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Arrowheadlines: Kansas City Chiefs News 1/2

Good morning! Here is today's Kansas City Chiefs news. Enjoy!

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

LB Justin Houston Returned to Practice Friday from The Mothership

The three-time Pro Bowler has missed the last four games for the Chiefs but is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.

In 2015, Houston has compiled 30 tackles (25 solo) and still leads the team with 7.5 sacks despite the missed time.

What We Learned in Friday's Media Availability from The Mothership

"Happy New Year. These are the injuries: Jah Reid and Tamba (Hali) did not practice today, Tamba, really just because we're working on the turf here and we don't want his knee to swell - both of them will be listed as questionable. Justin Houston practiced, (Husain) Abdullah practiced, both of those two are also listed as questionable.

And then, just so we head this thing off, with De'Anthony (Thomas), we put him on NFI, Non-Football Illness. It is not concussion-related. I just have to leave it at that, just no further questions on it and we move on with the Oakland Raiders..."

Chiefs vs. Raiders: Five Things to Watch from The Mothership

1. A win breaks a historic franchise record

When the story of the Kansas City Chiefs 2015 season is told, the lead is going to be something to the effect of the turnaround of a 1-5 start all the way to the playoffs.

That is the hook, the lead and what people will remember.

But that next line is either going to state that they pulled off the longest winning streak in franchise history, or that they tied for the longest winning streak in franchise history.

Sunday's game against the Raiders will determine how that line in the mention of this team in franchise history will read.

Chiefs' Justin Houston returns to practice Friday, questionable Sunday from The Kansas City Star

Houston, who has missed the Chiefs' last four games with a hyperextended left knee, went through warmups during the portion of Friday's practice that was open to the media. Houston wore a brace on his knee and hasn't practiced in a month.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Houston will be listed as questionable for their regular-season finale at 3:25 p.m. Sunday against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Justin Houston returns to practice, will be questionable against Raiders from Chiefs Digest

Houston, who leads the Chiefs with 7 ½ sacks, has missed four straight games. Second-year pro Dee Ford has started in Houston's place during that span and has totaled 10 tackles and three sacks.

The Chiefs have a policy prohibiting players unless they put in a full practice, so Houston, who was present in the locker room, wasn't made available to the media.

Justin Houston returns to practice, has chance to play on Sunday from ESPN

Even if Houston doesn't play against Oakland, his return to the practice field speaks well for his ability to play in the postseason. The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and would win the AFC West championship if they beat the Raiders and the Denver Broncos lose to the San Diego Chargers.

Week 17: Friday injury report from Chiefs Digest


QUESTIONABLE: CB D.J. Hayden (ankle), CB Neiko Thorpe (neck)
PROBABLE: WR Amari Cooper (foot), DE Khalil Mack (knee), S Charles Woodson (shoulder)

Chiefs' Andy Reid stresses placement of De'Anthony Thomas on NFI not related to concussion from Chiefs Digest

"It is not concussion-related," Reid said. "I just have to leave it at that and just no further questions on it."

While Reid did field a question whether Thomas could return in 2016, the coach's response offered a blurry forecast.

"I really don't know on that," Reid said. "That would be a (general manager John) Dorse(y) question. I just fed you the information I know."

His numbers weren't great, but replacing De'Anthony Thomas isn't easy for Chiefs from ESPN

But there are reasons the Chiefs played Thomas so much despite his limited production. He is fast, world-class fast, and opponents often had trouble defending that.

The Chiefs were better offensively last year with Thomas in the game than when he wasn't. It didn't matter much whether he got the ball or not.

The 2014 Chiefs averaged 1.5 more yards per play and 2.3 more yards per rush when Thomas was in their lineup than when he wasn't.

Chiefs look to solve run defense issues before playoffs from The Kansas City Star

But where the Browns also hurt the Chiefs was on base running plays, particularly up the middle, as running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson combined to rush 24 times for 114 yards, an average of 4.75 yards per carry.

"That's what we didn't play as well as we thought we could've played," Sutton said. "That gets down to the same thing ... it's technique. We got a couple where we missed some tackles."

The Chiefs will have an opportunity to get back on the right track in their regular-season finale on Sunday against Oakland, which has the league's 25th-best rushing attack at 93.9 yards per game.

Keys to the game: Raiders @ Chiefs from Chiefs Digest

What happens on Sunday for the Chiefs offense will have as much to do with their berth in the AFC playoffs as it will the Oakland Raiders.

The unit has not been consistent, or as productive as they were earlier in the team's nine-game winning streak.

It started four games ago when these teams met for the first time this season. The Chiefs had trouble keeping much going against the Raiders, something they repeated in the last two games against Baltimore and Cleveland. That needs to be fixed with better execution, play selection and staying away from penalties

First half, Chiefs roll. Second? Not so much from The Kansas City Star

The Chiefs don't have a touchdown in the second half since the Dec. 6 victory at Oakland. The Raiders and Chiefs meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is 3:25 p.m.

The Chiefs have held double-digit leads at halftime but lack of production in the two home victories, against the Chargers and Browns, meant they had to sweat out those outcomes.

Houston returns to practice, could play Sunday vs. Raiders from The Associated Press via FS Kansas City

Even if Houston or Hali does not play Sunday, the fact that they are questionable increases the likelihood they'll be available for the playoffs. Kansas City (10-5) has secured a wild-card spot and could still win the AFC West by beating Oakland and if Denver loses to San Diego.

Houston has 7 1/2 sacks this season, and Hali has 6 1/2. But even when they're not getting to the quarterback, they demand so much attention that others get loose.

Raiders will carry momentum into offseason from The San Jose Mercury-News

Don't mistake that for ambivalence about the season-finale against the Chiefs (10-5), the NFL's hottest team. Kansas City is riding a nine-game winning streak and has a shot at the AFC West title.

"I would say that I want very badly to go on the road and win a game this weekend," Del Rio said in continuing his thought.

A win gets the Raiders to 8-8 for the first time since consecutive .500 seasons in 2010-11 and that carries a better perception than a 7-9 mark.

Raiders' QB Derek Carr is confident and accurate on throws that matter most _ the ones that go for touchdowns from The San Jose Mercury-News

"He's confident in his own abilities to stick it in those tight windows,  and he can anticipate and see those windows open up before they actually do," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said.

Of Carr's 31 touchdown passes, 17 have come on passes into the end zone and two others were caught at the 1-yard line and carried in for the score. He has completed touchdown passes to 10 different receivers and only once _ on a pass stolen in the end zone by Minnesota's Terrance Newman _ was he intercepted.

Carr has done it with fade patterns, high-velocity slants and the occasional swing pass.

What's at Stake in NFL Week 17? from The Wall Street Journal

Another division title, the AFC West, will be locked up with a simple Denver Broncos (11-4) win over the San Diego Chargers (4-11). If they lose, it opens the door for the Kansas City Chiefs (10-5), who would win the division in that scenario with a win over the Oakland Raiders (7-8). The Chiefs have already locked up a playoff spot. A Denver loss would also see them lose a first-round bye, which the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) could claim if they beat the Baltimore Ravens (5-10) while Denver loses.

Ranking the NFL's playoff teams from The Boston Globe

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) — Outside of Arizona, no team is hotter entering the playoffs than the Chiefs, who are riding a nine-game winning streak and can still win the AFC West. The defense is nasty, averaging just 12.3 points allowed per game during their current streak, while allowing 20-plus points just twice overall and no more than 22 in a game. They also have more balance on offense this year, with Jeremy Maclin (1,034 yards, 7 touchdowns) finally giving them a weapon on the outside to go along with tight end Travis Kelce. The only reason not to pick the Chiefs to win the AFC: Do we really think Alex Smith can beat the Patriots in Foxborough?

Notes on 32: A lap around the NFL from The Florida Times-Union

KANSAS CITY: Impressive part about playoff-bound Chiefs nine-game winning streak is they've won by at least 14 points in five of those games. They're punishing their opponent.

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