ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -Jay Cutler doesn't venture out in public much these days.
``I lock myself in my room,'' the Denver Broncos' young quarterback deadpanned.
That would be one way for Cutler to insulate himself from the scrutiny that comes with a late-season slide.
The Broncos (5-7), losers of two straight, are facing the possibility of watching the playoffs from home for the second year in a row. Their hopes of salvaging the season begin Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (4-8), who have lost five straight and haven't won in Denver since 2000.
Even in the middling AFC West, the Broncos realize they may have already fallen too far behind San Diego.
``We're not even talking about it,'' Cutler said of the playoffs. ``We lost a big opportunity in Oakland. I think the guys realize that.''
Following a 34-20 loss to the Raiders, the Broncos find themselves two games behind the Chargers with four games left, including a trip to San Diego.
``We're definitely disappointed, but sometimes you've just got to take one in the face and just move on,'' receiver Brandon Marshall said. ``The character of this team and each person on this team is definitely being challenged right now. We're going to see who wants it and who's playing and who loves football.''
That's exactly what Chiefs coach Herm Edwards is looking to find out. Are the Chiefs merely playing out the season?
``No, no,'' he responded emphatically. ``Players enjoy playing football; they enjoy competing and preparing. That's what we do. Any time you compete and win a game, that's the fun of it. We need a win.''
Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen said nobody in Kansas City's locker room has packed it in.
``We're pointed the right way,'' said Allen, who leads the NFL with 11 1/2 sacks despite missing two games for repeated drunken-driving arrests.
``What are we going to do, start pointing fingers at each other?'' he asked. ``We win together, we lose together, that's the point of a team. Obviously, there are people that have to start playing better and there's people that have to do better, but that's all of us.''
The ever-optimistic Edwards feels like there's a dark cloud following the Chiefs around this season, and can't wait for it to clear.
``I know one thing: Generally after the cloud leaves, there's a rainbow,'' he said. ``So, there will be a rainbow. When that comes, I don't know. But there's going to be a rainbow after the storm. It's cloudy right now.''
It's overcast in Denver, too.
The Broncos blew a two-touchdown lead in the final five minutes at Chicago before losing in overtime two weeks ago, and then had four turnovers in a loss at Oakland.
All the while, the case of Travis Henry's failed drug test and the possibility of him being suspended for a year hung over them. The troubled tailback, however, won his case against the NFL on Tuesday.
``The suspension is over with, so now I just have to get healthy and finish strong,'' Henry said.
Henry returned to the field against the Raiders after missing three games with a torn left knee ligament.
The Broncos had all three tailbacks - Henry, Selvin Young and Andre Hall - at practice this week for the first time in more than a month.
Kansas City has had its injury problems at running back, as well. The team has been without Larry Johnson for four games with a foot ailment. The Chiefs briefly had Priest Holmes back after he made an improbable comeback from head and neck injuries. But he decided that as much as he loved the game, it wasn't worth the risk of a paralysis, so he stepped away.
That led to the promotion of rookie Kolby Smith, who has carried the ball 52 times for 233 yards over the last two games.
No matter who's in the backfield, the Broncos expect the Chiefs to run a lot, especially against Denver's defense, which is giving up 149 yards a game.
``Their personnel has changed a little bit,'' Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``But Kansas City has been Kansas City since I've been here and I expect them to play a little harder. We're two teams still trying to get in, doing what we can. We know it all starts Sunday.''
Or maybe ends, for one of them.

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