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Broncos hold on against the Chiefs to put a stranglehold on AFC West race

The Denver Broncos will most likely win the AFC West now, but not without a heck of a fight from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs turned out to be the biggest test for the Broncos this season. Denver turned Kansas City away pretty easily in the first meeting, but the rematch was a lot tougher.

Denver took a huge step towards winning the AFC West and locking up the No. 1 seed in the AFC West with a 35-28 win at Kansas City. Denver, which improved to 10-2, now has a one-game lead on the Chiefs, but clinched the tiebreaker. The Chiefs would have to be two games better than Denver the rest of the way to overtake them for the division title, and there's only four left to play.

The biggest threat to the Broncos for the No. 1 seed is New England, but Denver has a one-game cushion (although the Patriots own the tiebreaker). Denver doesn't face another team with a winning record the rest of the regular season.

 

The Broncos fell behind 21-7 in the first half. Peyton Manning had a couple of fluttering passes that came up well short of the mark, like last week against New England. That would change.

Manning came alive and seemed to bury the Chiefs. Led by Eric Decker's four touchdowns, the Broncos took a 35-21 lead. Manning finished with 403 yards and five touchdowns. The game seemed over. But the Chiefs didn't go away.

Kansas City scored to cut Denver's lead to 35-28, then got the ball back on its 8-yard line with a little more than three minutes to go. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was spectacular on that drive, and got the Chiefs down to the Denver 13-yard line. But a fourth-and-4 pass was broken up with 1:46 remaining, and Montee Ball picked up a first down on a run to end it. The AFC West was supposed to be relatively easy for the Broncos this season, but the Chiefs gave them the type of test that will serve them well in the playoffs.

The Chiefs started the season 9-0, and have lost three straight since, including two at home. They're still a good team, despite the losing streak. But it looks like Kansas City will have to go on the road and win a game or two if it wants a third crack at Denver. Because the AFC West race should be over.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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