With the NFL’s new stance that at least two division rivals play one another on Thursday Night each week, the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are set to clash in what could become a pivotal game in the balance of power in the AFC West.
The Chiefs are riding a five game winning streak and are tied with Denver for the division lead. On Sunday, the struggling Broncos will face a Miami Dolphins team at home that’s battling to secure a Wild Card Spot. In fact, if Miami losses their Mile High Showdown on Sunday, they’ll probably be out of playoff contention.
Kansas City though controls its playoff destiny. No longer are the Chiefs fighting for a modest wild card spot. Instead with a 7-3 record heading into this game, they can think about getting a home playoff game or better.
However, for that to occur, they must defeat the lowly Raiders. It might seem like a cakewalk on paper, but whenever these two teams meat, both sides generally play the game as if they are AFC powerhouses.
The Chiefs are clearly the better team. The Raiders play the game with intensity and they are not void of talent. They’re a team that’s trying to get through the regular season with a win or two and reclaim some modest dignity. After all, they’re going to clean house at seasons end on the sidelines and that makes this game dangerous.
The Raiders with games against all three of their division mates can throw a wrench into the plans of the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers playoff hopes. However, they’d likely have to play a perfect game to defeat Kansas City.
Ironically the Raiders have played the Broncos and Chargers tough this season. In fact, had Oakland not imploded late in the first half two weeks ago at home against the Denver Broncos, they might have won their first game.
This past Sunday at San Diego, the Raiders, behind rookie quarterback Derek Carr, nearly pulled off the road upset. That tells me Oakland is close to getting it’s first victory. If the Chiefs want to maintain the pressure on the Broncos, who they face one week from Sunday at Arrowhead, they need to win this game.
Now I’m not of the opinion that Kansas City needs to blow out the Raiders, they just need to win the game anyway they can. The Black Hole has been rather kind to the Chiefs in recent years, so winning this road contest at Oakland isn’t a foreign concept to Kansas City.
All the Chiefs need to do Thursday night is set the tone early, hit the Raiders in the mouth a few times, and play the same kind of football that’s made them one of the elite NFL teams the last two months of the season. Kansas City has much to loose with a poor performance against the Raiders. Where as Oakland has nothing to lose at all.
However, I’m hard pressed to believe the way this team is focused, coached and what’s at stake, to believe Kansas City is going to lay an egg against the Raiders. I’ve been around a lot of versions of the Chiefs but I can’t remember one that was as tough as this one.
In fact, I’d have to go back to the Super Bowl years. The way this team mans up in crunch time on both sides of the ball is very reminiscent of the Hank Stram era in Kansas City. I’m not saying the Chiefs have earned that Super Bowl look just yet but they’re getting close to it across the roster.
That’s why I think the short week to prepare for a familiar foe, after coming off the most exciting game of the season four days ago, probably fits the Chiefs glass slipper for a victory better than it does the Raiders to pull of the upset.
The Raiders won’t go winless this season but they won’t defeat the Chiefs Thursday night. Instead, they’ll have to save that moment for another team.
Photos: Kirby Lee USA Today Sports