At KANSAS CITY (4-4)
TV - Noon, CBS, Sunflower Channels 5, 13, 201.
LINE - Chiefs by 3.
RECORD VS. SPREAD - Broncos 1-7; Chiefs 4-3-1.
SERIES RECORD - Chiefs lead 52-42.
LAST MEETING - Chiefs 19, Broncos 10, Nov. 23, 2006 at Kansas City.
LAST WEEK - Broncos lost to Lions 44-7; Chiefs lost to Packers 33-22.
BRONCOS OFFENSE - OVERALL (10), RUSH (13), PASS (12)
BRONCOS DEFENSE - OVERALL (26), RUSH (32), PASS (8)
CHIEFS OFFENSE - OVERALL (30), RUSH (30), PASS (17)
CHIEFS DEFENSE - OVERALL (13), RUSH (14), PASS (19)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Home team has won nine straight regular-season games between these teams. ... Denver, losers in five of last six games, has dropped below .500 halfway through season for first time since 1999. ... Broncos have lost two games by 37 points or more for first time since 1967. ... Broncos have allowed league-high 161.5 yards per game on ground. ... In three starts vs. AFC West, QB Jay Cutler has completed 63 of 99 passes (63.6 percent) for 689 yards with three TDs and three INTs. ... QB Patrick Ramsey made Broncos debut last week and completed 29 of 46 passes (63.0 percent) for 262 yards with a TD and an INT. ... RB Travis Henry has rushed for 250 yards in two games against Chiefs.
Kansas City, Mo. Only a year ago, Kansas City and Denver would have needed 15-1 records to barrel past San Diego in the rough-and-ready AFC West.
Now it's looking like 8-8 might sneak away with the title. Or perhaps to the NFL's embarrassment, the AFC West could become the first division to crown a sub-.500 champ.
If favored Indianapolis wins at San Diego on Sunday and Denver beats Larry Johnson-less Kansas City, the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers will all be atop the division with 4-5 records.
Denver would own the tiebreaker because of a better division record and Champ Bailey, for one, would not be apologizing.
The Denver cornerback figures that going into the postseason at no better than break-even might actually work to a team's advantage.
"It doesn't look good, but it causes people to kind of sleep on you a little bit," Bailey said. "If you go into the playoffs with an 8-8 record, nobody is really going to respect you. The thing is, if you are in the playoffs ... anything can happen."
As they go limping into their meeting Sunday in KC, the Broncos and Chiefs look more like punch-drunk heavyweights than clear-eyed contenders. The Broncos (3-5), losers of five of their last six, were at least hopeful quarterback Jay Cutler would be ready to go. The left leg that was badly bruised in Sunday's 44-7 blowout loss to Detroit had healed enough to let him practice on Wednesday.
And that's a lot more than the Chiefs (4-4) could say about Johnson, their two-time Pro Bowl running back who has been declared out this week with a foot injury, and could in fact be gone much longer.
And that brings 34-year-old Priest Holmes all the way back from the career graveyard. The former Pro Bowler, whose spinal injury in October 2005 was thought to have finished him as a professional football player, will make his first start in more than two years and probably share time with Kolby Smith, a rookie who hasn't carried at all this year for a Kansas City offense that's been feeble even with its star.
In brief appearances in the last two games, Holmes has carried seven times for 17 yards, including a 2-point conversion in last week's 33-22 loss to Green Bay.
For an offense that's been averaging under 80 yards rushing, it's probably a good week to be hosting a Denver team whose run defense is the worst in the NFL, giving up more than 161 yards a game.
But aren't those the sort of stats one might expect among teams in one of the weakest divisions in the league?
"Don't worry about stats," said Chiefs receiver Eddie Kennison, who figures to make a contribution now that a hamstring injury has fully healed. "Any team can show up on any Sunday and play well. It doesn't matter what the stats say. It's who shows up on Sunday."
The most intriguing figure on the field by far will be Holmes. He arrived almost unannounced in training camp and said he'd had a dream that he was playing football, so he was ready to give it a try. For coaches, teammates and fans, skepticism slowly turned to admiration as Holmes worked hard to get himself in shape after being away from the game for 22 months.
Since he was placed back on the roster, his few appearances have hardly been enough to gauge how effective he can be, or how many carries he can make. Now, he'll get his first start in more than two years.
One concern is the makeup of the offensive line. Gone are 12-time Pro Bowlers Will Shields and Willie Roaf who so expertly cleared the path on the sweeps and screens a younger Holmes ran so well from 2001-05. This line, like the entire offense, has been geared around Johnson's power running game.
But in a mysterious way, Holmes suggests, his running style will also be different.
"I don't know necessarily if I've changed to anyone who would be watching the game," he said. "But to everyone who is actually inside of the chalk, it will be different. No player can just look at you and pinpoint what you are if they haven't seen you in two years."
The blockers will know what he's doing, he said.
"I'll tell them exactly where I'm putting the ball and all I need them to do is just give me one yard from the line."