Photo: Denny Medley USA Today Sports
With the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos facing a must win game Sunday at Arrowhead, the victor in this contest holds the key to their playoff destiny. The loser though would be relegated to wonder how far they’ll fall by seasons end.
When the San Diego Chargers upset the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead on Sunday and the New England Patriots slapped the Denver Broncos in overtime at home, a collective sigh of relief was felt within the Chiefs nation.
Despite both teams dealing with late season injuries and bitter losses this past Sunday, only one team can lay claim to ending a losing streak on Sunday that could impact the remainder of their respective 2013 seasons.
There’s no doubt the Broncos, after coughing up a 24-point second half lead at New England, will do their utmost to wash away the stain of that loss by coming into Arrowhead and posting a huge victory over Kansas City.
On the flip side, the Chiefs suffered their worst defeat of the season against San Diego. But with the Broncos loss and a huge sigh of relief, the two teams remain tied atop the AFC West standings.
The Chiefs, much like Denver, want to show they belong in the AFC elite conversation. The only way Kansas City can regain control of the division and respect within the circle of non-believers – will be to defeat the Broncos soundly.
Both teams are dealing with injuries. For the Chiefs, linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are banged up. In Denver, running back, Knowshon Moreno and Defensive Tackle, Kevin Vickerson.
Of the four Vickerson, who could be sidelined for six weeks, and Houston, likely out for a shorter spell, will be the key missing ingredients that both teams will have to deal with on Sunday.
Still others have nagging injuries that could put them on the field but neither team is going to be close to full strength. But that’s why you have 53-man rosters in the NFL to battle injuries. The next guys have to step up.
That aside, this game likely won’t boil down to the unhealthy bodies but fall upon the players who collectively understand what’s at stake for the winner.
If the Chiefs win, they control the AFC West, home field advantage and return to a schedule where they’ll likely be favored in three of their final four games. The Broncos are in the same boat. Should they win Sunday over Kansas City it’s likely the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will run through Mile High.
At issue for the Chiefs on Sunday is simply how they adjust to back-to-back losses. What will be paramount to their success in December and January will be what they learned as they face their first real adversity of the season.
Should the Chiefs drop to 9-3 then suddenly the self doubt could seize their subconscious enough this team could finish at 10-6. Granted that makes the playoffs in the AFC but it will unearth so many other issues this team has brilliantly kept under wraps since they started the season 9-0.
The Broncos in my view have their backs against the wall. They are solely riding the guts and talents of Quarterback, Peyton Manning. He more than any other person on the field Sunday understands his team has to prevail or their season of promise could disappear in a flash.
Two weeks ago the Broncos wanted to win their first match more than the Chiefs. On Sunday, the reverse has to be the case for Kansas City.
There can’t be any scenario in the aftermath of Sunday’s contest at Arrowhead for the Chiefs, other than to come out victorious. In other words, they have to treat this game as if it’s an elimination game. In their recent history, the Chiefs have showed an inability to do just that.
For all practical purposes, Kansas City has an opportunity to do something they’ve NOT done at Arrowhead since Joe Montana was their starting quarterback in 1993, win a big game at home.
In over two decades, Arrowhead has never hosted a game of this magnitude. Sure the Chiefs hosted a playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens nearly three years ago but this game has far more meaning.
This is a statement game for Kansas City. Despite the loss to New England most believe Denver is the far better team. In fact, everyone expects the Chiefs to fall to their third straight loss on Sunday. The buzz around the NFL continues to suggest the Chiefs are not a good football team and their demise from Super Bowl contender to one and done in the playoffs, is simply just another Broncos loss away from reality.
Until the games conclusion we can argue the merits of that statement all we want. But the only people that can change that perception are the 53-men in the Chiefs locker room and the coaching staff that has to lead them to victory on Sunday.
No game is more critical to Head Coach, Andy Reid, as the one he’s about to face on Sunday. If he wants to wash away the reverse omen of Amen Corner, two decades of Arrowhead futility, and show he can deliver the goods with the pressure of the season on the line, he has to be brilliant in this rematch.
For the Chiefs players, they simply have to want to win this game more than the Broncos. If they can bring that win at all costs attitude to the field of battle on Sunday, the stench of their short losing streak will be a distant memory.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Will the Chiefs rise to the top of the AFC West on Sunday?
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