The Kansas City Chiefs won’t be at full strength for their regular-season finale Sunday against the host Denver Broncos in hopes of ensuring they are as healthy as possible for the playoffs. The Chiefs, who are locked into the AFC’s No. 4 seed, will rest quarterback Alex Smith and potentially several other key players.
Patrick Mahomes II will start in place of Smith, making him the first rookie quarterback to start for Kansas City in a non-strike game since Steve Fuller did it in 1979. “We’re in a position where we can do that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters. “It gives the kid some experience. That’s the reason. Listen, the Broncos are a good football team, real good defense. It’ll be a great experience for him to go against that crew.” The Broncos will take a look at a young quarterback of their own, giving Paxton Lynch his fourth career start and second of the season. The Chiefs have won four straight meetings, including a 29-19 home win in Week 8 in which the Broncos committed five turnovers.
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Broncos -3.5. O/U: 38.5
ABOUT THE CHIEFS (9-6): Kansas City has won three straight and appears to be back on track following a stretch of six losses in seven games. The offense is clicking again, but it will be interesting to see how effective it is with Mahomes under center and other key players likely playing limited roles. The defense has seen a dramatic turnaround, holding three straight opponents under 350 total yards and forcing nine turnovers after ranking near the bottom of the league in total defense for most of the season.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (5-10): Denver ranks second in total defense but 22nd in scoring defense, due in large part to the offense’s 31 turnovers setting up opponents with favorable field position. The Broncos hope Lynch can do a better job of taking care of the ball than Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler did. Unfortunately for Lynch, he is likely to be without No. 2 receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has torched the Chiefs for 188 receiving yards in his last two games against them.
1. Kansas City TE Travis Kelce has averaged 131.3 receiving yards in his last three games against Denver.
2. Denver RB C.J. Anderson needs 54 yards to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Knowshon Moreno in 2013.
3. Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas needs 108 receiving yards for his six consecutive 1,000-yard season.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Broncos 20