Broncos Could be Walking Into Hornet's Nest at Arrowhead

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Up next for the Denver Broncos is the one team they've managed to beat in the last two months.

They're not exactly exhaling.

The Broncos (3-8) don't expect their rematch with the KansasCity Chiefs (7-4) to be anything like it was three weeks ago atInvesco Field, when Denver jumped out to a 35-0 lead and won bythree touchdowns.

"An old game, a new month," is how Denver defensive linemanKevin Vickerson described the rematch.

While the Broncos have been reeling ever since their 49-29smackdown of K.C. that culminated in Todd Haley's post-game snub ofJosh McDaniels, the Chiefs have been on a roll, scoring 73 pointsin wins over Arizona and Seattle to maintain their AFC West lead.

Matt Cassel threw for a dozen touchdowns in November, when hispasser rating was 111.2. Dwayne Bowe has caught 49 passes for 733yards and an astonishing 13 TDs in his last seven games.

McDaniels tutored Cassel in New England and even ponderedtrading for him shortly after his arrival in Denver -- the sparkthat ignited the Jay Cutler trade for Kyle Orton a couple of monthslater.

"I think he's having a great season," McDaniels said of hisformer pupil, noting Cassel's touchdown-to-interceptiondifferential of 22-4.

"To be on pace for an NFL low in turnovers and then still havethat type of production in the passing game -- that tells you thatyou are basically hitting it on the head all the time and Matt ishaving a season that is very deserving of all the accolades he isreceiving," McDaniels said.

Cassel also has a couple of top-notch running backs in JamaalCharles and Thomas Jones, who have combined for 1,733 yards andeight TD runs.

Plus, the Chiefs are still smarting from their embarrassing tripto Denver.

"The bottom line is it was one game that we didn't play well,"Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "It was probably our worstgame of the year. We've definitely moved past that. We know theygot the best of us the last time we played. We have to do a lotbetter job than in the first time. We have to stop the run and makea play. We didn't make any plays."

Sounds a lot like the Broncos of late.

They're 3-8 for the first time in 20 years and their 5-16 slidedating to last season is their worst such stretch in nearly 40years.

Their tailspin isn't limited to the football field.

There was the Spygate II videotaping violation that costMcDaniels credibility with fans and a $50,000 fine for notreporting it. Linebacker D.J. Williams was stripped of hiscaptaincy for a drunken driving arrest. The sheriff's probe intowide receiver Kenny McKinley's suicide in September found that hehad financial and personal problems and a gambling habit that hadhim $40,000 in debut to Las Vegas casinos.

Orton said the players aren't distracted by all theoff-the-field issues facing the team.

"I think everybody understands when you're 3-8, everybody feelsthe heat -- players, included, and coaches," Orton said. "That'sjust how it is. You're here to win football games and we haven'tdone a great job of that."

Perhaps most disconcerting to McDaniels, there are reports of asplintered coaching staff at Dove Valley.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said all the troubles aren't adistraction, though.

"I think this is one of the best coaching staffs I've been on.Josh did a great job when he first got here of putting the stafftogether. We all work extremely hard together, and we're all inthis business together," McCoy said. "We're all one."

Defensive coordinator Don Martindale said his focus in themiddle of this storm is on football.

"I've just been worried about the Chiefs," he insisted. "If Ithink about anything else than the Chiefs, then I'm not doing theplayers or fans right for Denver. We're just going to go out andtry to attack Kansas City and try to stop this offense that'sreally rolling right now."

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