ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' season has not gone according to plan.
When Denver set out on its 2022 campaign, the team had aspirations to reach the playoffs — and to accomplish something once in the postseason.
Yet as the Broncos battle out the remainder of a disappointing season, they've still got an opportunity in front of them.
The Chiefs head to Denver with a 13-game series winning streak in tow, and they're led by a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who is undefeated in nine appearances against the Broncos.
The Broncos have done a solid job of limiting Mahomes in recent matchups, as he's averaged just one touchdown pass a game over the last four contests. In a Week 13 matchup in Kansas City last year, the Broncos held Mahomes to 15-of-29 for 184 yards and an interception.
Still, the Broncos have been unable to knock off Mahomes or the Chiefs. And while Denver's season will not end with a playoff berth, there may still be value in stopping the streak and handing Mahomes the first road AFC West loss of his career.
"It would be huge, obviously, and especially at this point in the season, too," safety Justin Simmons said. "I try not to look at a lot of the stuff in the past. I think really focusing on just the season and having kind of a losing skid in the last few games, at this point in the year, it would just feel so great to get a win, and obviously, against the Chiefs, an AFC West opponent. They've obviously been at the top with the AFC West for a few years now. This win would absolutely mean everything, especially playing it at home. We've got the crowd behind it, so it's going to be big."
The Broncos have had their chances to end the streak. They fell in overtime at home in 2016 and in the final minutes of a home matchup in 2018. In Week 13 of 2020, the Broncos held a lead late in the third quarter in Arrowhead Stadium before they eventually fell 22-16. And in the season finale a year ago, Denver held a 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter and was poised to add to that lead before the Chiefs returned a fumble 86 yards for the deciding score.
Toss in that the Broncos have played 10 one-score games this season, and it's possible they may finally be able to turn the tide.
"We are right there," Pat Surtain II said. "You can see last year and a couple of seasons prior to last year, we were very close. It was just that one drive or that one play that changes the game. Obviously, it's going to be a great game coming up. We have a lot to prove, so it should be very exciting."
A Broncos win wouldn't remove the bitter taste of a losing season, but it would represent both a signature win and signify that the Broncos have the ability to close the gap in future seasons. Denver, too, could potentially ride a win to some late-season success.
In a vacuum, though, a win would still matter. As Dalton Risner, a Colorado native, pointed out on Thursday, this matchup is always of the utmost importance.
"[It's] very personal," Risner said. "It's the [AFC] West. [Head] Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett does a great job of stressing the importance of the West. We may be 3-9 right now, but as football players, as a football team and as an organization, you can't worry about that. You have to go out there and be focused on beating the Chiefs. It's been a good number of years since we've beaten these guys. Everyone knows they are a good football team, and we have to give our hats off to them because they are a good football team and they're playing great ball. This one is personal. It's personal every week, of course, because you want to get those wins, but it's extra personal when it comes to the Chiefs — not only for this organization, but for me and my household. The Broncos are a great franchise and a great organization that's had a lot of success.
"We want to get back to doing that, and it starts with winning this game on Sunday."