1:00 PM ET, December 24, 2011
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
There are just two weeks left in the regular season, and all four AFC West teams still have a chance to win the division. Both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs need help to do it, making their game Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium potentially vital to that race.
Denver sits atop the West and controls its own destiny, but Oakland (7-7) and San Diego are one game back and the Chiefs (6-8) trail by two thanks to Sunday's 19-14 upset of Green Bay. The Broncos will play in Buffalo while this game is happening, and the Chargers visit Detroit later in the day.
Kansas City clearly has the momentum edge over Oakland, loser of three straight and coming off a devastating 28-27 loss to Detroit. The Chiefs, in their first game Sunday after interim coach Romeo Crennel took over for the fired Todd Haley, had a season-best 438 yards of offense and held the previously undefeated defending Super Bowl champions to a season-low 315.
"Hey, you beat the Green Bay Packers, that was great," Crennel said. "But if you don't get prepared, you don't get ready to go, we're going to lose to the Oakland Raiders, and then the game (Sunday) will be kind of down the drain."
Remarkably, that win kept the Chiefs' hopes alive for winning a second straight division title. Besides having to win out, Kansas City needs Denver to lose its final two games and for San Diego to do no better than split.
The Raiders were in good position to snap their eight-year postseason drought before blowing the division lead with their three-game skid. If they come up short again, they may look back to Sunday's loss as the difference. Oakland blew a 13-point lead in the final five minutes, and the Lions blocked Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.
The Raiders need help from the Broncos to win the division, but they also still have an outside chance at a wild-card spot.
"Three weeks ago we were 7-4 and feeling pretty good about ourselves and now all of a sudden we've gotten to .500, so that's not where we want to be," coach Hue Jackson said. "I think we understand the predicament that we have put ourselves in. So what we need to do is get the ship riding and go to Kansas City and play well."
It would be hard for the Raiders to play much worse than the last time these teams met. In its first game after Jason Campbell suffered a season-ending collarbone injury, Oakland was routed 28-0 on Oct. 23. Kansas City's defense had two touchdowns and six interceptions, three off Carson Palmer as he entered in the second half in his first game after being acquired from Cincinnati.
The Chiefs offense had just 300 yards in that game with Matt Cassel under center, but the Raiders' 27th-ranked defense (378.8 yards per game) now face Kyle Orton and a Kansas City team coming off its highest-scoring game since Week 7.
With Cassel (hand) out for the season, and with the Chiefs averaging just 264.8 yards in the previous four games with Tyler Palko under center, Orton has taken a firm grasp of the No. 1 spot. In his first start since being acquired off waivers last month from Denver, he threw for 299 yards and connected with 10 receivers Sunday.
"That was about the most fun as I've had on a football field," Orton said.
The Raiders' secondary was torched for 391 passing yards last week, but Orton needs to improve in the red zone after missing five passes inside the 20 against Green Bay. Ryan Succop, the AFC special teams player of the week, made three of his four field goals from 32 yards or shorter.
"We have to try to get touchdowns when we get to the red zone, which will become critical for us in the next couple of weeks here so we have to try to get that done," Crennel said.
Darren McFadden has been out since suffering a mid-foot sprain against the Chiefs and is not expected to play. Receiver Jacoby Ford (foot) is also out, but the Chiefs' secondary should be concerned about Darrius Heyward-Bey, who set career highs with eight receptions and 155 yards against the Lions.
Palmer, 207 yards shy of 25,000, threw for a season-best 367 yards and didn't get picked off for just the second time in seven starts.
He'll try to help the Raiders post their fifth straight win in Kansas City. Oakland finished last season with a 31-10 victory at Arrowhead behind Michael Bush's 137 rushing yards.
Bush has been held to an average of 60.5 yards in the past four games after a four-game stretch in which he averaged 115.3.
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Kansas City Chiefs
|Avg Points Allowed||26.3||22.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||OAK|
|Rush Yds Allowed||OAK|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Kansas City leads 13-9|
|Oct 23, 2011||OAK 0, KC 28|
|Jan 2, 2011||OAK 31, @KC 10|
|Nov 7, 2010||OAK 23, KC 20|
|Nov 15, 2009||OAK 10, KC 16|
|Sep 20, 2009||OAK 13, @KC 10|
|Nov 30, 2008||OAK 13, KC 20|
|Sep 14, 2008||OAK 23, @KC 8|
|Nov 25, 2007||OAK 20, @KC 17|
|Oct 21, 2007||OAK 10, KC 12|
|Dec 23, 2006||OAK 9, KC 20|
|Nov 19, 2006||OAK 13, @KC 17|
|Nov 6, 2005||OAK 23, @KC 27|
|Sep 18, 2005||OAK 17, KC 23|
|Dec 25, 2004||OAK 30, @KC 31|
|Dec 5, 2004||OAK 27, KC 34|
|Nov 23, 2003||OAK 24, @KC 27|
|Oct 20, 2003||OAK 10, KC 17|
|Dec 28, 2002||OAK 24, KC 0|
|Oct 27, 2002||OAK 10, @KC 20|
|Dec 9, 2001||OAK 28, KC 26|
|Sep 9, 2001||OAK 27, @KC 24|