Denver Broncos: 5 X-Factors for Week 17 Matchup vs. Kansas City Chiefs
A win secures them the AFC West title and a spot in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed. A loss ensures them a bout of embarrassment and makes their chances for postseason play very slim.
The Broncos have made matters very tough for themselves after a rough loss in Buffalo last week, yet the good news for the Mile High faithful is that they still control their own fate.
Here are five factors that will play a crucial role in the outcome of Sunday's AFC West showdown.
5. Lance Ball
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The Kansas City Chiefs have been amazingly stingy defending the run this season.
In their big Week 15 win over the Green Bay Packers, they held Ryan Grant to fewer than 70 yards.
In last week's loss to Oakland, they held Michael Bush to only 70 yards.
With Willis McGahee still shaking off some injuries, Lance Ball will have to step it up and find the holes.
Denver's passing game is average at best, so the ability to run the ball is key to their success.
Ball had 96 yards when the Chiefs and Broncos met in November.
4. Dwayne Bowe
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Dwayne Bowe is one of the best—and certainly one of the most physical—wide receivers in the NFL.
At 221 pounds, he easily outweighs most cornerbacks in the league.
Andre Goodman and Champ Bailey, the starting corners on Denver, both weigh less than 200 pounds.
Bowe is going to shove these guys around and make sure he gets his receptions.
He looked to have a great chemistry with quarterback Kyle Orton last week, collecting six receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.
3. Tim Tebow
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As an option quarterback, Tim Tebow is an x-factor in every Denver Broncos game, yet this week he may be more of one than ever.
When Denver had their fantastic 7-1 run with Tebow as their starter, he was doing one thing well above all others—controlling the football.
Tebow threw just two interceptions all season before Sunday's game in Buffalo, where he threw four—yes, four—in one game. Two of those were returned for touchdowns.
Tebow must, above anything else, control the football against Kansas City.
Panicking and throwing a pick cannot be an option.
2. Jackie Battle
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Jackie Battle hasn't looked very impressive as the running back for the Kansas City Chiefs in recent weeks.
In his last three games, he has rushed for just 33, 37 and 56 yards. He has one touchdown in that span.
That being said, Denver's defense was completely overtaken by Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller in last week's loss. He ran for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Allowing that much offense to one player on an opposing team when Denver scores as little as they do is unacceptable.
The Denver defense needs to continue to carry the load for this team if they want to make it into the postseason.
1. Kyle Orton
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You want a storyline?
The starting quarterback who gets benched in favor of Tim Tebow and then released is starting against the team that released him. Drama-rama.
Kyle Orton no doubt has a chip on his shoulder, and after smoking the Oakland Raiders for 300 yards last week, Denver has to be concerned, and better yet, prepared.
Orton is different than other visiting quarterbacks—he knows how to play in Denver, is familiar with the air pressure in the stadium and, most importantly, has put up huge passing numbers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Orton could make or break Denver's shot at the postseason, and he would certainly love to do the latter.