Smith on half of his dropbacks (23-of-46), a season high for the Denver defense. Though Smith wasn't sacked, he finished with a negative TD-Int differential against the blitz for only the second time this season.[+]
Alex Smith Passing by Pass Rushers, Sunday
What a game for Eric Decker as he hauls in 4 touchdown receptions... in the past 10 seasons he's just the 4th player to manage that. Marvin Jones of Cincy did it earlier this season, but before them only Randy Moss and Terrell Owens had at least 4 touchdown catches in a game in that span.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information