GAMETIME: 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, December 13
LOCATION: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
HOW TO WATCH:CBS | KCTV5 Local
HOW TO LISTEN:101.1 The Fox
CHIEFS REWIND WRAP-UP SHOW:Local listings
The Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) are riding a six-game winning streak that has reversed the course of their entire season.
To extend it Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, they will have to beat a familiar counterpart in the San Diego Chargers (3-9), who they defeated, 33-3, in San Diego just three weeks ago.
The key play in that game was an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Justin Houston, but he will be out for the second game in a row Sunday. Dee Ford is expected to start in his place.
"I thought Dee did some nice things," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of his first career start last week. "He got a lot of snaps and sacks he ended up causing just by his rush."
Ford's challenge Sunday will be getting to quarterback Philip Rivers, who has been San Diego's strong point in a season otherwise filled with disappointment.
But despite their 3-9 record, Rivers has the offense ranked No. 6 in the league.
"I think he's done a great job, considering all the injuries they've had around him," said Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton this week. "Their offense, for the most part, has been pretty good. When you deal with him, you better be ready to play the entire game. It's just the way he is, he's ultracompetitive."
Rivers lost his primary target in wide receiver Keenan Allen to Injured Reserve earlier this season, and he will be without both Dontrelle Inman (neck) and Stevie Johnson (groin) in Sunday's contest. Both receivers were injured in San Diego's 17-3 loss to the Denver Broncos last week.
Because of those injuries, tight end Antonio Gates and running back Danny Woodhead become all the more important. The Chargers also signed WR Vincent Brown to help fill the void of Inman and Johnson this week.
The Chiefs defense will look to continue its fantastic play over the stretch of the six-game winning streak. The defense has caused at least 2 turnovers in each of the last seven games, and the 23 takeaways as a unit is tied for third place in the league.
Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters, who is building a convincing case for defensive rookie of the year, leads the team with 5 interceptions, and there are five players on the Chiefs with 2. According to Pro Football Focus, Eric Berry is currently the league's best safety.
With S Husain Abdullah (concussion) out for his second game in a row, the AFC's reigning Defensive Player of the Week, Tyvon Branch, should see more time once again in the secondary. Defensive lineman Mike DeVito will also miss Sunday's game.
On offense, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will continue to chase history. As of now, Smith holds the franchise record for pass attempts in a row without an interception at 305. Smith is just three passes away from tying second place in NFL history (Bernie Kosar, 308, Cleveland) and 53 passes away from tying first place in NFL history (Tom Brady, 358, New England).
Smith said this week that he has enjoyed the winning streak, but like the mentality of Reid, continuously puts his focus into the next challenge ahead.
"It's special, it's really special," he said, "and you kind of enjoy it for those 24 hours and then it's on to the next one. You really are, a little bit, pressing delete. That momentum, though, stays with you, and I do think that mindset kind of stays with you. And I think we've done a great job of that, keeping that intensity into the next week's preparation and building off it."
With a passer rating of 96.3 for 2015, Smith is putting together his best season since 2012 with San Francisco. Together, with his passing game and the effective running back tandem of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, the Chiefs are currently tied for the 10th best offense in the league with 337.5 yards per game.
"You knew how much it mattered to them and you knew how much they prepared," Smith said of both West and Ware's mindset since the beginning of the season. "You felt good about how serious they took it and how they were going to prepare. It was a matter of them going out there and making the plays and in both their cases, you can see it in their play. And you can see how hungry they are and how ready they were."
West and Ware have [combined for 690 yards and 9 total touchdowns](Week 6 onward, they have combined for 620 yards rushing and 9 total touchdowns.) since Week 6, Kansas City's first week without Jamaal Charles.
The Chiefs offense will once again be without wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas (concussion) this week. Offensive lineman Jeff Allen (ankle) is officially listed as questionable.
The Chargers defense, which has also been hurt by injury this season, gives up 370.6 yards per game (24th in the league). The players to watch on the Chargers defense are safety Eric Weddle, who leads the team in tackles, and LB Melvin Ingram, who leads the team in sacks.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers, who played the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs, will be out for the game Sunday with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (foot) will also be out, guard D.J. Fluker (concussion) is questionable and nose tackle Sean Lissemore (shoulder) is doubtful.
Three weeks after their last game, the Chargers visit Arrowhead Stadium with an opportunity to hurt Kansas City's playoff chances, as the Chiefs sit at fifth place in the AFC.
The Chiefs will look to prevent that from happening and win their astounding seventh contest in a row.