For the third consecutive week, the Broncos will face an opponent with an active winning streak of at least five games.
The Dolphins carried a five-game winning streak into Empower Field at Mile High, which the Broncos snapped in Week 11. In Week 12, the Saints brought a seven-game win streak of their own to Denver, which they extended to eight games.
The Chiefs, though, with a six-game winning streak, are a different beast. They've won 19 of their last 20 games, and they are jockeying for position for the first-overall seed in the AFC.
Denver is worried about a different winning streak. The Chiefs have won 10 consecutive games over the Broncos, and Patrick Mahomes has won all six of his starts against Denver.
On Sunday, the Broncos will have an opportunity to end the skid on a national stage. For the first time since 2017, the Broncos will be featured on "Sunday Night Football" and can earn a prime-time win. With a victory, Denver would do more than earn its fifth win of the season and deny the Chiefs a chance to wrap up another division title. The Broncos would also show the Chiefs — and the nation —that they're back to being competitive in the rivalry.
CAN THE BRONCOS WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE?
Need proof of the value of winning the turnover margin? Early in the Broncos' Week 7 loss to Kansas City, Denver's offense appeared listless as it went three-and-out on two consecutive possessions to start the game. Then, with the Chiefs holding a 7-0 lead, the Broncos forced a fumble that they recovered at Kansas City 37-yard line. Four plays later, the Broncos scored a touchdown to pull within a point of Kansas City.
The Broncos, though, couldn't maintain the momentum. Melvin Gordon III lost a fumble and Lock threw a pick-six in the second quarter, and Denver finished with four turnovers in the loss. Holding onto the ball and making good decisions will be paramount to Denver's chances of winning.
That won't be enough, though. The Broncos will also need to find a way to force the Chiefs into mistakes, which they've avoided all season. Mahomes has thrown just two interceptions this season, and Kansas City ranks second in the NFL in giveaways.
The Broncos will need to accomplish more than just winning the turnover battle, but that will be a key factor. It's likely not a coincidence that the Broncos' last win over the Chiefs came the last time they won the turnover battle. That was way back in Week 2 of the 2015 season in Arrowhead Stadium. They'll aim to grab another road win on "Sunday Night Football."
CAN DENVER SURVIVE THE LOSS OF BRYCE CALLAHAN?
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had 203 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Buccaneers — and that was just in the first quarter. Hill finished with 13 catches for a season-high 269 yards and three touchdowns, and he now has 68 catches for 1,021 yards and a career-high 14 touchdowns on the season.
Through 12 weeks, Hill and tight end Travis Kelce rank second and third in the NFL in receiving yards, respectively. That could pose a big challenge for the Broncos' defense, particularly without Bryce Callahan available. Callahan, who was arguably playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level, suffered a foot injury against the Saints and will miss at least the next three weeks. In Callahan's absence, the Broncos will rely on A.J. Bouye, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and a host of other players to slow Kansas City's first-ranked passing offense and second-ranked scoring offense. The Broncos have a few options without Callahan available. Essang Bassey will likely assume the slot cornerback responsibilities, and Michael Ojemudia and De'Vante Bausby figure to be options opposite Bouye.
Facing Mahomes, who is playing at an MVP-level, with a full-strength secondary would be difficult. With two rookies likely to play significant snaps on Sunday, it becomes that much more challenging. The Broncos will need to find a way to apply pressure to Mahomes, preferably with four players. If they can do that, perhaps the secondary can hold up.
CAN THE BRONCOS FIND SUCCESS AGAIN ON THE GROUND?
If the Broncos have one edge against the Chiefs, it may be on the ground. Denver's 14th-ranked rushing attack will face off against the Chiefs' 23rd-ranked rushing defense. The Chiefs are allowing nearly 130 yards per game on the ground, and in the team's Week 7 meeting, Phillip Lindsay found early success against the Chiefs' front. Before exiting with a concussion, Lindsay tallied nine carries for 79 yards in the first half. Four of those carries went for at least nine yards, and three gained at least 14 yards.
A productive run game could help the Broncos gain an edge in time of possession and keep Mahomes off the field. It also may take pressure off Lock, who threw 40 passes in the team's first meeting with Kansas City. In Denver's last game with Lock under center, a potent running attack helped the Broncos score on three of their final four first-half possessions. Denver also sustained four drives of at least nine plays.
The Broncos may not be able to rack up 189 yards on the ground like they did against the Dolphins, but if they can find balance, they'll be in better position to earn a win.