ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — K.C. Barbecued.
The Broncos have become burnt ends to the Chiefs, a once proud rivalry dissolving before our eyes over the last eight years. The Broncos boast a 13-game losing streak to Kansas City, spanning a carousel of quarterbacks and coaches.
This was supposed to be the season everything changed, that the script flipped. The Broncos hired an offensive-minded head coach and acquired Russell Wilson, the type of player who could face off against Patrick Mahomes and not flinch.
Or so we thought.
The Broncos remain the league's most disappointing team, having lost eight of their last nine games. They average 13.8 points per game. The Chiefs counter with 29.2.
The Broncos have not won a home game since September, and haven't beaten the Chiefs in Denver since Sept. 14, 2014. The top song that week was Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."
Unfortunately nothing has worked for the Broncos in removing the stench since Super Bowl 50. They have posted six consecutive losing seasons and will soon secure a seventh straight year without the playoffs.
The Broncos should loathe Kansas City. But coach Nathaniel Hackett is not as worked up about the losing streak as Broncos Country.
"I mean, that's the past. For us, it's the now. It's a West opponent. It's a great rivalry that's been going on for years," Hackett said. "'I am very excited to be a part of it."
The problem with playing the Chiefs twice this late in the season is that the Broncos are irrelevant. This game should have been circled in red. And it will matter to certain players. But the stakes are small for Denver, other than playing spoiler for a Chiefs team trying lock up home field advantage in the playoffs.
But it should be important for this season: motivation because of embarrassment.
"It's been a good amount of years since we have beaten these guys. Everyone knows they are a good football team. Hats off to them. They are playing great ball," left guard Dalton Risner said. "But this one is personal."
Do you realize the Broncos are the only AFC team without a division victory? And the Bears are the only other team in the league saddle with this indignity.
When Hackett emphasized "Win The West" on slogans in the building and on t-shirts, it was considered the easiest path to the postseason. Even with the playoffs no longer in sight, beating the Chiefs would allow this team to check off one box.
The last thing you want to do — remember there is no first-round pick — is lose out in the division and enter the offseason with a 15-game skid vs. Kansas City. It is a longshot to win, especially with Courtland Sutton (hamstring) unlikely to play, leaving a bad offense stripped of a starter, though a player with only one touchdown this season.
"This game of football isn't all about the past, it's about the present. That's a great thing about this game," Wilson said. "It matters."
Numbers mock the Broncos. Mahomes is 14-0 in AFC West road games, the second-longest win streak by a starting quarterback in road division contests since the 1970 merger. Joe Montana won 20 straight from 1984-93. Mahomes is carving out his legacy.
The Broncos are left to try to carve out a piece of dignity.
"This win would absolutely mean everything," safety Justin Simmons said. "Especially playing it at home."