AFC West Matchup

Denver, CO - The Denver Broncos looked like one of the favorites for the AFC title with the way they started the season, but a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs sent them reeling.

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The Broncos have since gotten their season back on track and built a commanding lead atop the AFC West.

Oddsmakers from online sports book have made the Broncos –9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on the Broncos –9.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Denver looks to move closer to its first playoff berth in three years and avenge its early-season loss to the Chiefs when these division rivals meet Sunday at Invesco Field.

The Broncos (7-5) lead the AFC West by three games over San Diego with four to play. If the Chargers lose to Oakland on Thursday, Denver can clinch its first division title since 2005 with a victory over Kansas City (2-10).

"It's far from over,'' Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "The thing that we're going to do is hopefully concentrate on the job at hand. We've got Kansas City in our backyard."

Although the Chiefs are in the midst of a disappointing season, the Broncos can't afford to overlook them, as an ill-fated trip to Arrowhead Stadium earlier this fall sent them into a month-long slide.

The Broncos opened 3-0 before suffering a 33-19 loss at Kansas City on Sept. 28. Denver gained 446 yards, but turned the ball over four times. That was the first of four losses in five games for the Broncos, although they have won three of four since the slump.

The lone loss in the last four games was an embarrassing 31-10 defeat to Oakland on Nov. 23, after which Denver bounced back to defeat the AFC East-leading New York Jets 34-17 last Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"We've been unpredictable all year," Shanahan said. "Hopefully, we can get a little more predictable and play like we did (against the Jets)."

Quarterback Jay Cutler went 27-for-43 for 357 yards, two touchdowns and one interception last week. He has thrown for 1,020 yards in Denver's last three victories, while benefiting from a resurgent running game led by rookie Peyton Hillis.

The fifth tailback to start for Denver this season, Hillis rushed for a career-high 129 yards and a score on 22 attempts last week. He has run for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 49 carries since injuries forced him into the starting role three weeks ago.

"He is a smart kid, and I think we have used him effectively," Cutler said. "We haven't put him in the position where we have had to ask him to do things he can't do. He has stepped up to the challenge and has been fun to watch."

Hillis could be in for another big game this week when he faces the second-worst rush defense in the league (163.7 yards per game).

As Denver closes in on a division title and the opportunity to host a playoff game, it needs to re-establish home-field advantage.

After averaging 29.7 points while winning their first three home games, the Broncos have averaged just 14.7 points while losing their last three in Denver. They have never lost four straight games at Invesco Field, and have not dropped four consecutive home games in a single season since 1990.

The Broncos, though, have won seven straight home games over the Chiefs, and 21 of the last 25 meetings between the teams in Denver.

After beating the Broncos in September, Kansas City endured a seven-game losing streak that did not end until last Sunday's 20-13 victory over the Raiders. That game was just the second win in 21 games overall for the Chiefs, who snapped a nine-game road losing skid.

"It's a great win - a big confidence boost," said rookie cornerback Maurice Leggett, who scooped up a fumble on a fake field goal attempt and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown.

Chiefs coach Herm Edwards hopes his team can a letdown. The week after defeating the Broncos, Kansas City lost 34-10 to Carolina.

"I think, hopefully, they learned their lesson in the Carolina experience,'' Edwards said. "I think they'll respond."

Larry Johnson rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries last week in his third game back after missing one game for violating the league's personal conduct policy and being deactivated by the team for three contests.

The two-time Pro Bowl running back was instrumental in the Chiefs' win over the Broncos, running for a season-high 198 yards and two touchdowns on 28 attempts. Johnson has 621 rushing yards and five touchdowns in his last four games against the Broncos, who own the fifth-worst run defense in the league (144.3 ypg).

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
DENVER is 17-16 against the spread versus KANSAS CITY since 1992
DENVER is 17-17 straight up against KANSAS CITY since 1992
18 of 32 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
KANSAS CITY is 3-2 against the spread versus DENVER over the last 3 seasons 
DENVER is 3-2 straight up against KANSAS CITY over the last 3 seasons 
3 of 5 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at DENVER since 1992
DENVER is 10-6 against the spread versus KANSAS CITY since 1992
DENVER is 12-4 straight up against KANSAS CITY since 1992
9 of 15 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at DENVER over the last 3 seasons.
DENVER is 1-1 against the spread versus KANSAS CITY over the last 3 seasons 
DENVER is 2-0 straight up against KANSAS CITY over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[RB] Jamaal Charles missed last game, "?" - Ankle - 11/16/08
[DB] Brandon Flowers missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 11/16/08
[RB] Kolby Smith IR - Knee - 11/09/08
(!) [QB] Brodie Croyle IR - Knee - 10/19/08
[LB] Pat Thomas missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 11/16/08
[QB] Damon Huard IR - Hand - 10/22/08
[CB] Patrick Surtain missed last game, "?" - Quad - 11/16/08
[LB] Derrick Johnson missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 11/16/08
[DE] Tamba Hali missed last game, "?" - Knee - 11/16/08
[C] J.P. Darche IR - Knee - 10/30/08
[RB] Anthony Alridge IR - Hamstring - 08/29/08
[RB] Ryan Torain IR - Knee - 11/07/08
[DT] Carlton Powell expected to miss at least six weeks. - Knee - 08/27/08
[WR] Clifford Russell IR - Neck - 10/01/08
[QB] Patrick Ramsey IR - Elbow - 10/22/08
[RB] Michael Pittman IR - Neck - 11/03/08
[C] Tom Nalen IR - Knee - 09/21/08
[LB] Nate Webster is out indefinitely - Knee - 11/13/08
[LB] Boss Bailey IR - Knee - 10/22/08
[LB] D.J. Williams expected to miss 2 - 4 weeks - Knee - 11/03/08
[CB] Champ Bailey missed last game, "?" - Groin - 11/16/08
[RB] Selvin Young is downgraded to doubtful - Groin - 11/18/08
[DB] Marlon McCree expected to miss 3-4 weeks - Leg - 11/04/08
[RB] Andre Hall IR - Hand - 11/03/08

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Posted: 12/3/08 10:10 PM ET

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