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Chiefs vie for No. 1 seed vs. hapless Broncos, new coach

Dec 11, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris (47) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are shooting for their 15th straight win over Denver at a time when chaos is overwhelming the Broncos.

Denver is missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and interim coach Jerry Rosburg will be running the team as the Broncos aim to notch a monumental upset of the Chiefs on Sunday in Kansas City.

While the Chiefs (12-3) are fighting for the top seed in the AFC, Denver (4-11) has dropped 10 or more games for the fifth time in six seasons.

And last Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams was particularly ugly. One day later, the Broncos fired first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett after just 15 games.

In the midst of all the turmoil, Rosburg gets the opportunity to lead Denver to its first victory over the Chiefs since Sept. 17, 2015.

“Who would sign up for this?” Rosburg said at his press conference on Wednesday. “So you get to coach in the National Football League, huh? OK. Here’s the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Kansas City beat the Broncos 34-28 on Dec. 11 in Denver. Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson left that contest in the fourth quarter due to a head injury.

Wilson is the poster boy for Denver’s lackluster campaign. The Broncos gave up five draft picks (including two first-rounders) and three players to acquire Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks and then awarded him with a five-year, $242.5 million extension.

But Wilson hasn’t been a difference-maker and Denver ranks last in the NFL in scoring at 15.5 points per game. The Broncos have scored fewer than 20 points 11 times this season.

Rosburg said Wilson will remain the starting quarterback. The 34-year-old’s number of touchdown passes (12) and completion percentage (60.1) are both the worst marks of his 11-year career.

Wilson said Wednesday that he felt bad that Hackett was fired.

“He’s one of the brighter minds I’ve been around,” Wilson said of Hackett. “… The reality is, I wish I could have played better for him, too. I wish I could have played at the standard and the level that I’ve always played at and know how to play at.”

The Chiefs have little trouble moving the football as they rank first in total offense (420.6 yards per game) and second in scoring at 29.2.

Kansas City has won eight of its past nine games and shares the best AFC record with Buffalo, but the Bills own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 24-20 win over the host Chiefs on Oct. 16.

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is making a bid for his second MVP award. He leads the NFL in passing yards (4,720) and touchdown passes (37) and looks like a lock to surpass his own franchise record of 5,097 yards, set in 2018.

“I think he’s the ultimate competitor, man,” Chiefs right guard Trey Smith said of Mahomes. “Whatever the team needs to do to succeed and win, he’s gonna go out there and do it. … He’s always gonna do what this organization needs him to do to win.”

Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce is just three receptions away from recording his third 100-catch season. Kelce (1,257 yards) has back-to-back 100-yard outings and six for the season, and also is tied for the NFL lead with 12 touchdown receptions.

Running back Jerick McKinnon has scored six touchdowns (one rushing, five receiving) in December. He entered the month with one.

The Chiefs could have wideout Mecole Hardman (abdomen) back on the field for the first time since Week 9. Kansas City will likely activate him off injured reserve prior to this week’s game.

“Unless there’s a setback, I presume he’ll be there,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. “That’s where we’re at right now.”

The Broncos had eight players miss practice Wednesday due to injury, including offensive tackle Calvin Anderson (ankle), outside linebacker Randy Gregory (knee) and nose tackle Mike Purcell (elbow).

–Field Level Media