Nothing seems to be going right in KC, and major changes could be underway this offseason after the young and talented roster has failed to even approach expectations.
Peyton Manning will face a relatively stingy Chiefs secondary without the backfield support of typical starting RB Willis McGahee, who is dealing with a torn MCL and will not return until the postseason. The Broncos should be fine, though, thanks to a turnover-prone Chiefs team that has turned to 2011 Bronco Brady Quinn under center.
Here is a closer look at Sunday afternoon's showdown, including a prediction as to how this game will play out.
Current Betting Line (via OddsShark):
Spread: Denver (-11.5)
Money Line: Denver (-500), Kansas City (+400)
This line could arguably be higher. Denver has won five straight games, while the Chiefs are in the midst of a seven-game slide that doesn't look to be ending anytime soon. Perhaps Romeo Crennel can pull out a genius defensive scheme to stifle Manning, but don't count on it.
What's at Stake
Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, the franchise is mired in a battle with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. Other than that, there isn't much at stake for Kansas City, other than seeing if Quinn has any semblance of a chance to be the team's QB moving forward.
Another key division win is up for grabs for the Broncos, and it's unlikely that Manning will allow his team to blow such a golden opportunity.
With a three-game lead and a tiebreaker already over the San Diego Chargers, Manning and Co. could march further toward locking up the West very early on.
Injury News (via ESPN):
Willis McGahee, RB (knee) PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE: It's important to emphasize that the veteran back can be recalled for the postseason. In the meantime, Knowshon Moreno will try to prove he isn't a bust as the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft, and others such as Ronnie Hillman, Jeremiah Johnson and Lance Ball will look to pick up the slack.
Kansas City Chiefs
Tony Moeaki, TE (shoulder/back) QUESTIONABLE: After a promising rookie campaign, Moeaki blew out his knee in the 2011 preseason, and is now battling through various ailments. The Chiefs acquired former Giants tight end Kevin Boss, but Moeaki's absence certainly won't help KC's offensive cause.
This will come down to the Chiefs' secondary against the Broncos' passing attack. KC gives up just under 215 yards per game through the air, and the Chiefs will need their best performance of 2012 to match wits with Manning. The chances of that happening are slightly improved sans McGahee, but there is so much more for the troubled Chiefs to overcome even if they can contain the future Hall of Famer.
11th Hour Fantasy Advice:
Peyton Manning: Not the greatest matchup in the world for the legendary QB, but that typically doesn't matter. The Broncos have weathered an extremely difficult schedule to this point in the 2012 season, and Manning is having another MVP-type campaign. Expect big things and multiple TDs once again, with KC likely to turn it over and give the Denver offense short fields.
Demaryius Thomas: This should be a big day for the Broncos' big play receiver. Thomas averages 16.4 yards per catch and leads the team with 57 receptions for 933 yards. Even though the Chiefs have been pretty stout against the pass, don't expect Thomas to be denied at least one deep shot and a trip to the end zone.
Jamaal Charles: As explosive as Charles is, he's got to be a stay-away this Sunday. His receiving ability out of the backfield may provide Quinn with a security blanket, but the Denver defense will be keying on him at the center of their game plan. Running the ball will be nearly impossible, especially once KC falls behind.
Dwayne Bowe: It's never easy to go up against Champ Bailey, and the return of Tracy Porter will make Bowe's job on the other side of the field all the more difficult. Not to mention, having Quinn throwing him passes can't be much of an upgrade from Matt Cassel. Bowe typically succeeds in spite of the incompetence around him, though, so he's worth a play despite the matchup.
The total of 44 seems about right for this one, but it will likely go a little bit higher due to an inconsequential touchdown by Kansas City in garbage time.
This should be a blowout due to the mismatch at quarterback. With the way the Broncos are playing right now, they almost look unbeatable. It's unlikely they'll suffer a letdown in such a key, winnable division game.
Final Score: Broncos 34, Chiefs 13