Chiefs-Broncos Preview

The Associated Press

Denver Broncos coach John Fox and vice president John Elway each made clear Kyle Orton would certainly get another opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL upon releasing him last month.

Now guiding the Kansas City Chiefs, Orton is in position to help keep his former team out of the postseason.

Tim Tebow and the Broncos can win the AFC West crown with a victory over the Chiefs in the regular-season finale Sunday in Denver, though the defending division champions hope to make the road more difficult.

Struggling to a 1-4 start under Orton, the Broncos turned to Tebow as the full-time starter beginning with their Oct. 23 game at Miami. Tebow led one of his many comeback victories in that contest, 18-15 in overtime after throwing a game-tying touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.

Orton became the odd man out, getting released Nov. 22, and Tebow went on to win seven of his first eight starts.

"We knew we may have to face him down the line and we kind of took that risk," Elway said of cutting Orton, who was claimed off waivers a day later by the Chiefs.

Even if Orton is to get the best of his old team, Denver (8-7) still can win the division if Oakland falls to San Diego.

Orton has not played up the game, saying he's focused on helping the Chiefs (6-9) end on a high note even though they were eliminated from playoff contention with last week's 16-13 overtime loss to Oakland.

"It's just another week for me to come out and prove my preparation and play to my teammates," he said.

Tebow also generalized his comments in regard to facing Orton.

"I think it's the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs," Tebow said. "That's a great rivalry and it'll be a great game. (I'm) excited we get to play at home in front of our fans. I think that as a player, as a quarterback, as someone who has dreamed of that his whole life, it'll be exciting to have one game, one last game, one last opportunity to make the playoffs."

Tebow, though, is coming off his worst performance. He had three interceptions - a fourth was later changed to a fumble - after throwing only two in his previous nine starts, and a pair were returned for touchdowns in a 40-14 defeat at Buffalo last Saturday. Tebow completed only 13 of 30 passes as Denver suffered its second straight loss after six consecutive wins.

If the Broncos lose a third in a row while Oakland beats San Diego, they will fail to qualify for the postseason for a sixth straight year.

"You don't get that chance too often, to win one game and make it to the playoffs," receiver Eddie Royal said. "And a lot of us know the feeling of watching the playoffs at home. We don't want that feeling, so we've got to do everything in our power to make sure that's not us this year."

Recent history appears to be on the Broncos' side, having won nine of the last 10 home games against the Chiefs. The last time the teams met in Denver, the Broncos won 49-29 on Nov. 14, 2010, when Orton threw for four touchdowns and Tebow tossed one and ran for another in spot duty.

Orton watched from the Denver sideline as Tebow attempted only eight passes, completing two, in the Broncos' 17-10 win at Kansas City on Nov. 13 this season. Tebow threw for 69 yards - 56 to Eric Decker on a fourth-quarter TD pass - but ran for 43 and a touchdown.

"I mean, I love Kyle, but I couldn't care less," Denver offensive lineman Zane Beadles said of facing his former teammate. "It's the Broncos vs. the Chiefs. We've got to beat the Chiefs to get in the playoffs. And it doesn't matter who's on their team."

Kansas City finished 10-6 in 2010 to win the AFC West, but its downfall this season led to the firing of coach Todd Haley and the promotion of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to interim coach.

Crennel, who coached Cleveland from 2005-08, knows he's partially auditioning to be named the full-time coach next season. The Chiefs won his debut 19-14 over previously unbeaten Green Bay on Dec. 18 before last week's letdown.

"I know there are some questions about my status and how this game might affect my status," Crennel said. "I've said all along that at the end of the year, a decision is going to be made, and I was going to do the best I could for the three games I had an opportunity to do that."

Kansas City is the AFC's lowest-scoring team, averaging 13.7 points, but is facing a Denver defense which has allowed an average of 30.8 in December.

The Broncos, whose last five opponents have averaged 154.8 rushing yards, have given up 40-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since it happened three straight times in 1964.