Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
Oakland Raiders (10-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
5:25 (PST) on NBC Thursday Night Football and streaming on Twitter
20 degrees Fahrenheit and clear
What’s On The Line?
It seems like every week this season people are saying this is the biggest Raider game in the last decade. This is ACTUALLY the biggest game since the Super Bowl in 2003. The Raiders (10-2) are looking to secure the AFC West (for the first time since 2002), get a 1st round bye, and hold their position atop the AFC (to have the road to the Super Bowl run through Oakland). One win can almost guarantee them the AFC West and a bye, but also keep their #1 seed hopes alive. For Kansas City (9-3), a win would propel them to be the favorites to win the west and get a 1st round bye. They would have the same record as the Raiders, but Kansas City would have the tiebreaker because they would have beaten Oakland twice. All in all, this is a must watch. It is Raider’s week in Kansas City, division title on the line, huge implications for playoff seeding, and all on NBC Thursday Night Football. Doesn’t get much better and bigger than this.
*** secure, not clinch. The winner of this game will be the division champs barring a huge collapse.
First Game in Oakland
The first game in Oakland went Kansas City’s way almost from the start. The Raider’s started off with a touchdown drive, but that was the only good that came from the Raiders. The Chiefs dominated the rest of the game. They completely stalled Derek Carr and his offense and ran the ball at will with Spencer Ware, which then opened up the passing game. The Chiefs offense became too unpredictable and the Raiders offense couldn’t get any momentum to muster a comeback like they have done 6 times this year. Ultimately, it was a complete domination, but I think it should not be taken too seriously. It was a very rainy day with terrible field conditions, and in my opinion, those field conditions really hurt Derek Carr. Also, don’t forget the Raiders did not have Latavius Murray, who has shown to be an integral part of this offense. This game was an outlier with terrible conditions and I don’t think it will be much of a predictor for the game tonight.
Kansas City’s Close Wins
Kansas City has recently had a little magic like the Raiders. They have recently had close wins over Denver, Atlanta, and Carolina. They beat Denver off a bank shot field goal barely avoiding a tie, they beat Atlanta by picking off Matt Ryan’s two-point conversion to take a one-point lead, and they beat Carolina by coming back down two scores late in the game. Kansas City has not been playing their best football of late (including their loss to Tampa Bay at home), but like the Raiders, you can’t ever count them out and they find a way to win. Also, they have been the hottest team in the last season and a half winning 19 out of their last 22 games.
Keys For The Raiders
The two major keys begin with each running back. The Oakland Raiders have to get their running game going with Latavius Murray, who they missed in the first meeting, and stop Spencer Ware on the other side of the ball. In the first meeting, the Raiders were a one-dimensional team because they didn’t have their starting running back, and the Chiefs were able to completely shut down the Raiders’ pass game (with help from the rain and poor conditions). If the Raiders become one-dimensional, then it will be very difficult for the Raiders to win because of the crowd noise and because of the dominant nature of the Chiefs’ defense.
On defense, if the Raiders stop the run, then there is not much to worry about with the Chiefs’ offense. Alex Smith is a good quarterback, but only with a good running game behind him. If the Chiefs have to solely rely on Smith throwing the ball, then Khalil Mack and Bruce Irving will be able to create constant pressure and will make it difficult for Kansas City to put up points and possibly force turnovers.
The key for both teams will be stopping the run. Whoever can do that more effectively will be the winner on Thursday Night and take a hold of the AFC West.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
Who Wins And Why
This is a tough game to pick. Derek Carr has seemed to have a block when he plays Kansas City. We saw it this year in Oakland, and we saw it last year in Oakland when he threw 3 interceptions in the 4th quarter. However, I think Oakland has the all the momentum in the world right now to help them go into Kansas City and get the win. They have won 6 straight, by coming back in ridiculous fashion a few times, and that has given them the confidence to believe they can win anywhere and against anyone, which should help in Arrowhead (arguably the toughest place to play in the NFL). Not to mention, the Raiders have shown to be a better road team than home team this year (6-0 away from Oakland). I don’t think they are a better team on the road (just anomaly that they lost 2 games at home), but it shows that they are one of the best road teams in the NFL, so if anyone could go into Arrowhead and win it should be them.
Furthermore, the Raiders defense has really stepped it into gear recently. They are not an elite defense, by any stretch of the imagination, but they have been good. They have given up a lot of yards this year, but have forced a lot of turnovers, and those turnovers and stops come when it matters most, during the 4th quarter of many close games. Like I have said before, the Raiders’ defense only needs to be average for them to be a Super Bowl Contender. When the defense puts up an average performance, they are going to win over 90% of their games.
This is a prime time game. The Chiefs embarrassed them last time in Oakland, and this a good chance for the Raiders to make amends. I usually find that defenses play better in prime time games because they bring a little bit more swagger and emotion. An intense emotion will do a better job of helping out the defense rather than the offenses so that boost to the Raiders’ defense could be the difference.
Ultimately, I think the Raiders will win this game on a late touchdown from Derek Carr (just like they have 6 times this season). Derek Carr is having an MVP season and has this team highly motivated and confident. He is also so much better than Alex Smith and we know quarterbacks win you big games in the NFL, especially games that have playoff implications and a playoff atmosphere. The Raiders have that feeling that they are about to take that next step. They haven’t had a complete game, really at all this year (Carolina looked like it until Carr got hurt). I think this is the first time they will do that, and it will bring them a close win in a tough Arrowhead environment. I will go Raiders 27, Chiefs 24.
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.