On Sunday, The Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders will meet for the 110th time with a lot at stake. Both teams come into their Week 13 matchup with playoff aspirations.
After beginning the season 1-5, the Chiefs have won five straight games and are currently in possession of one of the two wild card spots in the AFC. Last weekend, Kansas City (6-5) defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-22.
Oakland (5-6) needed some late heroics orchestrated by quarterback Derek Carr, as he led the Raiders on a nine-play, 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive to come from behind and defeat the Tennessee Titans 24-21.
Kansas City leads the all-time series over the Raiders 58-52-2. Last season, the teams split their two meetings with each team winning at home.
Kansas City at Oakland
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Chiefs -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Dee Ford
On Friday, Kansas City's star pass rusher and last year's sack champion Justin Houston was ruled out of today’s game because of a hyperextended knee that’s been bothering him all week. Second-year linebacker Dee Ford will start in place of the All-Pro who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014 and had 7.5 through 11 games this season.
“The opportunity is there now, and I don’t want to put too much emphasis on one game, but I’m excited,” Ford told the Kansas City Star. “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m very excited.”
Since being taken 23rd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ford hasn’t seen much playing time because he has been behind Houston and Tamba Hali on the Chiefs' depth chart.
As a rookie last season, Ford only recorded eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. He is still transitioning from a 4-3 defense he played in college to the 3-4 the Chiefs run. With Houston out of the lineup, Kansas City will need Ford and help from others to get pressure on Carr.
2. Chiefs' running game against the Raiders' defense
Not too long ago the Raiders had the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL, but that has changed immensely the last few weeks. Coming into their game against the Chiefs, the Raiders are now ranked 18th against the run. And next up? One of the best ground games in the NFL.
After running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL, many expected the Chiefs' offense to be one-dimensional, but that hasn’t been the case.
Kansas City is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 124.3 yards on the ground. In recent weeks, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have done an excellent job picking up the slack. Against the Bills last week with West sidelined by a hamstring injury, Ware ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Last week, Oakland held Tennessee to 44 yards rushing, but the Titans are ranked 25th in rushing.
3. Khalil Mack
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is threatening a record set by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Smith has thrown 283 passes since his last interception, which is the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. Brady has the record for passes thrown without an interception, 358, a mark he set in 2010.
If the Raiders hope to end Smith's impressive streak, Khalil Mack will have to be a constant presence in the Chiefs’ backfield.
On the season, Mack has 45 tackles and seven sacks in 11 games. Smith will have to be aware of where Mack is at all times
“Really good player that can rush the passer,” Smith told kcchiefs.com “certainly a guy, just through film study - he kind of demands respect, you see that. Really good player — I think you just see him being able to just do more, like anything – he can do more, you can move him around and he’s dropping into coverage a little bit here and there and things like that.”
Kansas City is surging, but injuries have started to take their toll. Losing Justin Houston's pass-rushing presence on defense is tough, especially since the Chiefs will be facing Oakland's Derek Carr.
The second-year quarterback has put together a fine season and he should have enough time in the pocket to find an open target in the Chiefs' defense. Carr will need to minimize his mistakes since the Chiefs have not turned over the ball on offense in five games.
Smith and the Chiefs' offense shouldn’t have any trouble scoring against a subpar Raiders secondary. Sunday’s game could be a shootout and it should be one of the better games of the weekend.
Prediction: Raiders 31, Chiefs 27
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.