Once upon a time, the Raiders-Chiefs rivalry was one of the best in the NFL. The two franchises were among the elite of the old American Football League, then continued to battle into the 1970s. Over the past few decades, both franchises have gone through ups and downs, yet the rivalry still lives.
Now, on Thursday night, the teams will clash in one of their most meaningful games in years when the AFC West-leading Raiders (10-2) take on the Chiefs (9-3) at Kansas City in a battle for division supremacy.
If the Raiders can win, they’d be two games up with just three to go. If the Chiefs win, there will be a tie atop the division but the Chiefs will hold the edge because they will have beaten Oakland twice this season.
That Kansas City victory, in fact, is the last time the Raiders lost. And, it was a convincing decision.
On that October day in Oakland, the Chiefs won 26-10. In that game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith – who’s always enjoyed great success against the Raiders – was 19-of-22 for 224 yards, while Spencer Ware rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown.
The Raiders, meanwhile, could muster only 285 total yards, with just 64 on the ground. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was sacked twice, threw an interception and lost a fumble. After trailing just 13-10 at the half, the Raiders were outscored 13-0 in the second half.
Since then, the Raiders have played like a different team, reeling off six straight victories behind Carr – an MVP candidate – and a surging defense led by defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack.
For the Raiders, getting a win in wintry Kansas City Thursday night -- temperatures are supposed to be in the teens -- will be a difficult hurdle. They have to travel on short rest (following Sunday’s win over Buffalo) to take on a team that handed them their worst loss this season.
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this week that he knows that challenge is “crazy,” but he believes his Raiders are excited about the chance to play well on the national stage. Plus, he says his defense has learned since October how to win.
“We’ve shown last week that we can finish really well,” Norton told reporters this week. “We’ve done really well on third down. We’ve done really well in situational ball and getting the ball. Now it’s a matter of … I think it’s important that we have a complete game. Start it, come out of halftime really fast and finish strong like we did last week.”
In that October matchup, the Chiefs were able to convert seven of their 13 third-down opportunities, and their offense rolled up 406 yards. Their rushing attack averaged 4.6 yards per play and gained 183 yards.
The Chiefs have won six of their past seven games, and are coming off a close victory over the high-flying Falcons. Kansas City coach Andy Reid says this is a great matchup because both teams have improved as the season has progressed.
“Both teams know each other,” Reid told the media in Kansas City this week. “They’ve made changes defensively that have made them better on that side of the ball. They’re playing very good all the way around in the different phases. They were a little down on the defensive side early on but they’ve picked up in that area. They’re flying around and making plays.”
Oddsmakers have made the Chiefs 3½-point favorites. Kickoff is set for 5:25 p.m.