Into The Black Hole

It's Raider week. Throw the eight straight wins out of the window. Disregard how horrible the Raiders were a year ago - or, the year before that, and, the year before that. As hard as it may seem, forget Oakland's 2-24 record against divisional opponents since 2003.

Forget everything.

When the Chiefs and Raiders hook up, football fans are guaranteed two things - post-play shenanigans and a close game. Even if one team is 6-0 and playing like this year's New England Patriots while the other is 0-6 and looking like Notre Dame could roll them, forget it. It doesn't matter. It's a game where you are absolutely ensured of getting everyone's best. Even Randy Moss was up for the game – once, two years ago.

But not everyone gets it. Ask a broad cross-section of sports fans what the NFL's best rivalry is, and this game wouldn't be in the top five. Raider nation alone would probably put the Broncos and Chargers matchups ahead of it.

From a recent historical standpoint the best chance the Raiders have had of winning a divisional game has been against the Chiefs. Since 2003, the Chiefs have won eight times by an average margin of victory of less than a touchdown. Conversely, Denver and San Diego's average margin of victory over the Raiders during the same period is 11.4 and 15.8 points, respectively.

Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards is well aware of the significance.

"They are off to a decent start at 2-3 and it's a big game for them and a big game for us with it being a division game," said Edwards. "We are playing them on the road and they will be excited about playing us, there is no doubt about it. They will be ready to play and it is a big game for both teams."

This game on Sunday is supplemented by additional subplots. The first of which is will Priest Holmes see playing time? Edwards hasn't ruled out that possibility.

"Whether he participates in the game or not, we'll see how practice goes," said Edwards. "He will put pads on, he will put a helmet on and he'll practice. He's prepared now for three months and there comes a time when you have to go do it and he's prepared to do that."

If Holmes doesn't go, rookie Kolby Smith can expect even more touches with the recent departure of Michael Bennett. Smith has only two catches this season and no rushing attempts, but he can be assured of opportunities on Sunday against the league's fifth-worst rushing defense.

Larry Johnson will look to exploit a soft defense for the second straight week, and is no stranger to success against the Raiders. In three starts he's averaging 132 yards rushing per game. His success running the ball won't be what is under the microscope so much as his attitude running the ball. He has to learn to take the good with the bad.

The Chiefs drafted an absolute gem in Dwayne Bowe but last week Jeff Webb was the newest wide receiver to make big strides in the offense. With Tony Gonzalez sure to draw a lot of attention in the middle of the field from Oakland's linebackers and safeties, Webb will find himself in a favorable number of one-on-one matchups.

Only a half-game separates first and last place in the division, so this game gives the Chiefs an opportunity to separate themselves. A struggling Denver team will host favored Pittsburgh and by Sunday evening, provided they extend the bullying of the Raiders to nine games, the Chiefs could likely find themselves with a half-game lead to go along with two road victories within the division.

The one guarantee about a winning streak, however, is that inevitably it always comes to an end, and that shouldn't be forgotten.

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