AP photo: Oakland Raiders Derek Carr (4) speaks at the post game press conference following their game with the Buffalo Bills last Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — In what is arguably the biggest game for the franchise since their Super Bowl XXXVII loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of the 2002 season, the Raiders will be on the national stage once again when they face their bitter rival the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday Night Football.
Kickoff is set for 7:35 p.m. CT (5:35 p.m. PT) with temperatures predicted to be in the high-teens with a windchill factor that will make it feel like 10 degrees.
Thursday’s game begins a stretch for Oakland that sees them play three of their final four games on the road.
Ever since the Chiefs’ 26-10 victory over the Raiders on the rain-soaked Oakland Coliseum turf on Oct. 16, Oakland (10-2) is riding a season-high six-game winning streak (winning by an average of nine points) and sit one game ahead of Kansas City (9-3) in the ultra-competitive AFC West.
Oakland rallied from a 15-point deficit to dispatch the visiting Buffalo Bills 38-24 just four days ago and now have to travel two time zones on a short week and play in one of the loudest stadiums in pro football.
Quarterback Derek Carr engineered an Oakland offense that scored 29 unanswered points in the second half after trailing 24-9 early in the third quarter. Carr has become the first player in NFL history to throw five game-winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter or overtime in a season, according to the Associated Press.
Carr completed 19-of-35 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns while taking the majority of the snaps in the shotgun or the pistol in Sunday’s game, despite playing with a fracture pinkie on his throwing finger.
For the season, Carr has thrown for 3,375 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 100.3 quarterback rating.
Let’s not forget, Carr lost his first 10 games of his career before winning his first game against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs continue to be a thorn in Carr’s side.
In his last five starts against Kansas City, Carr is just 1-4 versus the Chiefs completing just 58 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns, five interceptions and a 72.0 quarterback rating.
Legendary quarterbacks make their names from performing on the biggest stages with all of the money on the table so if Carr is going to be named the league’s MVP, he has to play better against Kansas City and why not do that on Thursday Night Football?
Latavius Murray, who didn’t play in the first meeting, rumbled for 82 of Oakland’s 139 yards against Buffalo. Oakland’s stout offensive line will need to find running lanes against a Chiefs defensive front that surrendered 128 yards to Atlanta in the Chiefs’ 29-28 win on the road in Week 13.
Kansas City is 20-4 in their last 24 regular season games, and have won six of their last seven games this season.
Alex Smith, who is 6-1 all-time against Oakland, was efficient with the football, completing 21-of-25 passes for 270 and a touchdown against the Falcons.
Tight end Travis Kelce recorded his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game Sunday when he hauled in eight catches for 140 Kelce’s 65 catches and 815 yards not only leads all AFC tight ends, but all tight ends in the league.
Kelce could prove to be a difficult cover for a Raiders secondary that will be without rookie safety Karl Joseph (foot) Thursday.
Rookie Tyreek Hill is listed as a wide receiver in most media guides, but when you pull up the film, Hill is a offensive specialist who is a matchup nightmare for most defenses.
With wide receiver Jeremy Maclin battling a groin injury, Hill has become a valuable target and weapon in Kansas City’s passing game. Hill is second to Kelce on the Chiefs with 50 catches for 481 yards, but his five touchdown catches ranks first on the team.
In their last meeting, Oakland had trouble stopping running back Spencer Ware, who carried the ball 24 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City has put together a solid running game without starting running back Jamaal Charles this season led by Ware, who leads the Chiefs with 734 rushing yards and three scores.
Ware’s hard-nose running style is tailor made to carry the ball in the frigid conditions that is Kansas City in early December.
Both teams have pass rushers who can make life difficult for the opposing quarterback.
Kansas City outside linebacker Dee Ford and Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack are tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 10 apiece.
Mack, who won the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, has recorded seven sacks in his last seven games. No other player has that many sacks during that span.
Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry accounted for eight points (a pick-6 and a pick-2) to seal Kansas City’s win in Berry’s return to his hometown of Atlanta. Two of Berry’s three interception on the season have gone for touchdowns.
Shadowy cornerback Marcus Peters is tied for second in the league with Giants safety Landon Collins with five interceptions. Peters’ eight total takeaways leads the NFL to go along with a Chiefs defense that leads the NFL in total takeaways with 25.
Peters and the rest of the Chiefs secondary will have their hands full with the receiving tandem of Michael Crabtree (67 catches, 785 yards, 7 TDs) and Amari Cooper (68 catches, 981 yards, 4 TDs).
A win for Oakland gives the Silver and Black a two-game lead in the AFC West with three games to go, but a loss to their arch-rival would not only give Kansas City a season sweep for the second straight year, but the inside track on the division title and No. 1 overall seed in the AFC.
But the biggest question that must be answered before kickoff for yours truly, what to eat to go with the frosty beer (Corona with lime most likely) that I’m sure I will consume?
Carne Asada tacos for the Raiders win!