Broncos battle rival Chiefs in the race to catch Raiders
The Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos embark on the closing stretch of the National Football League season with a marquee contest tomorrow against another 7-3 team, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos will be well-rested as they are coming off a bye week which helped some of their injured players get healthy ahead of their first meeting of the season against the Chiefs. “It’s a new year and a new battle,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “I think this team is really excited: the coaches, the organization, everybody. We’re there with six weeks to play. “We have a lot of big football games to play in. We’re all excited. You can feel it around here.”
So can the Chiefs, who are in the thick of the chase for a playoff berth as well. The two teams are tied for second place in the AFC West, one game behind the Oakland Raiders. The game, originally scheduled in the afternoon, was moved to a prime-time evening matchup. “I don’t think you could make it any bigger or more intense than it already is,” said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. “The way the division has gone to this point, it’s already pretty tight. “This is our first crack at these guys and they’re the defending Super Bowl champions. We’ve been in a lot of battles with these guys over the years.”
Denver has leaned on its staunch defense this season. But the offense has shown progress under the direction of quarterback Trevor Siemian, whose seven wins are the second most by a Broncos quarterback in his first nine career starts in franchise history. “He hasn’t had that much consistency,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “He’s not very tall in the pocket, but somehow he is still making all the throws he needs to make. So hats off to that. “You’d think a shorter guy like him should have some problems seeing back there. He’s pretty comfortable. Hopefully, we can make him uncomfortable. That’s our plan.”
In other key contests tomorrow, the Raiders square off against the Carolina Panthers who are fighting for their playoff lives. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is the Panthers primary weapon for passing and running and will try to keep it close. After slowing down the New Orleans Saints to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Panthers have to figure out how to do the same against the high-flying Raiders. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots travel to New York to face the Jets, with the star quarterback looking to establish more records this season. Brady is rolling and should be able to attack the Jets’ defense with efficient throws up the middle of the field.
He needs just 57 yards tomorrow to become the fifth quarterback in history to throw for 60,000 yards. Brady has completed 70.4 percent of his passes-with 16 touchdowns and one interception-in the six games since his return from his four-game Deflategate suspension. The Patriots are 5-1 in those six games to sit at 8-2 in pursuit of their fifth Super Bowl title. In other games tomorrow it is, the Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears, New York Giants at Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. — AFP