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Chiefs vs. Broncos: Game Preview

The AFC West rivalry takes center stage on “Sunday Night Football” on Christmas night



GAMETIME: 7:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, December 25, 2016LOCATION: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MissouriHOW TO WATCH:NBC (KSHB Local)HOW TO LISTEN:101.1 The FoxGAMCENTER: Chiefs.com

This Sunday, Christmas night, the world will be watching.

The Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) host the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos (8-6) in the second matchup between the two teams this season. The Chiefs dramatically defeated the Broncos, 30-27, in overtime on Sunday Night Football just four weeks ago.

While any time the Chiefs play the Broncos comes with a greater sense of importance, this game feels especially that way at this stage of 2016 for both teams. With a win, the Chiefs clinch a playoff berth for the second straight season (PLAYOFFS SCENARIOS).

"These are huge games," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said this week. "The division is extremely competitive with a ton of big rivalries—none bigger than this."

If the Broncos are going to defend their Super Bowl title, they need a win just as bad. Losing three of their last four games has put them in quite the predicament.

"It's do or die for us," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said during a conference call with the Kansas City media this week. "We know we have to win this game to have a chance to make it to the playoffs. You have to win to get in, so we know how big of a game this is for us. We're just trying to continue to play on an elite level on defense and make it hard for Alex Smith and them to be in the end zone."

That has been somewhat of a struggle lately for the Chiefs, especially in the second half. The Chiefs haven't scored an offensive touchdown in the second half in three straight weeks, something they realize will need to change if they intend to beat the Broncos Sunday.

Not being able to score after jumping out to a two-touchdown lead cost the Chiefs last week's game against the surging Tennessee Titans, who rallied back to win, 19-17.


"For us, the biggest thing is to continue to stay aggressive, which we all know," co-offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. "We came out last week and we put up 14 points right away and we all know the second half wasn't what we wanted. We're well aware of that—coaches and players. It's a mentality of finishing."

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off his best game of the season, and tight end Travis Kelce could be factors for the Chiefs. Kelce, who has been one of the best players in the league against the Broncos in recent years, needs just 63 more yards to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his four-year career.

WR Tyreek Hill, who put together a fantastic three-touchdown performance Week 12 against the Broncos, is another player they may need to adjust for, both on defense and special teams.

"We anticipate them trying to do something different," Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "They might try to move the ball a little bit more, they might try and run a fake. We've been thinking about that stuff and working on it and we're going to be on our toes. You never know what you're going to get. I've been through the same thing with Devin [Hester] in Chicago, it was very similar. He was a dynamic guy and teams would try to do different stuff. We've been there before. We have to expect the unexpected."

Similar in fashion to some of the problems the Chiefs offense has been dealing with lately, the Denver offense has also struggled the past couple of weeks. Over the span of the past four weeks, they are averaging just 15 points a game, a tie for 28th in the league.

Despite the defense holding QB Tom Brady to 188 yards passing and no touchdowns last week, the Broncos lost, 16-3.

Perhaps a positive for Broncos QB Trevor Siemian is that the best statistical game of his career came against the Chiefs earlier this season, when he threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns.


"I think one of the things that impressed us about him – not only in our game, but going in – he's a real focused guy, in my opinion," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "He doesn't let the ups and downs change how he plays the game. I think it was reflected in our game, kind of in the Tennessee game. You look up there in the end of the game and say, 'Hey, that first half wasn't very good, but at the end of the game you have 300-yards-some passing.' He's a much more gifted player than people realize."

The negative for Siemian this week is that his offense will take the field without top tight ends A.J. Derby and Virgil Green, who are both in the concussion protocol. The Broncos brought up Henry Krieger-Coble to complement third-string Jeff Heuerman and fill the void.

Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, who dominate the targets for the Broncos and each have more than 1,000 yards receiving and five touchdowns apiece on the season, are the players to watch.

The Denver defense will be without key starters in linebacker Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and safety T.J. Ward (concussion). Derek Wolfe is officially questionable due to illness.

Broncos linebacker Von Miller comes into the game with 13.5 sacks, the second best mark in the league. Kansas City native Shane Ray and cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib are other Broncos to watch on defense. Talib has three of the team's 12 interceptions on the season.

As the Broncos deal with injuries on the defensive side of the football, so too do the Chiefs. LB Justin Houston (knee) did not practice all week, and he is officially listed as questionable. Cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee) is out (FULL INJURY REPORT).

For the second time this season, the Chiefs-Broncos matchup takes the NFL's main stage on Sunday Night Football, and there really couldn't be much more on the line.

The last time an Andy Reid-coached team played on Christmas was back in 2006, when his Philadelphia Eagles took on the Dallas Cowboys needing a win to clinch a playoff berth.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys, 23-7, and did just that.

Can history repeat itself 10 years later Sunday?

Kansas City hopes so.

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