The Kansas City Chiefs will take the field against the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Day with an opportunity to lock up the AFC West on the line.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs will be without wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hip), tailback Jerick McKinnon (groin) and offensive tackle Donovan Smith (neck) on Monday due to injury. The absence of Smith likely sets up a third-straight start at left tackle for rookie Wanya Morris. Veteran wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who has missed the last four weeks due to a thumb injury, returned to practice this past week but will remain on Injured Reserve for the time being and will not play on Monday. The Chiefs still have two weeks to activate Hardman if they so choose.
In some good news, tailback Isiah Pacheco, who missed the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, returned to practice this week and appears to be good to go.
As for the Raiders, they'll be without rookie tight end Michael Mayer due to a toe injury. Mayer ranks third on Las Vegas in terms of receiving yards (304) and caught a touchdown last week vs. Los Angeles. The Raiders also listed six players as "Questionable" for the game, including tailback Josh Jacobs (quad/sick), left tackle Kolton Miller (shoulder) and cornerback Jack Jones (knee). Jacobs (one game) and Miller (two games) are each trying to return to action after missing time due to their injuries. Jones, meanwhile, was a full participant in practice this week and wasn't on the injury report until being listed as "limited" on Saturday.
2. Las Vegas scored the most points in franchise history last week.
The Raiders dropped a franchise-most 63 points on Los Angeles last week, winning by a whopping 42 points. The fascinating thing about the game, however, is that Las Vegas reached that point total despite just 378 yards of offense. In fact, the Raiders' performance last week marked the highest point total of any team with fewer than 400 yards of offense since 1966.
The Raiders were certainly efficient offensively, finding the end zone on seven of their first nine possessions, but it was also a matter of Las Vegas taking advantage of the Chargers' mistakes. Los Angeles turned the ball over six times in the game (including a turnover-on-downs), directly leading to a ridiculous 42 points.
It has been a tale of two games for the Raiders in their two matchups since falling to the Chiefs back in Week 12, as they failed to score a single point vs. Minnesota in Week 14 – losing by a score of 3-0 – before racking up 63 points last week. It goes to show that while Las Vegas sits at just 6-8 on the year, the Raiders are a dangerous team capable of capitalizing on mistakes.
3. The Raiders have fielded the league's No. 3 scoring defense since Week 8.
Las Vegas has posted the league's No. 3 scoring defense (17 points-per-game) since Week 8, holding six of their seven opponents under 30 points in that time. The one exception to that trend was the Chiefs, who scored 31 points back in Week 12.
One key to the Raiders' success defensively since Week 8 has been their performance in the red zone, where they've limited opponents to a 47 percent clip in terms of touchdown efficiency. Las Vegas has also forced 14 turnovers in that time, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
4. Chiefs' cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is the league's most-targeted defensive back yet to allow a touchdown through Week 15.
Sneed has drawn 72 targets this season – the 25th-most in the NFL – while primarily covering the opponent's top option each and every week. Remarkably, despite that high volume of targets, Sneed has yet to allow a single touchdown this season, making him the league's most-targeted player yet to surrender a score through Week 15.
Sneed largely covered Raiders' All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams back in Week 12, and despite a fast start by Adams – who caught five passes for 73 yards through the first 17 minutes of the game – Sneed didn't allow Adams to catch a single pass the rest of the way.
Additionally, speaking of standout defensive backs, cornerback Trent McDuffie leads all cornerbacks with 15 pressures this year. He's one of only two cornerbacks over the last four years to record 15+ pressures in a single season, joining Sneed, who recorded 18 pressures in 2022, the most among all cornerbacks.
5. The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West with a victory on Monday.
Kansas City can clinch the AFC West for an eighth-straight season on Monday with a victory over the Raiders – regardless of any other outcomes – by securing the tie-breaker over the Denver Broncos. A win over Las Vegas would ensure that the Chiefs would finish with a record of no worse than 10-7, and while the Broncos could technically tie that mark by winning each of their final three games, Kansas City would own the edge in the fourth tie-breaker: conference record.
Here's a look at the tie-breaker procedure utilized by the NFL for division championships, and how a victory on Monday would result in an AFC West title for the Chiefs:
1) Head-to-Head Record: Tied. The Chiefs and Broncos split the season series this year, 1-1.
2) Division Record: The Chiefs currently own a division record of 3-1, while the Broncos sit at 2-2. With a Chiefs' victory on Monday, the best the Broncos could do at the end of the season is tie Kansas City's record against AFC West opponents.
3) Common Games: The Chiefs and Broncos have 10 common opponents this season: the Chargers (twice), Raiders (twice), Dolphins, Jets, Bears, Vikings, Packers, Bills, Patriots and Lions. A win over the Raiders would ensure that Kansas City would finish with a "common opponents" record of no worse than 8-4, and the best Denver could do is match it.
4) Conference Record: This is where a victory on Monday would secure a division title. Kansas City currently owns a conference record of 7-2, and with a win on Monday, the worst possible conference record that the Chiefs could finish with would be 8-4. The Broncos currently own a conference record of 4-5, meaning that even with three Denver victories to close out the year, Kansas City would own the edge.
Of course, the Chiefs' goals extend beyond a division title. The No. 1 seed is still in play for Kansas City, as the Chiefs sit just two games behind Baltimore for the top spot in the conference. The first goal every year, however, is to secure the AFC West, and with a win on Monday, the Chiefs would be AFC West champions for an eighth-straight season.