The Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (6-3) on Sunday.
The Chiefs, winners of four in a row and six of their last seven games, are coming off a thrilling 17-13 road victory over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.
The Seahawks have a 4-1 record at home this season while they're just 2-2 on the road. Those two road losses came against the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, both teams the Chiefs have beaten this season, including the game on the road at San Diego.
The Seahawks, much like the Chiefs, have dealt with their fair share of injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Last week in their win against the Giants, Seahawks standout defensive tackle Brandon Mebane injured his hamstring and was subsequently placed on injured reserve.
Teammates have called Mebane "the most important player on our defense," and his impact is similar in the middle of their defense to what the Chiefs have with nose tackle Dontari Poe.
Other injuries the Seahawks have dealt with are All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor, who missed the last two games with a groin injury, linebacker Bobby Wagner, who has missed the last four games with a turf toe, and linebacker Malcom Smith, the MVP of last year's Super Bowl, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury as well.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has experience playing against the Seahawks from his time in San Francisco, and he doesn't see a difference in the scheme despite the new faces.
"I think it's kind of plug in and play," Smith said. "The next man up, I think they're going to continue to play their style of football. Especially these last few weeks, they've had a bunch of different guys at the linebacker position and in the secondary, but it hasn't changed much."
One player who will play on Sunday is safety Earl Thomas, who has proven to be one of the best playmakers in the NFL and is second on the Seahawks with 51 tackles.
FS Earl Thomas
"He's a really good player," Smith said. "He has really good instincts, he flies around, he gets off the hash really well when he plays the post safety and he does some unorthodox things as well. He trusts his instincts so we have to know where he is a little bit back there because he's that type of safety. There aren't many of them but he's definitely one of them and you're always kind of aware of where he is."
As a team, the Seahawks rank in the top 10 in both passing (eighth) and rushing (fourth) defense.
They're giving up an average of just 79 yards per game on the ground this season while the Chiefs come in averaging 138 yards rushing per game.
The Seahawks come into Sunday's game with just 13 sacks as a team, but much like we saw earlier this season with the Rams, sacks don't always tell the whole story.
Most defensive front players will tell you that getting a quarterback "off his spot" is the goal, and Michael Bennett, the Seahawks best pass rusher, has 31 quarterback hurries this season, which is the same number as the Chiefs' Justin Houston.
On the outside, cornerback Richard Sherman gets the headlines and for good reason. He's proven to be one of the best defensive players in football, arguably the NFL's best cornerback.
DB Richard Sherman
But despite Sherman's ability, don't expect Smith to steer clear of him.
"It's just not the way we operate here and not really my mindset either," Smith said. "I've told you guys this before, I'm dropping back and throwing the ball where it's supposed to go. We're not necessarily forcing the ball to anybody or shying away from anybody either so really the play and situation and all that stuff is going to dictate to where the ball goes."
Offensively, the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing at 170 yards per game.
Last week against the Giants, the Seahawks ran the ball 45 times for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
Marshawn Lynch, the NFL leader in rushing touchdowns with nine on the season, carried the ball 21 times for 140 yards with four touchdowns in that game.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid spoke about the Seahawks' 350-yard rushing performance last week.
"That's pretty impressive," Reid said with a smile. "It wasn't just one guy doing it. They had one that did the majority of it but the quarterback was also involved in that and the other two runners were involved so they had some guys who were putting up yards. You have to prepare for that."
But Reid stopped short of explaining how the Chiefs will prepare for that kind of rushing attack.
"Well we'll find out," he said. "I can't tell you or then they'll know and then they'll get 300 yards so I can't do that."
The Chiefs leading tackler, linebacker Josh Mauga, is impressed by what he sees from Lynch.
"Great back—powerful," Mauga said. "So that definitely tests us up front and stopping the run and also you have guys like [quarterback] Russell Wilson. He can throw the ball and he can run the ball so we definitely have to contain him as well."
While Wilson had 107 yards rushing last week against the Giants, over the last two games, Wilson hasn't had the same success through the air as we've come to expect from the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
View the starting roster for the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.
In his last two games against the Raiders and Giants combined, Wilson completed just 52 percent of his passes for 351 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Raiders and Giants have a combined record of 3-15 and rank 18th and 25th in the league against the pass, respectively.
Overall on the season, Wilson is completing 62.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, which includes seven touchdowns and just one interception on the road.
Mauga explained what the Chiefs defense will need to do in order to have success against Wilson, Lynch and the rest of the Seahawks offense.
"Just continue to do what we've been doing these last few weeks," Mauga said. "That's just going out and competing, playing our game, being physical and flying around. We have a lot of playmakers on the team so if we can all play together and run around and make plays, it's going to be hard to beat us."
Through nine games, the Chiefs defense leads the NFL in fewest second-half points allowed at just 63, as well as fewest fourth quarter points allowed at just 28.
If they can keep up that trend on Sunday against the defending champion Seahawks, they have a good shot at their fifth consecutive victory.
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