The Denver Broncos beat the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago before blowing a 24-point lead to the New England Patriots on the same national stage last week.
Now the Broncos have to show what they are made of against those same Chiefs from 14 days ago.
The Broncos embarrassed themselves against the Patriots. Denver had the game in hand with a big lead and let it slip away. Critics would have been calling them one of the best if not the best team in NFL if the Broncos would have won. Blowing out the Patriots on their home field will give a team some clout.
That didn’t happen but the Broncos can make amends with a win in dreaded Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It may not be in front of a complete national audience but plenty of people with be tuning in.
A victory over the 9-2 Chiefs can almost completely secure the AFC West title and give the Broncos the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos may have to win out to grab that spot because the Patriots’ schedule has some cupcakes on it.
While Arrowhead is house of horrors for the Broncos, there is a little good news. Expert pass rusher Justin Houston will not play with an elbow injury. Tamba Hali is also hobbled a bit but is scheduled to play on Sunday.
Both of the pass rushers were silent two weeks ago but it will be tougher the second time around. The Kansas City crowd will be loud and could be a problem for Manning making line changes and audible calls.
Some of the best Broncos teams in history have struggled in Kansas City. This team ranks up there with good teams of the past but has yet to prove to be great. The 1997 Super Bowl winning team lost at Arrowhead on a last second field goal. The next year, the Broncos rolled the Chiefs on the road. And the 2005 team, which went 13-3 and made the AFC Championship game, lost late in the season in Kansas City.
Those are three of the better teams of recent history and they went 1-2. Peyton Manning made his first trip to Kansas City as a Bronco last season and held on for a 17-9 win. The Chiefs were 2-14 last season.
It is a little different this season but the Broncos have already proved they can beat the Chiefs, though that was at home. The road will be totally different.
The Broncos have been up and down in big road games this season. They beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 51-48 game and beat the San Diego Chargers by eight a couple weeks ago. There were also flops in Indy and Foxbourgh. It has been a mixed bag to say the least.
This game is different and the Broncos know it. People are looking at them different now. They have dropped to third or fourth in many power rankings across the internet. Denver needs to make a statement.
And this game sets up perfectly to make that statement. Road game against a division opponent with first place on the line. There is not much more motivation to ask for if you are the Broncos. Win and you are back on top but a loss would send you to the fifth seed.
The Broncos have the emotion of the John Fox situation. The head coach visited the team on Thursday for the first time and he is supposed to be back with the Broncos close to full time on Monday. Not that Jack Del Rio has done a bad job but it will be good to have Fox back. He brings a lot of emotion to that locker room.
Plenty of emotion and something to prove should be enough for the Broncos to net this road win. And the Broncos have looked like the better, complete team than the Chiefs. If Denver can get past the fear of playing in the crazy Arrowhead Stadium, they should be back in first place. Just where they want to be.
Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke