Once, it was one of the NFL’s best games, a heated clash of longtime rivals and blueblood talent.
When the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs often met through the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, it was the featured game of an NFL week.
Yet when the 3-10 Raiders and 2-11 Chiefs play this Sunday at O.co Coliseum, however, few outside the Bay Area and Kansas City will notice. And many inside those areas already are looking past this season toward the hope of getting better in 2013.
The Raiders have lost six straight games and the matchup with Kansas City may be the team’s best chance to break the skid. After Sunday, the season closes with games against Carolina and San Diego.
“We need to get a win,” Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer told reporters this week. “This team desperately needs a win.”
Despite all their problems and how poorly they’ve played in 2012 – they lead the NFL in points allowed – the Raiders have been made 3-point favorites by oddsmakers.
Oakland’s last win came on Oct. 28 in a 26-16 victory at Kansas City. Since that time, the Raiders haven’t come close to a “W.”
Running back Darren McFadden returned from injury to play for the Raiders last week in a loss to the Broncos, and – despite injuring his ankle in that game – is expected to play against the Chiefs. In the teams’ first matchup, McFadden ran for 114 yards.
Oakland’s victory over the Chiefs was the last in which its defense held up. The Raiders had four takeaways against K.C. and turned them into 13 points.
Since then, the Raiders’ defense has been torched in several games. Oakland has given up 42 points to the Bucs, 55 to the Ravens, 38 to the Saints, 34 to the Bengals and 26 last week to the Broncos.
This week, too, the Raiders will trot out another new starting cornerback, Phillip Adams, who replaces Ronald Bartell. Bartell was waived this week.
The Chiefs, who have been horrid on the field while also trying to work through the tragedy of the recent murder-suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher, are on their way to the first pick in the NFL Draft next April.
The one solid part of Kansas City’s game is the rushing attack with Jamaal Charles, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,220 yards on the ground. Charles averages 109.2 yards per game from scrimmage, and has rushed for more than 117 yards per game over his past five games.
The Chiefs’ top receiver, Dwayne Bowe, is out with a rib injury, leaving quarterback Brady Quinn with few good options.
For the Raiders, this game is important to allow head coach Dennis Allen to continue to evaluate the players on his roster as he and General Manager Reggie McKenzie look to next season.
In addition to Adams in the lineup Sunday, rookie offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom and receivers Rod Streater and Juron Criner will get playing time. So, too, might quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The coaching staff has said for several weeks the former Ohio State standout has several “packages” of plays prepared for him, but he has yet to play.
“I think as we go along in these last three game, we really need to evaluate some of these young guys and see what we have going forward into next year,” Allen said.