Having to face off in the final five weeks of the season, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs will have a lot to say about each other’s playoff hopes. The AFC West rivals will meet for the first time in 2015 in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.
Oakland just broke a three-game skid, defeating the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. Other than the undefeated Carolina Panthers, the Chiefs are the NFL’s hottest team, coming off a win against the Buffalo Bills to extend their winning streak to five games.
Even though the Raiders are home, Las Vegas oddsmakers have made them underdogs, according to vegasinsider.com. The Chiefs are three-point road favorites, and the over/under is 44 points.
During their five-game winning streak, the Chiefs have looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They’ve beaten good teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills, and they’ve been equally impressive on both sides of the ball.
It’s not much of a surprise that the team’s defense has played well, but Kansas City has surprisingly scored points with ease. The team is without their No.1 running back and Alex Smith still doesn’t put up big numbers, but only four teams average more than Kansas City’s 26.1 points per game. The Chiefs have scored at least 29 points in each of their last four games, and they've had success against some of the NFL’s best defenses.
The most important part of Kansas City’s success has been their ability to take care of the ball. The Chiefs have somehow managed to avoid committing even one turnover in their last five games, while their opponents have turned the ball over 14 times. It’s allowed the team to win by an average of 20 points per game.
Kansas City’s defense is among the best in the league, ranking seventh in points allowed and 10th in total defense. The unit won’t have an easy time against the Raiders, who will be one of the Chiefs’ biggest challenges all season.
Opposing offenses have been held to 13 points or less four times during Kansas City’s five-game winning streak, but the team has struggled against the league’s best quarterbacks. He’s only in year No.2, but Derek Carr has put himself in that category this season, ranking third in passing touchdowns and sixth in passer rating. The Chiefs allowed Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton to score 74 total points in two of Kansas City’s losses. While the Chiefs beat the Bills in Week 12, they allowed Tyrod Taylor to throw for 291 yards and post a 106.4 passer rating.
Oakland will probably need an impressive offensive effort in order to get the win. The Raiders rank in the bottom seven in both points and yards allowed. Oakland gave up 21 points to Tennessee last week after the Titans hadn’t scored more than 13 points in six of their previous seven games.
After losing Peyton Manning to an injury and subsequently dropping two straight games, the Denver Broncos have righted the ship and don’t seem likely to blow their three-game lead atop the AFC West. The Chiefs and Raiders are both very much alive in the wild-card race, and Sunday’s contest will have major playoff implications.
The Chiefs are one of four AFC teams that have a 6-5 record and don’t lead their division, and they currently own the tiebreaker over the other three teams. They currently hold the No.5 seed in the conference, and Kansas City is in a great position to pull away from the rest of the pack. Including two games against Oakland, Kansas City’s five remaining games are all against sub-.500 teams.
Even though the Raiders are only one game behind the Chiefs, they probably need a win on Sunday to stay alive in the race. With four teams ahead of them and the Bills sharing the same record, Oakland won’t survive falling to 5-7. Four of Oakland’s final five opponents have a winning record.
The Chiefs are bound to lose eventually, but it probably won’t be in Week 13. Kansas City’s five-game losing streak at the beginning of the season came against all good teams, and they should continue to beat up on teams with losing records. Oakland is just 1-4 against teams above .500, and they will have a tough time slowing down the Chiefs.
Kansas City over Oakland, 31-23