The Week 17 matchup between the Chiefs and Broncos looked like it might be a huge game when the schedule was released.
Instead, the only thing the outcome of the game will affect is Denver’s draft position. The Chiefs, 9-6, have clinched the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff field, while the Broncos, 5-10, have long been eliminated from the playoffs.
Still, this is a rivalry game for Chiefs, and so they’ll want to finish the regular season on a high note. Ditto for Denver. Here are five things to know about the Broncos ahead of Sunday’s 3:25 p.m. kickoff. The game is on Channel 5.
1. Paxton Lynch to start
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Once viewed as the Broncos’ quarterback of the future, Lynch has appeared in one game this season — Nov. 26 against the Raiders. Lynch completed nine of 14 passes for 41 yards and an interception before leaving because of a high-ankle sprain.
Lynch, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2016, also suffered a shoulder sprain in the preseason.
The Broncos website noted that Lynch practiced on a limited basis last Wednesday and Thursday, and was a full participant Friday. However, Lynch never saw the field against Washington.
On Tuesday, Denver coach Vance Joseph said Lynch will start against the Chiefs.
“He wasn’t quite ready last week,” Joseph said on the team’s website. “Hopefully he’s ready to go this week. That’s the plan: to start Paxton this week.”
2. Lack of energy
Denver had a two-game winning streak snapped with a loss at Washington on Sunday. The Broncos had lost eight straight before getting the two victories.
With a 5-10 record, Denver’s postseason hopes were extinguished quite a while ago, and if you are wondering if the Broncos are just playing out the string, well, this video seems to confirm it. During Sunday’s loss, quarterback Brock Osweiler tried to fire up his team, but no one was listening.
Osweiler threw an interception and lost one of Denver’s two fumbles against Washington. Denver had two takeaways in the game, but finished minus-1 in that category and remain one of the worst teams in the NFL in turnover differential.
The Broncos’ minus-16 differential is ahead of only the Cleveland Browns. Denver has lost the ball 31 times (only the Browns have lost it more with 39) and has just 15 takeaways, which is tied for 29th in the NFL.
Denver turned the ball over five times in the Chiefs’ 29-19 win on Oct. 30.
4. Running backs
Expect C.J. Anderson to be motivated on Sunday, because he is 54 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
In his last two games, Anderson has rushed for 246 yards in 46 attempts (5.35 yards per attempt). On Sunday, Anderson also ran for a touchdown and scored on a two-point conversion.
Former Chiefs star Jamaal Charles was inactive for Sunday’s game. Anderson and Devontae Booker have been the main backs, and rookie De’Angelo Henderson had one rushing attempt and a reception against Washington.
Charles carried the ball just 19 times in the five games after the first meeting with the Chiefs but he hasn’t had a rushing attempt since Denver’s game against Miami on Dec. 3.
5. The defense
While the Broncos have allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards (196.1), there are some red flags. Denver has yielded 29 touchdown passes, which are tied for the second-most. Opposing quarterbacks have a 93.3 passer rating, which ranks a mediocre 12th in the NFL.
On Sunday, Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-11 win.
Denver has the second-ranked overall defense (284.1 yards per game), behind only Minnesota. However, the Broncos are 22nd in scoring defense (23.7 points allowed per game), which is tied with the New York Jets.