KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There’s a difference the second time around between the Chiefs and Denver Broncos.
While both teams are coming off disappointing losses, the change has more to do with the absence of nonstop hype. In the first meeting two weeks ago, national media and TV satellite trucks converged on the Chiefs training facility, giving the Week 11 matchup a playoff-like atmosphere.
This week? Not so much.
The Chiefs may have lost some of the spotlight given a current two-game slide since Week 11’s 27-17 loss to the Broncos. But the importance of Week 13’s rematch between two 9-2 teams at Arrowhead Stadium isn’t lost on Chiefs players.
“It was a big game the first time and it’s another big game,” tight end Anthony Fasano said. “Divisional games are always big games. We’ve worked hard and put ourselves in a good opportunity for this to become a big game.”
And despite facing the Broncos for a second time in three weeks, the eagerness is high among Chiefs players to face Denver again because it’s in front of loyal fans.
“I would say it would be a lot higher this game because we’re here at Arrowhead,” running back Cyrus Gray replied when asked to compare the anticipation level from the first meeting. “We take it personally to win here because the fans are so great.”
Wide receiver Dexter McCluster echoed Gray’s thoughts.
“We had the bye last time, coming into it we felt fresh and ready to go,” McCluster said. “This go around, it feels good to have a second shot at it a couple of games later. The energy level is there; we’re just ready and pumped up to take care of business at Arrowhead.”
Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt adds the implications of Sunday’s game play a major role in how the Chiefs view the contest.
“Somebody’s going to be 10-2 after this game, so what we got to do is go out there and take care of business,” Colquitt said. “The one thing we can do is learn from the past game and know we’ll have Arrowhead and our fans behind us. We need to go out there and win.”
Indeed, a win Sunday and the Chiefs could clinch a playoff berth with some outside help, according to playoff scenarios released by the NFL earlier in the week.
[Related: Week 13 playoff scenarios]
And that only adds to the magnitude of Sunday’s showdown between the AFC West’s top two teams.
“We look at this as a championship game between us two,” Gray said. “We know it’s going to be a great game between both of us and we’re both going to bring our A-game.”
Meanwhile, defensive end Tyson Jackson said from a mentality point of view, he and his teammates are on “high alert” as they’ve prepared in recent days to host the Broncos.
Kansas City’s game plan will in all likelihood be different from the first matchup two weeks ago, and this is especially true given reports outside linebacker Justin Houston is out 2-3 weeks.
But Jackson said the team isn’t deviating from how they prepare.
“Preparation wise, we’re approaching it the same exact way,” Jackson said. “We’re focused, everybody is understanding their assignment. We still have some things to clean up here and there, but it’s the same preparation going into the game.”
Ultimately, the Chiefs need to flawlessly execute the game plan when they take the field Sunday.
Doing so may result in snapping the two-game losing streak, securing control of the AFC West and having the inside track to home field advantage for the playoffs.
And if there’s a place to accomplish those tasks, the Chiefs couldn’t have picked a better place.
“It’s important to get a win no matter where we’re playing,” Fasano said. “But we love playing at home and these fans deserve another home win in a great atmosphere against a great team.”
Notes: Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali (ankle) returned to the practice field Thursday in a limited fashion … Hali did not practice Wednesday … The Broncos list quarterback Peyton Manning (ankle) as a full participant in Thursday’s practice … Manning did not practice Wednesday.