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What to watch for in Broncos-Chiefs on 'MNF'

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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Can you believe it? The AFC West is up for grabs.

When the Kansas City Chiefs were undefeated and riding high only three weeks ago, the thought of another club winning the division title was near unthinkable. But two consecutive losses to the Steelers and Raiders have muddied the waters.

The same goes for their opponent on Monday evening, the 3-3 Denver Broncos, who like Kansas City started hot but have since fizzled. Trevor Siemian has reclaimed his every-man status under center, looking completely lost in consecutive defeats to the Giants and Chargers, two teams which started 0-4.

With the Raiders' ship sinking and the Bolts' campaign re-energized, there are more questions than answers halfway through the season out on the edge of the Pacific.

Hopefully, the final showdown of Week 8 will clarify things in the weird and wild West. Here's what we'll be watching for when the Broncos travel to Arrowhead to try to knock off the Chiefs on Halloween Eve:

1. Kansas City swept Denver last year in part thanks to dominant evenings from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Hill broke out against the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, scoring three TDs three different ways (rushing, receiving, returning). Now more involved in the passing game than on the ground, Hill will be lining up against the chippy No Fly Zone. As will Travis Kelce, who went over 100 yards receiving in both of the teams' meetings in 2016. But how K.C. uses its weapons is unlike most offenses. Look for the Chiefs to vary where they line up Hill and Kelce as much as possible, even having them primarily in the backfield so as to avoid traditional man-on-man matchups with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris.

2. Can the Broncos frustrate Alex Smith? The Chiefs quarterback is in, or even leading, the MVP discussion halfway through the season. The leader of the NFL's second-best scoring offense, Smith has tossed 15 touchdowns with no interceptions. Zero. Picks. To get to Smith, the Broncos will have to, well, get to Smith. In their first matchup last year, Denver sacked Smith six times and hit him eight, with Von Miller (three sacks) leading the way. Miller has terrorized Kansas City's O-line, especially Eric Fisher, for years. Since 2014, Miller has tallied 23 QB pressures and eight sacks against the Chiefs. The All-Pro pass rusher's matchup will be one to monitor closely on Monday night.

3. What is Trevor Siemian? Yes, he's a sentient human being who propels balls for a living, but what is his place in the league? The second-year starter looked to have turned a corner at the start of this season, but since Week 2, has piloted the NFL's worst scoring offense and boasts the third-lowest passer rating in that time span, sharing space on charts with DeShone Kizer and Joe Flacco. Part of his devolution can be attributed to the struggling running game, but as the Giants game exposed, Siemian's mistakes are usually of his own making. Against one of the more vulnerable Chiefs defenses in recent years, a unit missing Eric Berry, will Siemian be able to get back on track?

4. It's the Jamaal Charles Revenge Reunion Game! There's not a lot of heat behind this storyline, but hell, there should be. For nine seasons, Charles was a yard-eating machine in western Missouri; that was before injuries derailed his potentially Hall of Fame career. The Chiefs have sinced moved on to rookie standout Kareem Hunt, but Charles has found a nice home in Denver where he leads the team in yards per carry (4.7). The veteran is coming off his worst showing of the season (two yards on four carries), but in front of a sympathetic Kansas City crowd, he has the potential to shoulder a helping of the load for Denver's struggling offense.

Follow Jeremy Bergman on Twitter @JABergman.

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