GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have dropped two in a row and are in danger of falling out of the AFC playoff race. The Arizona Cardinals have lost two straight and are clinging to a one-game lead in the NFC West.
One team will get back on the right track when the Chiefs (7-5) and Cardinals (9-3) meet Sunday. The other could be in serious trouble.
"It's almost identical," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "Both have two-game losing streaks and bad tastes in their mouths and need to get it out."
Last Sunday night, the Chiefs lost at home to Denver 29-16, falling two games behind the first-place Broncos and one behind San Diego in the NFC West. The Broncos game followed an upset loss at previously winless Oakland.
"We started 0-2 and bounced back and got a bunch of wins," Kansas City tight end Anthony Fasano said, "and I think we're going to need that same grit this time of year."
The Cardinals lost at Seattle, then last Sunday fell at Atlanta 29-18 in their worst performance of the season.
By Thursday, the Arizona players were tired of talking about the Falcons debacle.
"I don't read yesterday's newspapers," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "I know this week we're going to be ready to face the Chiefs."
The Cardinals welcome back wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who missed the previous two games with a sprained knee and was sorely missed. Arians said the team needs Fitzgerald's energy and passion, as well as his abilities.
"Larry makes plays," Arians said. "He's very seldom double-covered. The plays he makes ... and he makes big plays after the catch. Those are the things we were missing."
The Cardinals will be missing running back Andre Ellington, who sustained a hip pointer against the Falcons and already had problems with his foot and other hip.
Here are things to look for when the Chiefs meet the Cardinals:
WEAKNESS VS WEAKNESS: The Kansas City run defense ranks 30th, surrendering 136 yards per game. Arizona's running game ranks 31st with an anemic 74.8 yards per game.
Without Ellington, Arizona will start Stepfan Taylor at running back. But expect significant playing time for undrafted rookie Marion Grice, the former Arizona State back picked up off the San Diego practice squad three weeks into the season.
THIRD DOWNS: Both teams have been awful on third down lately.
The Chiefs were 1 for 9 against Denver, Arizona was 1 for 7 against Atlanta and 3 for 12 against Seattle.
"We've got to sustain drives is what we need to do," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. "That's been one of our strengths and the last couple weeks we haven't done that. That's my responsibility to make sure that we get guys in the right position to be able to keep those chains moving and put something together. We've had way too many three-and-outs."
STOPPING JAMAAL: The Cardinals hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 consecutive games before Steven Jackson got 101 (55 on one carry) last week.
Now they have a huge challenge trying to stop or at least slow down Jamaal Charles.
"He's got speed, he's tough; he's got great speed and he blocks," Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "He has outstanding feet. He can make you miss just subtly. Where most guys have to jump and juke, he can just sidestep and keep on going. He's arguably the top one or two in the league."
Charles had just 10 carries for 35 yards last week against Denver. He banged up his knee during the game, but Reid said that Charles will be close to 100 percent for the Cardinals.
FORCING TURNVOERS: The Chiefs were among the NFL's best last season with 36 takeaways, and had six touchdown returns. Yet they only have 10 takeaways this season, putting them near the bottom of the league. The Cardinals have 21 takeaways, only one in the last two games.
WRs MIA: The Chiefs still do not have a touchdown reception by a wide receiver. Only three teams have ever gone through an entire season without one, the last being the New York Giants in 1964.
"We're not worried about who scores, we're worried that we do score," quarterback Alex Smith said. "That'll kind of remain our focus, spreading the ball around, and hopefully everybody is getting in on the action."
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