At the time that the Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders first faced off in mid-November, the possibility that the Chiefs might miss the playoffs seemed very real.
That seems so long ago, when the Chiefs blew out the Raiders, 41-14, on Sunday Night Football, and especially now after having won five straight and reclaiming control of the AFC West at 8-4.
The one thing that mighty be surprising is that, other than their effort against the Raiders, the Chiefs' run has been fueled by a resurgent defensive effort.
Heading into their first meeting, the Chiefs were ranked a lowly 24th in scoring defense, but have risen up to eighth during their run.
Kansas City has racked up 11 opposing turnovers in that time, and has improved to being a top-10 unit in third-down defense.
Moving Pro Bowl defensive lineman Chris Jones back inside full-time has also been a big benefit, as he's seen his pressure rates increase significantly.
Offensively, the Chiefs haven't scored more than 22 points outside of the game against the Raiders.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been able to cut down on the turnovers that plagued him earlier in the season. Mahomes had only three interceptions in the last five games, but his yards and completion percentage still have been lower overall.
If the Raiders can't fix their mistakes from their first meeting, though, it might not matter.
Las Vegas is at a point where one more loss might effectively put the Silver and Black out of the playoff hunt.
After struggling on offense the last five games, excluding the Raiders win on Thanksgiving, they can't afford to give away any opportunities to Kansas City.
If they do, then it'll just make it that much easier for the Chiefs to put on a repeat performance.
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