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Arrowheadlines: Kansas City Chiefs News 12/11

A very Merry and Happy Holidays to everyone (we have our company party this morning)! Consider today's Kansas City Chiefs news an early stocking stuffer (not a euphemism). Enjoy!

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Chiefs Opponent Preview: Get to Know the San Diego Chargers from The Mothership

Despite losing key players to Injured Reserve this season (right guard Johnnie Troutman, running back Branden Oliver, wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Chris Watt), quarterback Philip Rivers has led San Diego to the sixth best offense and fourth best passing offense in the league.

Wide receiver Malcom Floyd (shoulder) returned to action against the Broncos last week. Floyd had 1 catch for 13 yards on 4 targets in the loss.

With WRs Stevie Johnson (neck) and Dontrelle Inman (groin) held out of practice Wednesday due to injury, Floyd may need to play a bigger role for the Chargers Sunday against the Chiefs. To help with the possible vacancies, the Chargers also signed WR Vincent Brown this week.

Here's What We Learned From the Coordinators on Thursday from The Mothership

Q: Do you think Travis Kelce's fumble affected his performance?

PEDERSON: "You know what, it doesn't because it's one play. That's been our focus all year. When that happened before the half - one thing, as a coordinator, I feel like it's part of my job to go to him and say ‘listen, we're going to keep coming to you. It's not like we're not going to come to you, you're one of our leaders.' And you saw on that third down play and then the two point conversion the trust that Alex (Smith) has with him. So one play doesn't define you either way and with him he's going to give you a handful of those and you know. But yet, it's not going to discourage you from continuing to throw him the football."

Eric Berry Currently Ranks as the Best Safety in the NFL from The Mothership

Eric Berry has been making plays all over the field for the Kansas City Chiefs defense this season, and everyone has been taking notice, including Pro Football Focus, which currently has Berry ranked as the No. 1 safety in the NFL.

It should be noted that these rankings are subjective, but the impact Berry's presence has brought on the field has been noticeable.

"He has great speed, tremendous range and is a very physical player," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Berry. "He can really limit deep plays and keep them under control. I think he's tackling and being as physical as he's ever been. He's got a little bit of a sixth sense to go get it back there."

Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson Says He's "Fresh as Ever" Right Now from The Mothership

It's known as the "DJ" special.

The opposing running back will take the handoff and look for a lane to run through. At precisely the moment he feels he has an opening to the second level of the defense, the 11-year veteran and the Kansas City Chiefs all-time leading tackler—linebacker Derrick Johnson—will shoot the gap for a tackle for loss.

A "DJ" special.

His teammates have gotten used to him making those plays, even after missing all of 2014 with a ruptured Achilles.

Follow "ChiefsHistory" on Instagram from The Mothership

The Kansas City Chiefs have a rich history, and now there's an Instagram account to commemorate some of the best memories the team has to offer.

It's called "chiefshistory."

"Some of the memories are well known, but have been forgotten," said team historian Bob Moore, who is overseeing the project. "Others, in some instances, have never been known but are small reminders. There will be small photographs of players from the past that will bring back memories as well as let fans know that the day they are reading in some instances is the day when a major event took place.

Amid interception-free streak, Chiefs QB Alex Smith fosters growing optimism, lingering doubt from The Kansas City Star

There are many reasons the Chiefs have saved their season with six straight wins. Their defense has forced 17 turnovers in those games, and scored or set up 68 points. Marcus Peters is a revelation. Derrick Johnson is, somehow, as quick as ever. The offensive line has played better than should be expected through injuries. Jeremy Maclin is playing as well as he has in his career.

Smith is part of that, too. In recent weeks, the broadcasts have talked more about what is now a streak of 305 passes without an interception, the third-longest in NFL history — only Tom Brady and Bernie Kosar have gone longer. He and the Chiefs are, week by week, growing into one of the great stories of this NFL season.

This week, through conversations with people inside the Chiefs organization and around the league, as well as by watching each of Smith's 380 dropbacks since his last interception, I wanted to get a better idea for how, and how well, Smith is playing.

Two takeaways: First, he's playing even better than you might think. Also, there remains plenty to doubt.

Week 14: Thursday injury report from Chiefs Digest

Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) returned to a full practice Thursday, after sitting out Wednesday's work in what has become a weekly routine.

Otherwise, the rest of the injury report remained the same from Wednesday.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee) headlines a list of players not practicing a second straight day, a group consisting of Houston, safety Husain Abdullah (concussion), DE Mike Devito (concussion, shoulder) and wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas (concussion).

Guard Jeff Allen (ankle) remains limited.

Chiefs coordinator has appreciation for Alex Smith's no-INT streak from ESPN

He is 53 interception-less passes behind the all-time leader. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. He set the record of 358 in 2010 and 2011.

Smith has thrown three interceptions this season, but none since a game on Sept. 28 against the Packers in Green Bay. He has thrown .8 interceptions for every 100 passes this season, the best such percentage in the NFL.

Veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson is peaking along with rest of the Chiefs' defense from The Kansas City Star

Before Bills running back LeSean McCoy took the handoff from Tyrod Taylor, the alarm sounded in the head of Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.

"I saw a certain formation, seen it 50 times," Johnson said. "I'm thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, here it comes, let's go.'

"And if it's not the play I'm thinking I'll react to whatever it is."

But Johnson guessed correctly and was in the backfield almost in time to take the handoff, dropping McCoy for a four-yard loss.

Notebook: Chiefs learning to live with Travis Kelce's fumbles from Chiefs Digest

The third-year tight end had four fumbles last season, with three lost and two fumbles this season, with both going to the other team. Pederson and the Chiefs coaching staff would like to see Kelce improve his security of the ball when it's in his hands.

"It's the same old thing," Pederson said. "It's high and tight, it's having ball leverage in his arm, he's got to be aware that they strip the ball, he's got to know the game situation in that moment of the game."

Alex Smith not a fan of short time between Chiefs-Chargers games from ESPN

"I think this is kind of strange, to be honest with you," Smith said. "I realize, obviously, the scheduling is never going to be perfect, but it is strange to play them three weeks ago. You only have two games in between to look at. So yeah, it is strange. I would prefer more time.

"I think that's kind of what the division games are about, playing teams twice, you have to play them twice, home and away. And the adjustments, there's only so much you can do this late in the season playing this close together."

Chiefs overcoming problems on offensive line and winning games from Chiefs Digest

They are No. 5 in the NFL in producing points, scoring an average of nearly 28 points per game. At 7-5 they wrap up the regular season with four very winnable games, three of those at home. They control their ticket to the postseason.

All this has happened despite a turbulent season along the offensive line, where week-to-week head coach Andy Reid is never quite sure who might be available to play, let alone start at center, guard or tackle. Over 12 games, the Chiefs have had six different combinations of starters and there have been changes at every one of the five positions.

Football common-sense would suggest that success is not possible for a team when the big guys on the line of scrimmage are struggling and inconsistent.

Credit or blame for offensive play call doesn't always rest with Andy Reid from ESPN

When a Kansas City Chiefs offensive play succeeds spectacularly or fails miserably, don't automatically credit or blame Andy Reid. The Chiefs' head coach normally calls the offensive plays, but not all of them.

Reid said he occasionally will hand off the play-calling chores to offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, if he feels the Chiefs can benefit from a different perspective.

"If I feel we need a changeup, we go with it,'' Reid said. "I think that's healthy whether you're in a slump or not. I just think it's healthy to mix it up a little bit.''

Chiefs' running back version of thunder, lightning set to roll from Chiefs Digest

"We're lightning and thunder," West said. "It's a good thing to have, two backs that can do everything, just complement each other. You never know what you're going to get from either one of us."

The 5-10, 205-pound West fills the role of lightning with explosive ability in the open field, while the 5-10, 229-pound Ware offers the thunder with punishing runs between the tackles.

"That's my style of running," Ware said. "People can label it as many ways as you can. I just label myself as a running back that gets tough yards."

Having two productive and healthy running backs provides the Chiefs a luxury to utilize a thunder and lightning combination the rest of the way.

On Sunday, Chiefs were part of the missed extra-point epidemic from The Kansas City Star

After the next touchdown, which gave the Chiefs a 26-20 lead, Santos simply pushed the kick right, and it was natural to wonder whether the miss had its origin in the botch.

"It could be a little bit," Toub said. "You doubt a little bit. Is the ball down? Is it perfect? But we'll move on from that."

Chiefs' Reid calls on assistant to help out play-calling from The Associated Press via FS Kansas City

In his dorm room on the campus of Missouri Western, shortly before the Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up training camp, Andy Reid lounged in a chair with a smile on his face.

The reason? He was talking about play-calling.

There aren't many things that get him more excited in the game of football.

So when Reid let slip last weekend that he has begun turning to Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson to help with the plays, a small admission became big news. And while Reid tried to downplay the entire situation this week, he nonetheless had pulled back the curtain on the way the team operates.

NFL: Are the Kansas City Chiefs For Real? from The Latin Post

Alex Smith has certainly stepped up his play from what we saw in September. Smith hasn't thrown a single interception since the Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Smith is becoming more of a reliable deep ball quarterback. Jeremy Maclin has proven to be a fantastic free agent addition and much more versatile than Dwayne Bowe. It's amazing that the Chiefs offense has been so on point considering the fact that Jamaal Charles is out for the season. The Chiefs offense has turned the ball over in just one of their last six games.

Travis Kelce has emerged into one of the best tight ends in the league today. Kelce isn't just making a difference with huge catches, but he is making pivotal blocks at the line of scrimmage for Smith and Charcandrick West. Naturally, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali lead an elite defensive line that ranks near the top in every major category.

San Diego Chargers (3-9) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) from Lindy's Sports

The Chiefs embarrassed the Chargers in a thorough domination, 33-3, three weeks ago and present nightmare matchups across the board for San Diego. Though QB Philip Rivers is somehow holding up in perpetual comeback mode - with a 504-285 pass-run imbalance - he was swarmed for four quarters by the Chiefs and finished with a 65.7 passer rating. The surprisingly balmy December weather should spare the Chargers to a degree, but the Arrowhead crowd will not. San Diego hasn't scored in the first quarter in the past three games and has zero first-quarter touchdowns on the road this season.

Chiefs, Seahawks contenders; Steelers, Falcons pretenders from NFL.com

Kansas City has won six straight games, and the Chiefs' prospects only look better in the final four weeks of the season. Their opponents during that stretch -- San Diego, Baltimore, Cleveland and Oakland -- have a combined record of 14-34, and Kansas City has already beaten the Chargers and Raiders on the road. This isn't just about schedules, though. The Chiefs have rebounded from a 1-5 start because they've squeezed every last bit of talent out of their roster since losing Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury in Week 5. Quarterback Alex Smith hasn't thrown an interception in 305 attempts. Unknown running backs likeSpencer Ware and Charcandrick West have kept the ground game viable. A defense that surrendered three 30-point efforts in the first four games has become suffocating. This is no longer a team hoping to make the playoffs. It's one that is now capable of doing some damage once it gets in. FINAL VERDICT: CONTENDER

Mauga on fire for Kansas City from The Nevada Appeal

After establishing himself with the Chiefs during the 2014 season by playing in all 16 games and having an injury-free year, Magua was sidelined for two games this season and hobbled in several more with an Achilles heel injury and pulled groin.

"Our trainers here are great to get us healthy and back on the field," Mauga said. "I have been feeling good the last few weeks."

Since his return to the gridiron, Mauga has been on fire beginning with his outstanding defensive play at Denver and then following up with seven tackles at San Diego, including his first quarterback sack. He recorded nine solo tackles against Buffalo, and three tackles against Oakland. In 2014, Mauga led the Chiefs with 103 tackles, and this year he has 39 through 10 games.

Hali on trash talking Rivers: "He feeds off that" from The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Kansas City Chiefs sound more interested in sacking Philip Rivers than talking to him Sunday.

In contrast to Denver Broncos defenders who bantered with Rivers several times last week, Chiefs edge rusher Tamba Hali said jabber could backfire when second-place Kansas City (7-5) meets slumping San Diego.

"There's no need to talk trash to Philip - because he feeds off that," Hali said Wednesday in a phone interview with San Diego reporters. "We're not going to give him what he needs. Basically, if we start talking trash, he might play better."

The Chargers (3-9) are in last place, so motivational juice may be in short supply. Naturally, Hali doesn't want to provide them any.

N.F.L. Playoff Scenarios: Watch Week 14 Like an Expert from The New York Times

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) The Chiefs are on strong footing for a wild-card spot. A win this week gets them very close; a Steelers or Jets loss would nearly seal the deal.

Raiders' Derek Carr eager to lay ugly game to rest from The San Franciso Chronicle

Carr said he just felt bad for his teammates after the 34-20 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.

"It sucks," he said. "It does. It's not fun to watch on film. It's not fun to think about. For me to bounce back, it's easy. ... It doesn't matter how good it is or how bad it is, I'll always be the same guy.

"I just feel the hurt of my team."

Riding with Musgrave's saddle analogy, Carr is going to have a tough time staying on against a Broncos defense that is ranked first in total defense (284.7 yards per game) and sacks (41).

A sure sign of winter: NFL playoff scenarios from The Associated Press via The Miami Herald

San Diego (3-9) at Kansas City (7-5)

While Oakland and San Diego have faltered, the Chiefs are among the league's hottest teams. Credit Alex Smith for avoiding interceptions — 305 and counting — along with a solid running attack despite Jamaal Charles' absence, and a defense that can turn games. KC is a plus-13 in turnover margin and leads the AFC wild-card pack.

The Chargers could be entering their final four games representing San Diego. Considering what this season has been like, who says the folks in Los Angeles have any interest in getting the Bolts?

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: How to set your fantasy lineups for Week 14 from Sports Illustrated

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Must start: Jeremy Maclin, Antonio Gates, Travis Kelce, Chiefs DST

The first time these teams met, the Chiefs cruised to a 33-3 victory behind Alex Smith, Spencer Ware and the defense. We'll get to the first two in a bit, but the Chiefs' defense is one of the best plays at the position this week. The Chargers are 29th in pass DVOA, 24th against No. 1 receivers and 31st against tight ends. That bodes well for Maclin, who doubles as one of the hottest receivers over the last two weeks, and Kelce. Expect another comfortable victory for Kansas City. While everything is falling apart in San Diego, Gates might actually be one of the best fantasy tight ends for the rest of the season. Who else is Philip Rivers going to target in the passing game?

Number crunch: Best, worst Week 14 fantasy matchups from NFL.com

The winning formula in fantasy football is simple: Play the matchups.

Yet, accurately determining the difficulty of a matchup and the true value of a player can be challenging if you use the same old dusty stats that every fantasy site has been using for the last decade.

That's why my weekly column 'Number Crunch' uses a proprietary system called "FantasyoMatic," which uses an algorithm to provide the actual strength of an opponent and actual player capabilities with accuracy levels that you cannot find anywhere else. This system takes all the emotion and guesswork out of winning in fantasy football, and has proven to be up to 46 percent more accurate than the metrics that everyone else in your league is using.