Chiefs visit Broncos with Mahomes at QB
DENVER -- The Denver Broncos are writing the closing chapter on a lost season.
The AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs, locked into the conference's No. 4 playoff seed, are doing what they can to get through the Sunday regular-season finale unscathed in hopes of putting themselves in the best possible position for a deep postseason run.
Those divergent themes were evident in the teams' respective decisions on a starting quarterback. The Chiefs (9-6) will rest Alex Smith and will start his backup, rookie Patrick Mahomes II.
Denver (5-10) is slated to start Paxton Lynch, who hasn't played since sustaining an ankle injury in his first start of the season, Nov. 26 against the Oakland Raiders.
The Chiefs traded up to draft Mahomes with the 10th overall pick this year, and he has served as Smith's backup throughout this season, though he has yet to take a snap in a game. Besides trying to safeguard Smith in advance of the playoffs, Kansas City coach Andy Reid said he believed it was important to take advantage of the opportunity to get Mahomes some snaps in a game.
"We're in a position where we can do that," Reid said. "It gives the kid some experience. That's the reason. Listen, the Broncos are a good football team, real good defense. It'll be a great experience for him to go against that crew."
Mahomes will become the first rookie quarterback to start for the Chiefs in a non-strike game since 1979, when Steve Fuller did it. Mahomes said he is anxious to finish out the regular season on a positive note.
"The biggest thing for me is just to expect to go out there and win in any way possible," Mahomes said.
Reid is considering resting other starters, on both sides of the ball, or limiting their play, but he did not expect to make final decisions on the positions involved until later in the week.
"There's a chance I rotate some guys," he said.
Lynch, a second-year pro, is a former first-round pick whose playing opportunities have been limited by injuries. He is among three players who have started at quarterback for the Broncos this season. The others are Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian, who is finishing the season on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury.
None of the three established himself as the future Broncos' starter, and the quality of quarterback play has been a glaring issue for Denver throughout a desultory offensive campaign.
Lynch, though, has never had a sustained opportunity to play, and seeing him perform in an otherwise meaningless finale can provide general manager John Elway and other members of the Broncos brass something of a yardstick as they move into the offseason intent on resolving Denver's quarterback shortcomings.
Lynch knows he will be under a microscope against the Chiefs, and he accepts the challenge.
"I feel ready for Sunday, and I'm ready to go out there and play," Lynch said.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he likes what he has seen of Lynch, who has been getting the first-team practice repetitions this week.
"He practiced well," Joseph said. "He threw the ball well. He was in control of the offense, so that was good to see."
One bright spot for the Broncos heading into the finale of an otherwise disappointing season is the chance for C.J. Anderson to become the 21st 1,000-yard rusher in team history.
Anderson enters the Sunday game 54 yards shy of the milestone. He could become the first Denver running back since Knowshon Moreno in 2013 to hit the 1,000-yard mark.
"It's important for our football team, especially with the work C.J. put in in the offseason, coming in in great shape and staying healthy for the full season for the first time in his career," Joseph said. "Winning is our first priority, but any personal milestone like that, it's important for the player and the football team."
Meanwhile, the Broncos again could be without wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and Cody Latimer (thigh). They both continue to miss practice time, as does defensive lineman Zach Kerr (ankle).
Linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and defensive tackle Bennie Logan (knee) missed practice time this week with the Chiefs.
Updated December 28, 2017