The Kansas City Chiefs' advantageous schedule would appear to give them enough of an edge to break through in a competitive AFC playoff race.
The Chiefs, though, had a difficult time earning their seventh consecutive win last week against a lowly opponent and will try for a less stressful game in Sunday's visit to the Baltimore Ravens.
Kansas City (8-5) is in the midst of facing three consecutive opponents that are currently out of playoff contention and could take on a fourth in a row in the season finale Jan. 3 against Oakland.
The Chiefs will try to use that slate to maintain their hold on one of the two wild-card spots. They're ahead of New York (8-5) because of a superior conference record (7-2 to 6-4) and lead Pittsburgh (8-5) due to a 23-13 win Oct. 25, which started their streak.
They're also still in contention for the AFC West but are two games behind Denver and could hand the Broncos the division title with a loss Sunday.
Kansas City edged San Diego 10-3 last weekend by forcing two incompletions in the waning seconds, the final one in the end zone. The Chiefs were aided by a Chargers' delay of game at the 1-yard line.
Kansas City's win streak is its longest since its 9-0 start in 2013 that tied a franchise record. The Chiefs are the first team since the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals to win seven in a row following a losing streak of five-plus games.
"If you're going to be a good football team, you have to win games like this," coach Andy Reid said. "We found ways to lose games just like this (during a 1-5 start)."
Alex Smith completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Albert Wilson in the second quarter. Smith had a string of 312 consecutive attempts without an interception snapped, the second-longest in NFL history behind Tom Brady's 358 in 2010-11.
Linebacker Dee Ford covered Danny Woodhead on the game's final play and registered three sacks with Justin Houston out again because of a sprained knee. Kansas City also lost backup running back Spencer Ware after he hurt his ribs.
The statuses of those two players are unknown as is the health of Baltimore quarterback Matt Schaub, who was forced to sit out last week because of an injured chest.
Mallett played in six games for Houston this season, starting four, and was released Oct. 27 after missing a team flight the previous week.
''The best thing probably was for me to be cut. I've learned a lot from it," Mallett said Tuesday. "It was a piece of humble pie, but it digested real quickly."
The Ravens have also endured a shoulder injury to left tackle Eugene Monroe in their first losing season since John Harbaugh's tenure began in 2008, and they placed defensive end Chris Canty on injured reserve Tuesday with a torn pectoral muscle.
"In my mind, next year's season has already begun. We're developing these guys, what we're going to be next year. Let's see how good we can get," Harbaugh said. "We're going to put our best lineup out there. We're not just going to try guys out. Let's see how well these guys play and let's see where we begin next year."
Baltimore needs one more win to avoid matching its 4-12 mark from 1996, the franchise's first season after moving from Cleveland, and will try to earn a fifth consecutive victory against Kansas City - including playoffs.
The Ravens won 9-6 in the most recent meeting Oct. 7, 2012, and a 38-24 victory Sept. 13, 2009, was their first in four home matchups.
The Chiefs are trying to clinch a third consecutive winning season for the first time since a run of nine in a row from 1989-97.