Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs can clinch a second straight playoff berth and their third in four years when they face the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
If the Chiefs (10-4) win on Christmas night, they’d make their third trip to the playoffs in four years under coach Andy Reid, and retain an outside chance at beating the Raiders for the AFC West title.
Denver (8-6) needs to win to keep pace in a crowded AFC wild-card race. The division rivals are playing their second game in a month, after a 30-27 overtime road win for Kansas City on Nov. 27th.
The Broncos had a brief disagreement in their locker room following a home loss to New England last week, but say they have moved past it.
The rise of the Raiders this season and the continued success of the Chiefs has crowded out the defending Super Bowl champions. Quarterback Trevor Siemian played well against the Chiefs last month with three touchdown passes and a season-high 368 yards, so the Broncos will like their chances, even on the road following a discouraging loss.
The Chiefs are coming off a puzzling loss to the Tennessee Titans in which they were held scoreless in the second half and beaten on a long field goal as time expired.
Smith has been frustratingly mediocre for the Chiefs this season. It has been two months since he has thrown for more than one TD in a game, but he has mostly limited turnovers enough to keep Kansas City alive.
Players to watch:
Chiefs WR/returner Tyreek Hill, who was kicked off his college team for choking and hitting his pregnant girlfriend, scored rushing, receiving and return TDs against the Broncos in November.
Chiefs LB Dee Ford has more than a third of Kansas City’s sacks, with 10 to his name alone.
Broncos WRs Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders each have more than 1,000 yards receiving this season and five TDs apiece.
Broncos LB Shane Ray is behind Von Miller’s team-leading 13.5 sacks, but still has seven to his name and is a dangerous presence with two fumbles recovered and a TD as well this season.