The Chiefs' contingent for the Pro Bowl last season was five players, befitting a team that won a division title and hosted a game in the playoffs.
After the disastrous season that has been 2011, that Pro Bowl number has fallen to two, both linebackers on one of the NFL's more underrated defenses: Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. They were the only players on the roster who truly deserved a trip to Hawaii. Other players had good seasons, such as cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, but couldn't make the initial group.
Hali and Johnson are players whom general manager Scott Pioli inherited from the previous administration of Carl Peterson, Bill Kuharich and Herm Edwards. With few exceptions, all of the players who have gotten anything done with the Chiefs over the past two seasons were Peterson players, not Pioli players.
That's after three drafts and three free agent classes in which Pioli had the chance to churn a roster that team chairman Clark Hunt said was "a bare cupboard" when Pioli took over. That statement and the subsequent facts tend to show that Hunt may not have been paying proper attention to what Peterson/Kuharich/Edwards were trying to do in their final days at Arrowhead Stadium.
The team's leading rusher this year will be Jackie Battle, a holdover player. Had Jamaal Charles not been injured, he would hold that honor, and he's another player drafted by Peterson/Kuharich/Edwards.
The leading receiver is Dwayne Bowe, selected by the Chiefs in the 2007 draft. Matt Cassel was the leading passer, and he's one of Pioli's players, as is kicker Ryan Succop.
On defense, the leading tackler is Johnson, while the leading sacker is Hali and the interceptions leader is Flowers -- all three are inherited players. Punter Dustin Colquitt was inherited. Two of the top four special teams tacklers -- Andy Studebaker and Demorrio Williams -- were holdover players.
Since taking over the franchise in January 2009, Pioli has stressed one word in his few public appearances and interviews -- culture. He felt the organization did not have a winning culture and set about establishing a new atmosphere.
In the last three seasons of the Peterson regime, the Chiefs had a 15-34 record, making one appearance in the playoffs. With one game left to play in three seasons of the Pioli regime, the Chiefs hold a 20-28 record with one appearance in the playoffs.
So apparently the new culture is worth five more victories as long as it comes with inherited players.
Where Pioli stands on his search for a new head coach remains a mystery. Upon firing Todd Haley, the GM said the organization's priority was to focus on the season's last three games. The Chiefs are 1-1 with one game remaining, and whether or not Pioli has somebody ready to step in is unknown.
Current head coach Romeo Crennel wants the job permanently, and the Chiefs organization has never referred to him as the interim head coach. The players are all rooting for Crennel, and even coaching staff members such as offensive coordinator Bill Muir have publicly campaigned for Crennel.
Pioli doesn't like being in the glare of public attention, but he's about to step into the spotlight with the immediate future of the franchise hanging in the balance.
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 55-47. The 55 victories are the most the Chiefs have over any opponent they've played in their 52 years.
--In seven of the past eight seasons, the Chiefs and Broncos have split their annual two-game series. In 2007, the Broncos swept. The last time the Chiefs have taken two from the Broncos was in 2000, when Gunther Cunningham led Kansas City to victories by one and 13 points.
--The Chiefs and Broncos have played each other once in the postseason, that after the 1997 season, when the visiting Broncos grabbed a 14-10 victory at Arrowhead Stadium in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
--Winning in Denver has not been easy for the Chiefs over the past few decades. Over the last 10 years, Kansas City has won just once in the Mile High City, that coming in the final game of the 2009 season, when the Chiefs left town with a 44-24 victory. Overall, the Broncos have a 33-19 edge against the Chiefs in games played in Denver.
--When both of these teams were born in the inaugural season of the American Football League, the Chiefs -- then the Dallas Texans -- were one of the new league's best teams, while the Broncos were one of the weakest clubs. In the first 10 seasons of play (1960-69), the Texans-Chiefs were 19-1 against the Broncos. At various points in the first 15 years of the series between the teams, the Chiefs held winning streaks of 11, eight and six games.
--The last time the Chiefs won in Denver was a breakthrough game for inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns and led a strong Kansas City defensive effort in a 44-24 victory. The Denver quarterback in that game was Kyle Orton, now Johnson's teammate with the Chiefs.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42 -- Seasons it has been since the Chiefs have appeared in the Super Bowl. On Jan. 11, 1970, they beat the Vikings to capture Super Bowl IV.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I try to win every game; every game is important to me, and so what'll happen will happen. I don't believe what I say, what I think is going to make any difference. It's what I do, the work that I put out there, that's the thing that will have an impact. If it's to be, it will be. If not, it will not be. That's the way it is in the NFL." -- Romeo Crennel, on the factors that will determine whether he gets the Chiefs' head-coaching job permanently.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Although the game means nothing to the Chiefs in the standings, coach Romeo Crennel said he does not plan to play many of the young players on the roster who need chances to gain experience.
"The guys that we have been playing with basically have given us the best chance to win," Crennel said. "I don't know that making a change now will change that. I think the guys that we've been going with still give us the best chance."
That's an early indication that rookies such as DE Brandon Bain, NT Jerrell Powe and OT David Mims are unlikely to get on the field for the regular-season finale. Powe got eight snaps in a game at midseason, while Bain and Mims have not been active for any game this year.
--QB Kyle Orton gets a chance to return to face the team that benched hime and then released him just less than six weeks ago. Orton's two-game stint as starter for the Chiefs has been notable for the occasions when he's thrown the ball well and driven the offense. But he's also turned it over twice and had trouble getting the offense into the end zone. The reviews have been mixed.
--QB Ricky Stanzi may get a chance to play in a mop-up role against the Broncos on Sunday if there's a big lead either way. Stanzi has not taken a snap in a game since the preseason, and while the Chiefs would like to see how he handles himself, they are not making any special plans to get him in the game.
--RB Thomas Jones said this week that he hasn't spent any time thinking about his future and whether Sunday's game against the Broncos will be his last. Jones has played 12 NFL seasons, and at age 32, his talents are on the decline, as his 2011 numbers indicate -- 138 carries for 436 yards.
--RB Jackie Battle suffered a foot injury against Oakland on Saturday, and his season is likely over. Battle spent the early part of the week with his foot in a walking boot, never a good sign that he'll be ready to run the ball come Sunday. More than likely, he'll finish up as the team's leading rusher with 597 yards.
--WR Dwayne Bowe will try to break through a slump he's had recently against the Broncos that's been caused by CB Champ Bailey. In the last two games between the teams, Denver has assigned Bailey to one-on-one duty against Bowe. In those games, Bowe was shut out once, and he caught two passes for 17 yards earlier this season.
--RB Jackie Battle is very doubtful for participation against the Broncos because of a foot injury. Baring a roster move, the Chiefs would go into the Denver game with just two running backs available, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster. They would also have FB Le'Ron McClain.
--SS Jon McGraw has a chance to play against Denver after missing the last two games with a high ankle sprain. McGraw has been running this week and appears to be moving much better on his left leg.
GAME PLAN: The Chiefs did not have many problems in the first game this year against Tim Tebow and the run-option offense, and now they become the first team that will see the Broncos for a second time with Tebow running the show. In two games under Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs have stressed fundamentals, and they haven't tried to do anything different or exotic. It would be a shock if that changed in Denver.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe vs. Broncos CB Champ Bailey -- The last few times these teams have met, the Broncos have taken Bailey and locked him onto Bowe. In those two games -- both at Arrowhead Stadium -- Bowe had had two total catches, for 7 and 10 yards. It's an important game for Bowe, as he heads into free agency and needs every opportunity to help pump up his numbers.
Chiefs DEs Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey vs. Broncos QB Tim Tebow -- It's pretty easy for Jackson and Dorsey to diagnose when Tebow is going with the option running attack. Both of them played Tebow many times while they were at LSU and Tebow was at the University of Florida. The first time the teams met this year, Jackson and Dorsey noticed plays that Denver was running that were very similar to the attack they saw with Tebow at Florida.