In what will arguably be the most hyped Thursday Night Football game of the season, the Oakland Raiders square off with the Kansas City Chiefs this week. The buildup is movie like for the showdown of the two archrivals, but there is much more at stake than bragging rights.
Despite the Raiders sitting atop the AFC West at 10-2, they still have a thorn in their side. Sure, Oakland’s six-game win streak, it’s longest since 2000 is impressive. So are the wins over the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, the two participants of the 2016 Super Bowl. Yet the biggest obstacle for Oakland is defeating the Chiefs, something they haven’t done in two years. On October 16, Kansas City made light work of the Raiders in Oakland, defeating them 26-10.
Oakland hasn’t lost since that defeat, racking up several comeback victories and a somewhat improved defense, All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack has picked up the slack, recording a sack in seven straight games. Mack and free agent signee linebacker Bruce Irvin have anchored a struggling defense that continues to win late.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is a top candidate for Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player in NFL history with five game-winning touchdown passes in the fourth quarter or overtime in a season. Even a pinky injury hasn’t stopped the red-hot quarterback from slinging touchdowns left and right.
Since their bullying of the Raiders, the Chiefs have lost just once, a 19-17 collapse to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Where the Raiders thrive on offense and struggle defensively, Kansas City has found the perfect balance. Offensively, Kansas City averages 333.3 ypg (24th) and allows 384.9 ypg on defense (28th). Yet, they find ways to win, similar to their AFC West foe.
The Chiefs lead the all-time series 59-51-2, winning the last four matchups. For the Raiders, a win would establish respect across the league. For the Chiefs, a win would further establish them as a Super Bowl contender.
Even the weather is dramatic for the occasion, predicted at a high of 25 degrees and low of just 13. There is no right or wrong answer for who will win, but for the Raiders, everything is at stake. Aside from MVP trophies and accolades, this may determine the fate of their season.