ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos (12-3) will wrap up the regular-season schedule as they host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) on Sunday. With a win, Denver will sweep the division for the first time since 1998 and secure a first-round postseason bye. Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. MST at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Below is a preview, including important matchups on each side of the ball, a key to the game for Denver and links to coverage on the contest from throughout the week.
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
The Chiefs defense held Denver to its lowest scoring output of the year in Week 12 at Kansas City. That hasn't been forgotten among Broncos players.
"They gave us a lot of challenges when we went to Kansas City," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "We know that we have to get better on first and second down. That's something we struggled at because we had a lot of third-and-longs and that's hard to convert against any team, especially a defense like theirs in this league."
Quarterback added that he has seen improvement in the Kansas City defense since the two clubs last met.
What hurt the Denver offense in the Week 12 game, as Decker touched on, was its performance on first and second downs. On average, the Broncos needed to gain 7.9 yards on each third down.
"I think early on, we played the game in third-and-long," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "That's something that hurt us. We were third-and-10-plus I think three times early in the game. We were always trying to fight and get ahead. We were always behind on down-and-distance. That's something we have to take advantage of early on first and second down to have more success."
To minimize the distance to gain on third downs, Denver will likely lean heavily on its running game, which has been led by Knowshon Moreno since the Week 12 game at Arrowhead Stadium. It was the fourth-year back's first start of the year, and he accumulated 111 all-purpose yards on 24 touches. On Thursday, McCoy spoke highly of Moreno's progress since he grabbed hold of the starting role.
"He is getting his timing down better and he has gotten better every week," McCoy said. "He deserves a ton of credit though, what he went through last year and then to go through all of the rehab and fighting through all of the pain and discomfort through training camp just to rehab to get back to where he was at one time, he deserves a lot of credit for where he is today."
Two of Moreno's four career 100-yard rushing performances have come against the Chiefs. He also has five total touchdowns against the division rival.
In Week 17, he'll look to keep that momentum going as the team heads toward the postseason.
"We know he is a talented player and it's great to see him have success," McCoy said. "He deserves it."
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
The Chiefs rushed for 352 yards last week on the road against a playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts team, so the Denver defense knows what it must prepare for.
"That's the task in front of us," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Kansas City's rushing attack. "They're very good at it. They've got a big, physical line. They've got a bunch of talented backs, including a Pro Bowler (running back Jamaal Charles) who's had a sensational year coming back from injury, and that's the challenge. They've run it on everybody. We've just got to man up, get off blocks and tackle, and get them off the field."
The Broncos have been excellent against the run in 2012, allowing just 91 yards on the ground per game. Charles, however, is one of three backs who topped the 100-yard mark against Denver this season, and the most recent one to do it.
Last week, he ran for 226 yards and a touchdown, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. He leads all AFC rushers with 1,456 yards on the ground and is ranked third in the NFL.
"Jamaal Charles is running lights out right now, probably one of the most consistent running backs in the league," linebacker Von Miller said. "We definitely have to be on our Ps and Qs. I'm sure they want to come in here and play lights out and we just have to match what they're doing."
One of the ways the Broncos held Kansas City to nine points in their last matchup was with strong red-zone defense. The Chiefs crossed the Denver 20-yard line twice in the game - both coming in the first quarter -- and were held to field goals both times.
"We played good red-area defense, which actually was the difference," Head Coach John Fox said. "That's why they had nine (points)."
Other than the Chiefs game, however, Denver's red-zone defense hasn't been as strong. It has allowed touchdowns on 61.5 percent of its opponents' possessions inside the 20, which is ranked 28th in the league. Sunday will bring an opportunity to improve in that element before heading into the playoffs.
KEY TO THE GAME: Perfect the Product
Sunday represents Denver's last chance to get live, in-game reps before taking a finished product into the playoffs. All season long, the team's mantra has been to improve every game. Against Kansas City, the team looks to make one last set of improvements. After that, it's win or go home.
"It's a great opportunity for us, and I think we're facing a tough challenge," Manning said. "We need every single opportunity that we can get in order to improve. (Sunday is) another chance to work on something."
Television: The game will be televised on KCNC-TV CBS4, with Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (color commentary) calling the game.
Local Radio:KOA (850 AM) will feature Dave Logan (play-by-play) and Ed McCaffrey (color commentary) with Andy Lindahl reporting from the sidelines.
Local Spanish Radio: KMXA (1090 AM) / KJMN (92.1 FM): Luis Canela (play-by-play), Rafael Medina and Javier Olivas (color commentary) will call the game.