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NFL PM: Chiefs and Raiders Set to Meet in Thursday’s Biggest Game Yet

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When the NFL releases its schedule annually, there are always some games that pop off the page. But few could have expected when the schedule came out in the offseason that the Thursday night kickoff to Week 14 would have this much potential to be a classic.

The Kansas City Chiefs host the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night with first place in the AFC West as well as seeding for the postseason potentially hanging in the balance, a marquee matchup the league mostly lucked into. There was every chance when this game was scheduled that the two teams, or at least one of them, would be playing out the string, while the Denver Broncos raced to the division title as they did last season. Instead, it’s Denver that sits in third with Oakland at the top and Kansas City primed to take it away with a win Thursday night.

Over the years, the Thursday night schedule has left a lot to be desired. The league often uses that spot to get teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans (the two met in Week on Thursday night for what seems like the eighth straight season) national exposure with little competition in the way of sports on TV. The timing is also conducive to blowouts, with each team usually on a short week and one clearly a little bit more prepared than the other. But that shouldn’t be an issue this Thursday, not with so much on the line for both teams.

For Oakland, this is an opportunity to pull away a little bit. The Chiefs currently have a trump card over them, in the form of a head-to-head victory back in Week 6, when they handed the Raiders one of their only two losses, 26-10 in Oakland. The Raiders can negate that with a win and put two games of distance between the teams with three games to play. They’d still need to finish strong, but they’d be in great shape to lock up the AFC West and at least a first round bye, if not the top seed in the AFC. There’s also some potential revenge involved. Not only do the Raiders have that loss earlier this season to think about, they’ve lost four straight overall to KC. But quarterback Derek Carr says that isn’t on the team’s mind.

“To be honest, it’s the ‘Groundhog Day’ thing,” Carr said. “Everyone asks, ‘They’ve beaten you this many times,’ and these things and all of that. When I’m preparing for these guys, it never goes through my head. That stuff never has a determining factor on anything I write down, anything that goes on in my brain or anything like that. I just prepare for them just like I do any other game.”

That approach is important because the Raiders have a lot to lose with a loss, which would drop them into a Wild Card spot, suddenly perilous position for a team that has been playing so well. Kansas City simply has everything to gain. They currently sit in the first Wild Card spot, a game ahead of the division rival Broncos. With a victory on Thursday, they’d assume the AFC West lead and hold that ultimate trump card over Oakland of two head-to-head victories.

“They save all these division games for the end, so it’ll be fun,”Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “We’re looking forward to it; it’ll be an awesome environment on top of a huge rivalry.”

It should all make for quite the entertaining game on Thursday night and one that should provide a huge ratings boon for the NFL in a year that began with a ton of talk about how many people weren’t watching the games. All eyes should be fixed on Kansas City on Thursday night. This isn’t Titans vs. Jaguars, it’s Raiders vs. Chiefs, and for the first time in a long time, it matters a whole lot.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys