The Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) will attempt to keep one of the most historic win streaks in franchise history going when they take on the Oakland Raiders (7-8) at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday afternoon.
As is widely documented by now, the Chiefs rallied from a 1-5 start to currently stand at 10-5 after a franchise record-tying (2003, 2013) nine straight victories.
When asked this week about how his team didn't quit when faced with that early-season adversity, head coach Andy Reid commended the mentality of his team throughout the course of the season.
"They're a pretty straight forward group," he explained. "They've been that way through camp. I think they trusted each other and that was probably the biggest thing going there. They understood that there's a small margin between winning and losing in this league. It's crazy, all the parity in this league. Nobody's better than anybody on a given Sunday until you play the game."
Oakland can attest to that. Since their 34-20 loss to the Chiefs at the O.co Coliseum, the Raiders have won two of their last three games, including a Kansas City-friendly win over the Denver Broncos three weeks ago.
Under first-year head coach Jack Del Rio, Oakland is looking to snap Kansas City's streak, and by doing so, clinch its first season at .500 or better since 2011.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity to play a division rival at their place," Del Rio said. "It's an opportunity for us to go after them and find a way to get a win, and really, we understand they've earned their way into the playoffs. We're going to have to wait until next year and we'd really like to give them a memory to take with them into the playoffs."
With the Raiders missing the postseason, Sunday will mark the final game of Future Hall of Fame defensive back Charles Woodson's career. Woodson actually began his career at Arrowhead Stadium in 1998.
"I'm glad he's picking a different profession," Reid joked this week. "He's a heck of a player, he still can play – I mean, he's said that. There's just a point you get to where it's time, he feels that. More power to him for being able to do that."
Woodson, who has 67 tackles (53 solo) and a team-leading 5 interceptions for the Raiders this season, will finish his career by heading to his ninth Pro Bowl later this year.
Woodson has taken a mentoring role with linebacker Khalil Mack this season, a year Mack has broken out as one of the game's elite, leading the NFL with 15.0 sacks.
"Learning from [Woodson] off the field and on the field has helped me grow tremendously as a professional in this game," Mack said of Woodson this week. "Seeing how he attacks the game and attacks the week, preparing himself, has helped me tremendously."
The Raiders defense, which could be without cornerbacks D.J. Hayden (ankle) and Neiko Thorpe (neck) as they are officially listed as questionable, currently ranks at 22nd in the league by allowing 365.5 yards per game.
Quarterback Alex Smith may need to work against that defense without right tackle Jah Reid, who has dealt with a knee issue all week and is officially listed as questionable.
Due to varying circumstances over the past two seasons, this will actually be Smith's first Week 17 game in three years.
"It's tough, it's a physical game and you work hard to take care of your body and stay in shape," he said. "[It's] a source of pride for all guys in team sports to be accountable, to be there every week and your teammates can count on you week in and week out that you're going to be there."
2015 has been one of the best years of Smith's career, as his 96.7 passer rating is well above his career average (84.6) and is only eclipsed by one other season—2012 in San Francisco (104.1).
Smith's counterpart in second-year QB Derek Carr has put together another fantastic season, as he enters Sunday's game with 10 more touchdowns than he had all of last season, 31, and only 12 interceptions.
Rookie Marcus Peters, safety Tyvon Branch and linebacker Josh Mauga all had interceptions against Carr in the teams' matchup four weeks ago.
LAST TIME THEY MET
Photos from the Chiefs Week 13 matchup against the Raiders
The Chiefs could potentially see the returns of linebackers Tamba Hali (thumb) and Justin Houston (knee), as well as safety Husain Abdullah (concussion), against the Raiders. Houston, who still leads the Chiefs in sacks with 7.5, has missed the last four games for the Chiefs but practiced limitedly on Friday.
"He got good work in, we'll just see how he feels," Reid said after watching Houston. "We'll take it from there. I've kind of said it's day-by-day and that's really what it is. He moved around pretty good [Friday], we'll just see how he does here."
In what has to be regarded as one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in the history of football, the Chiefs will wrap up their 2015 season this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
For the first time in two seasons, the Chiefs enter Week 17 knowing that they are heading to the Wild Card round, but there is still more to play for. While a win would mean more records and accolades for the Chiefs, parlay that with a San Diego Chargers win over the Denver Broncos, and Kansas City will take the AFC West crown.
The sheer potential of that—an AFC West title—after how low the outlook looked earlier this year could make Sunday's game one many in Kansas City will never forget.