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Preview: Kansas City Chiefs take on the Denver Broncos on Christmas night

Chiefs need to defeat the Broncos to keep playoff hopes alive.

Image

Chiefs playing at Arrowhead Stadium-Kansas City, Mo

courtesy of wikimedia

Dec. 24, 2016

Sunday will be just another gameday for the Chiefs, as they’ll be trying to give Kansas City the best Christmas gift any Chiefs fan could ask for: clinching a playoff berth. The Chiefs will take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium, looking for a win that would earn them a second-consecutive postseason appearance.

In their last meeting, the Broncos and the Chiefs played an intense game at Sports Authority Field in Denver. On a bitterly cold night, it would take overtime for one team to prevail. With the score tied at 27 in the dying seconds of OT, it was Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos who helped Kansas City seal the win with a 34-yard field goal that bounced off of the left upright, then through. At the time, the win put the Chiefs atop the AFC West standings, ahead of both Denver and the Oakland Raiders.

What’s on the line?

Despite the loss to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, the 10-4 Chiefs are still in a safe position to earn a playoff spot. In fact, the Chiefs could clinch a playoff berth before even stepping onto the field. A Baltimore Ravens loss Sunday afternoon would guarantee the Chiefs a Wild Card spot at the very least. Should the Ravens beat the Steelers Sunday, a Chiefs win would also clinch the wild card spot.

The primary goal for Kansas City, though, is still to win the AFC West and to gain a first-round bye. Headed into the weekend, the Chiefs sat a half-game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West standings. On Saturday, Oakland took care of business, beating the Indianapolis Colts 33-25, and remain atop the AFC West. are in control of their own destiny. The Chiefs must win Sunday to keep pace in the division title race. A loss on Sunday night would cede the division title to Oakland.

A possible playoff spot is at stake for the Denver Broncos as well. However, at 8-6, the Broncos are out of the division title race, and can only hope to make the playoffs as a wild card.

Note: While the Raiders are still in first-place in the AFC West, and are in line to win the division title, they lost starting quarterback Derek Carr to a broken fibula on Saturday which will likely sideline the Pro Bowler for the remainder of the season.

What the Chiefs need to do to win

There’s a number of important skills that go into playing winning football, and the Kansas City Chiefs lack what may the most important skill of all: scoring consistently.

In their last three games, Kansas City has been unable to score in the second half. Quarterback Alex Smith has been responsible for several mistakes that have kept the Chiefs from putting more points on the board.

End zone interceptions from Smith have been common in Chiefs losses, a prime example coming last Saturday in the loss against Tennessee. Smith has struggled in the red zone all season long. His red zone completion percentage of 24 percent ranks second-worst in the NFL this year.

The one man on Kansas City’s offense who could give Denver’s stout defense real trouble is Tyreek Hill, who was outstanding player in the last meeting between the two teams a month ago.

During their last meeting, Tyreek Hill accounted for three of the Chiefs touchdowns. Hill had an impressive 36-yard touchdown reception, a 68-yard run for a touchdown and a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown to keep the Chiefs on top. With six receiving touchdowns on the season, Hill has accounted for more than a third of the team’s receiving touchdowns. Hill’s speed is a threat at all times; the Broncos must contain him if they want to win.

Injury Report

Linebacker Justin Houston is listed as questionable to play in Sunday night's game. Houston did not practice with the team this week due to soreness in his knee.

Linebacker Justin March-Lillard has been on the injured reserve for two months after breaking a bone in his hand, but was activated by the Chiefs this week. His activation marks the end of running back Jamaal Charles’ season, who has been on the injured reserve since week three after requiring additional knee surgery. By league rules, a team is allowed to reactivate one player from the injured reserve each season, thus Charles will spend the remainder of this season on the sideline.

The Chiefs kick off Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern at Arrowhead Stadium on NBC.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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