When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City TV: CBS
The Oakland Raiders were winless and the Kansas City Chiefs tied for first place in the AFC West when the teams played each other Nov. 20 in Oakland. But the fortunes have turned for each team since the Raiders beat the Chiefs 24-20.
The 2-11 Raiders, who were 0-10 before beating the Chiefs, also won last week in beating the 49ers at home 24-13. In between, though, the Raiders were hammered by the Rams in St. Louis 52-0.
The loss in Oakland started what is now a three-game losing streak for the 7-6 Chiefs. They could still make the playoffs as a wild-card entrant by winning their final three games.
The Chiefs and Raiders play again Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson preview the game.
Teicher: The Raiders have won two of their past three, both at home. In between was that ugly mess in St. Louis. Are they ready to take that next step here and win on the road?
Williamson: That’s the big question. Look, this season is never going to be remembered as a positive one in Oakland. The Raiders won a total of eight games the past two years, and they expected to be much better this season after a bunch of changes. Yet the losing has continued. Still, the Raiders can finish on a high note with a couple more wins to make the offseason easier to approach. But Oakland has to find a consistency. Coaches and players were really disappointed about the way they flopped after the win over the Chiefs. Now, Oakland wants to build on the big win over the 49ers with a season sweep of the Chiefs. Staying consistent is the focus of the team.
Do you think the Chiefs are a lot more nervous about the Raiders this time around?
Teicher: They should be. The result of the game Nov. 20 in Oakland didn’t look like a fluke to me. The Raiders outgained the Chiefs, and who knows what running back Latavius Murray would have accomplished had he not left the game early because of a concussion. He might have gained 1,000 yards. He’s a big concern for a defense that’s allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the past four games. The Chiefs also need to do something to rattle rookie quarterback Derek Carr. They did nothing to get him out of his comfort zone the first time around.
Murray looked like the real deal against the Chiefs a few weeks ago, before he left the game. Have the Raiders finally given up on Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew? How will Murray fare as the full-time featured back?
Williamson: The job appears to be Murray’s for the rest of the season. He had 23 carries for 76 yards against the 49ers. McFadden and Jones-Drew have been disappointments this season. It is likely neither will be back next year. Thus, Murray will get the chance in the final three games to show Oakland it doesn’t have to worry about finding a lead back. Murray is an interesting player. After missing his rookie year last season with an injury, the former sixth-round draft pick started very slowly. But he has played well in the past three weeks, highlighted by his 90-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs on Nov. 20. The Chiefs will clearly be keying on Murray in this game. It will be fascinating to see who wins this battle.
What should we expect from the Chiefs' ground attack this week?
Teicher: I would expect a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, if he’s up to it physically. He began the week with a swollen knee and a sprained ankle, so we’ll see. He was strong enough last week to rush for 91 yards on 10 carries and score both the Chiefs’ touchdowns. Knile Davis, his backup, has become just a bit player now. He hasn’t had more than five carries in a game since October. One thing interesting about the Raiders is historically they’ve done a better job than most opponents against Charles as a runner, at least. Charles did have a nice game against Oakland the previous time; he rushed for 80 yards and caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
It must have been an interesting scene in Oakland last week, with Jim Harbaugh coaching against the Raiders. What are the chances he’s coaching in Oakland next year? What do the Raiders do if they can’t get Harbaugh? Any chance they’ll stay with their interim head coach, Tony Sparano?
Williamson: Adam, there is certainly smoke about Harbaugh crossing the Bay. Some issues would have to be worked out, but it is certainly on the table. Harbaugh is going to be a target of Oakland owner Mark Davis. I think the odds of it happening are better now than they were earlier in the season, partly because I think Harbaugh is quietly intrigued by the Silver and Black. If the Raiders strike out on Harbaugh, they will likely look at more affordable options. That’s where Sparano could come in. Players like him, and he could be a candidate, but it likely won’t be in the first wave.
Andy Reid seems to have a strong program built. Do you think the Chiefs are set up nicely for the future?
Teicher: I think they have too many good players and are too well-coached to just drop back into a dark period, like the one they emerged from after they hired Reid. But the fact is the Chiefs have, at best, the third-best quarterback in the AFC West, and that’s going to hurt them as they try to compete with the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders -- much less try to get to a Super Bowl. Smith is efficient, and the Chiefs can win some games with him as their quarterback. But he’s not going to saddle them on his back and carry them like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are capable of doing. The Chiefs need to surround him with better players if they’re going to compete for titles, division or otherwise.