Kansas City Chiefs (3-12) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts)
PREDICTION: Broncos 23-9
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have too much experience in the secondary and Chiefs QB Matt Cassel has been far too inconsistent for Kansas City to expect to compete with a pass-first offense. RB Jamaal Charles has three consecutive 100-yard rushing games and will take aim at a Broncos run defense allowing 116.1 yards per game. Denver is without starting LG Russ Hochstein, and will look to control the game by attacking the Chiefs' 31st-ranked run defense. QB Kyle Orton thrives in the short to intermediate passing game, so Kansas City needs to create constant third-and-longs to keep it close.
FAST FACTS: Chiefs PK Ryan Succop has set a franchise rookie record with 22 field goals made. ... Broncos OLB Elvis Dumervil has a franchise record 17 sacks.
-- G Andy Alleman did not take part in the Chiefs practice on Thursday, as he's dealing with a back problem. Alleman had been limited on Wednesday in his practice work, but he was not even on the field 24 hours later.
-- CB Brandon Flowers was back on the practice field on Thursday, after missing the Wednesday session because of his sore right shoulder. Flowers has dealt with the injury since right before the start of the regular season and has missed just one game. Chiefs coach Todd Haley said he thinks Flowers will be good to go on Sunday in Denver.
-- DE Alex Magee has been practicing all week on his sore right hamstring that he injured on Nov. 20. Magee missed last Sunday's game, but he's bounced back this week and his practice work indicates he should be active for Sunday's game against Denver.
-- S Reshard Langford may get a chance to play in the Chiefs' season finale. Langford was signed last week off the Eagles practice squad and he did not make it to Kansas City until Christmas Day. With a week of practice under his belt, the Chiefs would like to get him on the field in some fashion.
-- P Dustin Colquitt hopes to establish a new net punting average record for the season as the Chiefs head to Denver. Colquitt has punted 93 times this season or 6.2 times per game. No punter in the league has kicked as many times this season. He's sporting a 45.2-yard average on his kicks; his career high was 45.5 yards a punt in 2007. And his net average is 40.5 yards; his career best was 39.3 yards in 2006.
--CB Ty Law practiced in full for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury against Indianapolis on Dec. 13. He has missed two straight games but should return this week.
--TE Daniel Graham was limited in practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session. Graham has a knee injury, but he will probably play against the Chiefs.
--WR Eddie Royal had a limited practice Thursday. He missed Sunday's game but if he continues to improve he could play on Sunday.
--LB Spencer Larsen, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, practiced in full Thursday. He will play this week if there is no setback.
--LB Darrell Reid practiced in full on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. He will play this week despite a knee injury.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
For the Chiefs, the 2009 season comes to an end after Sunday's game against Denver.
That's why the encounter with their AFC West rival has taken on a special meaning for quarterback Matt Cassel and his teammates.
"Everybody is treating this like a game in the playoffs for us," said Cassel. "Everybody is super focused."
At 3-12, the only satisfaction the Chiefs can enjoy from beating the Broncos is getting victory No. 4 and knocking Denver out of the picture for a potential spot in the AFC playoffs.
"We don't have anything to lose," running back Jamaal Charles said of facing the Broncos. "We have to go up there and feel like we want to knock people out of the playoffs. Our goal last week was to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs and our goal this week is to knock Denver out of the playoffs."
The Chiefs did not get the victory in Cincinnati, although they pushed the Bengals into late in the fourth quarter before losing 17-10. Ending the season with a victory over the Broncos would be sweet according to Charles.
"It wouldn't just be sweet for this week, but it would be sweet for 2010 and then we could just build off that when we come back next year for OTAs and for training camp," said Charles.
The Denver Broncos didn't need a key injury in practice this week, but Brandon Marshall - perhaps their most indispensable player - is now nursing a hamstring injury.
Marshall hurt his hamstring early in practice on Wednesday, and didn't practice Thursday. Marshall could play on Sunday against Kansas City, in a game that the Broncos probably will have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, but Broncos coach Josh McDaniels wouldn't say what his status is.
"I don't know," McDaniels said. "We'll see." Marshall has been a huge part of the Broncos' offense lately. He has 68 catches over the past eight weeks, and Jabar Gaffney is second on the team during that stretch with 19.
Gaffney is coming off a nice game, with two touchdowns against the Eagles. If Marshall is limited at all, or his hamstring doesn't improve enough by Sunday to play, the Broncos will be relying on players who have done very little over the second half of the season.
The Broncos are confident they will get increased contributions if the team can't rely on Marshall as heavily as it has.
"We have great confidence in the guys that will play," McDaniels said. "I have great faith we'll play well at that spot."
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