Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

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Chiefs to play it straight, not safe, at Denver

Kansas City will cruise into Denver on Saturday with a chance to finish with the top seed in the AFC while knowing a loss to the Broncos could slide the Chiefs down to the fourth spot.

While potential No. 1 seed Cincinnati — Tennessee and New England also could climb into the home-field and first-round bye scenario — declared a week of rest for several starters, Kansas City heads into its final game of the regular season planning to keep its foot on the gas.

The Titans have the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, needing just to beat Houston on Sunday to clinch it. The Chiefs, who currently are No. 2, can put pressure on the Titans with a win Saturday afternoon.

If both Kansas City and Tennessee win in Week 18, the Chiefs will still secure the No. 2 seed, and while it won’t mean a first-round bye, it does ensure at least two home games should the Chiefs get past the wildcard round.

Kansas City (11-5) controlled its fate until a 34-31 loss at Cincinnati in Week 17. That clinched the AFC North for the Bengals kept them alive for the top seed, should the Chiefs and Titans both lose.

The loss to the Bengals – after Kansas City led 28-14 – stung and will be a motivation going into the game against the Broncos (7-9).

“After you lose a game like you lost [Sunday], it shouldn’t be difficult to get ready to go again the next week,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I think guys will be ready to go. We’re playing Denver, and they’re a good football team. They gave us a challenge this last time we played them, like they always do, and we’re playing in Denver, which is a tough place to play. We’ll try to fix some things and play better football this week.”

The Chiefs have won 12 straight against the Broncos, a reversal of fortunes from Peyton Manning’s days as quarterback in Denver from 2012-15.

A 13th straight win looks likely with the Broncos limping toward the finish line. Denver has lost at least three straight for the second time this season and was eliminated from the postseason with a loss at the Los Angeles Chargers last week.

This week has been less about preparing for Kansas City and more about the future of the franchise. The Broncos’ ownership situation is still in limbo, and the fate of head coach Vic Fangio is a big topic. Fangio is 19-29 in his three seasons as the head coach.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur also could be on the hot seat with the offense struggling.

“I don’t think about it, I really don’t worry about it,” Shurmur said. “We as coaches, we are where our feet are, and we’re getting ready to play this game and do everything in our power to put a winning performance on the field.”

Denver’s defense has been the stronger of the two units, and the revolving door of quarterbacks hasn’t helped the offense. Drew Lock, last year’s starter, lost the job to Teddy Bridgewater but hasn’t been able to produce enough points. With Bridgewater going on injured reserve with a concussion, Lock will start his third straight game.

Safety Kareem Jackson and guard Dalton Risner also were placed on injured reserve.

The Broncos activated 12 players from the COVID-19 list, most notably receivers Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, and Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning, Bryce Callahan and Mike Purcell on the defense.

Kansas City’s most notable absence from Wednesday’s practice was running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder injury), but coach Andy Reid won’t rule him out for Saturday’s game.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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