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Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Preview and Prediction

Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles

Two teams that are streaking rapidly in opposite directions will get Week 12 in the NFL started when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders square off tonight on the NFL Network. The surging Chiefs (7-3) have won five straight games to move into a tie with the Broncos for the AFC West lead, while the Raiders (0-10) have sunk into a seemingly bottomless black hole of despair, losing a staggering 16 consecutive games and counting. The Chiefs swept the season series in 2013 in decisive fashion, beating the Raiders 56–31 in Oakland in December after pounding them 24–7 at Arrowhead in October.

Any hope for a competitive game rests with rookie Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, who has shown flashes of skill while taking far less of a beating than big brother David did during his ill-fated rookie season back in 2002. In three games against division foes, Carr has thrown six touchdowns to only three interceptions. For a team that's playing out the string, the rest of the season will focus on Carr's continued development.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: Kansas City -7.5

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[inline_team_schedule team-id=15 date=20141001 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]

Kansas City's Key to Victory: Focus on This Week

We're talking about professionals here, so pitfalls that plague teams at lower levels — like overlooking an inferior opponent — are less of a danger. But it's only human nature for the Chiefs to be mentally chalking up a win and looking ahead to next week's showdown with Denver for AFC West supremacy. Fortunately, the short week offers less time for complacency. "You don't have quite as much time to think over things," coach Andy Reid told the team's official website. "Sometimes that could be a good thing, sometimes it could be bad. We have to get ourselves back and ready to go quickly, so we understand that." If Kansas City merely sticks to what they do well, it should be fine. For instance, the Chiefs average 141 yards rushing per game, while Oakland is surrendering 130. In other words, the matchups all favor the visitors.

[inline_team_schedule team-id=16 date=20141001 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]

Oakland's Key to Victory: Keeping Carr Upright

The Oakland offensive line has done a more-than-respectable job of protecting Carr. The Raiders have allowed only 12 sacks on the season, second-fewest in the league behind Denver. But they're facing a fearsome pass rush led by NFL sack leader Justin Houston, who hasn't added to his total of 12 in the last two games and would love nothing more than to create misery for Carr and the Raiders’ passing offense. KC's pass rush, which has produced 30 sacks, keys the league's top-ranked pass defense (only 202 yards allowed per game). "There's a lot for every quarterback to get ready for, especially with a talented defense like Kansas City has," said Carr. "It just puts more on your plate and you just knock it out in the time that we do have."

Final Analysis

The winless Raiders have no shortage of motivation; they certainly don't want to join the Detroit Lions as the only franchises with 0–16 seasons. And a team that's playing out the string, with nothing to lose except draft position, can often show up loose and relaxed and spring an upset. But the Chiefs look too balanced and too physically superior on both sides of the ball to stumble in this one. Look for Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who caught eight passes for a career-high 195 yards and four touchdowns in last December's win in Oakland, to be a big part of the game plan. If he gets 25 touches, it means that the Chiefs are clicking, and it's bad news for the Raiders.

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Prediction: Kansas City 27, Oakland 17