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Playing for the Playoffs

Posted Dec 31, 2011

The Broncos can claim the AFC West title with a win in the regular season finale Sunday against the Chiefs.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For all intensive purposes, the postseason starts tomorrow for the Denver Broncos.

Defeat the Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Week 17 and they’ll clinch the AFC West title. Denver can also advance to the postseason if the Raiders lose to San Diego.

“This is the beginning of our playoffs,” Head Coach John Fox said. “It’s that type of mentality, that type of intensity, that kind of preparation. It’s against a very good division opponent.”

A division opponent the Broncos know well.

The next installment of this longtime AFC West rivalry features some added familiarity.

Former Denver quarterback Kyle Orton is set to start under center for Kansas City against the team he practiced and played with for three years.

“You can know everybody all you want,” defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. “But once you get hit in the mouth on the first play, all that goes out the window.”

“I could care less,” offensive guard Zane Beadles added. “It’s the Broncos versus the Chiefs … it doesn’t matter who’s on that team.”

What matters is the Chiefs are the final team on the schedule, a team standing between the Broncos and the postseason.

Kansas City -- last year’s AFC West champion -- has played well for interim head coach Romeo Crennel, who replaced Todd Haley after a Week 14 loss to the Jets. Under Crennel’s lead, the Chiefs knocked off the previously unbeaten Packers before falling to the Raiders a week later in overtime.

Crennel previously served as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator and after his promotion to head coach the Kansas City defense led by linebackers Tamba Hali (12 sacks) and Derrick Johnson (126 tackles) held the high-powered Green Bay offense to just 14 points and their rivals from Oakland to 16.

The Broncos and their top-ranked rushing attack ran the ball a season-high 55 times for 244 yards against the Kansas City defense earlier this season -- a defense that currently ranks 23rd against the run.

Denver may need more balance this time around, but establishing a physical presence on the ground will be a top priority once again Sunday.

“I think it’s very important to keep them off balance, to make it a physical game and show our physicality once we go out there,” quarterback Tim Tebow said. “Just from a motivational standpoint, what we preach, we always want to be the more physical team.”

The Denver defense also hopes to bring a physical brand of football Sunday.

After allowing the Bills to rush for 160 yards in last week’s loss, the Broncos want to bounce back with a strong performance against the run to put the Chiefs off-balance and open up opportunities for Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil (21 combined sacks) to rush the passer.

Cornerback Champ Bailey knows how hard it is to reach the postseason and he expects the Broncos to put forth an inspired effort with all that’s on the line.

“I’ve been in this situation before and you don’t realize it until you get older that those opportunities pass you by,” Bailey said. “If you don’t take advantage of them, you never know when it’s going to come back again.”

His quarterback believes Denver’s play will reflect the game’s magnitude.

“We’re going to be extremely focused. This is what you play for,” Tebow said. “It’s just like another playoff game for us. We are excited about it and we’re motivated. I believe we’ll go out there and leave everything on the field.”