Voice of the Chiefs Mitch Holthus rightly emphasized on the latest Chiefs Live that the Oakland Raiders have now gone 10 years without a playoff win. As Chiefs fans, we should take a perverse pleasure in that statistic (although the Chiefs’ drought is twice as long – forget I said that — Raiders suck!). As Holthus said, “that doesn’t cause me missed time sleeping. What does is the fact that the Raiders […] are 8-4 against the Chiefs (during that stretch) and have won six straight games at Arrowhead Stadium. That now causes me insomnia.”
Don’t worry, Mitch, you’re not alone. Nothing should infuriate us all more than the fact that the Faiders have been so absurdly successful on our home turf over the last six years.
As I’ve already said, I’ve been too disappointed, had too many hopes burned gloriously, had my expectations defecated upon by this team in the last three years to make any bold predictions about what its record will be. Can I see this team going 10-6? Yes. But those same eyes have made a fool of me before. I can easily see the reverse of that record.
One thing is for darn sure though, no matter what happens throughout the rest of the 2013 season. I want us to win those two games against the Oakland more than anything else. There are two reasons for this.
It’s time for those records to change. If you can’t defeat your most hated opponent in your own house for six years, your trash talk holds a lot less swagger. Arrowhead’s rep as a horrific field of battle weakens. Worst of all, that pack of Stephen King psychopaths known as Raiders fans get to gloat.
Right now, the Raiders are at perhaps their weakest point in a decade in terms of the quality of their roster. That means that right now is the perfect time to start setting this record straight. Sweep them this year, sweep them next year, then we’re even.
I’ve been living overseas for four years and have come back for a Chiefs game each of the last two just before Christmas. As fantastic as it has been to be back, those were two of the most infuriating games in recent Chiefs memory.
The first was the home game against the Raiders in 2011. Kansas City fans were still living on the high of the team’s win against the previously undefeated Packers the week before. This meeting at Arrowhead was a tough, smash-mouth game, the kind that I actually really like against a bitter rival. But, after Raiders DL Richard Seymour (literally) single-handedly blocked two Chiefs field goals, the game went into overtime 13-13. Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey caught a 53-yard bomb on the first play of OT. Two plays later, Oakland kicked a successful field goal to win. Chiefs nation stood in bewildered disbelief.
(The second game, in case you’re wondering, was last year’s game against the Colts when RB Jamaal Charles went off for 226 yards and 1 TD and the Chiefs somehow still managed to lose with QB Brady Quinn posting a QBR of 7.8, 0 TD’s, 2 INT’s.)
The Chiefs have done a lot to right the ship with smart offseason acquisitions, but I still believe that, with a few notable exceptions, going for worst in the league to playoff contender takes two seasons. There’s no doubt that the team will be better (historically bad is hard to not improve upon), but don’t buy your playoff cigars just yet.
It may take a while for Reid’s playbook and offensive philosophy to stick. There will also be injuries. One thing is for sure though – in this competitive league, you have to take advantage of every opportunity. Facing competitive division challengers San Diego and Denver twice each and the fearsome NFC East throughout the season, the Chiefs need to take full advantage of their two games against their other weakened division foe who many believe is the worst team in the league right now.
On paper, that shouldn’t be too hard.
After a year of dreadful play in the defensive backfield, Oakland has made beefing up the backend a priority, drafting DJ Hayden with their first pick, as well as bringing in veterans S Charles Woodson, CB Mike Jenkins and CB Tracy Porter. While this likely won’t make for a top defense, it will most likely at least balance them to average against the pass after giving up the 8th most pass TD’s in the league.
That shouldn’t worry the Chiefs too much, however, as their front seven is in total flux. This offseason, they let walk three DT’s, including both starters, two DE’s, including one starter, and will likely start an entirely new group of linebackers. No longer facing Seymour on the inside is going to really help the Chiefs. The two new replacements, Pat Sims and Vance Walker, have combined 2012 stats of: 49 total tackles and 3 sacks.
As for defensive end, there has been chatter that DE Lamarr Houston – now undoubtedly the best player on their line – will be moved inside to a 3 technique which will limit his pass-rushing impact. The only other proven commodity they have at that position is Andre Carter, who is really an aging situational pass-rusher.
Simply put, the Chiefs match up extremely well to the Oakland front seven. As Stacy pointed out yesterday, although the Chiefs have a lot of unproven commodities in the interior offensive line, they’ll be playing against similarly unspectacular Oakland DT’s. Where Oakland has talent in Houston on the outside (if he is still playing there), the Chiefs now have perhaps the best set of bookend tackles in the game.
With only one bona fide starter in their linebacking corps, this hodgepodge unit should be easy to confuse, with Chiefs HC Andy Reid’s signature quick passes and creative RB plays. On a whole, the Chiefs should be able to run it down Oakland’s throat.
This is definitely a good thing beyond the cheer and joy that it will bring every child in Kansas-Missouri-land. The team’s meetings with the Raiders come at potentially pivotal moments of the schedule. The first Raiders game will be in Arrowhead Week 6 at a time that the team should be taking its stride. Facing the Jags, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Titans in the team’s first five games, a conservative estimate would say that the Chiefs will come out of that stretch 3-3 with a home win against the Raiders and will already have most of the NFC East behind them.
Then, it’s Texans, Browns, Bills, which conventional wisdom would put the team up 5-4.
After the Chiefs’ bye, the team’s 2013 fate will truly be decided as the team (amazingly) faces division opponents in 5 of its last 7 games. The KC squad first heads to Denver, then plays the Chargers at home, then the Broncos at Arrowhead followed by a match against RGIII’s reconstructed knee in Washington. Again, on paper, it looks like the Chiefs will probably lose at least 2 of 4 of those games, dropping them to 7-6 or 6-7.
Thankfully, a game against the Raiders could never come at a better time. In need of a morale boost, the Chiefs will then be heading to the disgusting O.co Coliseum to finish off the Raiders and make a run for a wild-card spot, facing the Colts at home (again) and the Chargers in warm San Diego.
All the Chiefs needed last year against the playoff-bound Colts was a quarterback who wouldn’t turn over the ball nearly every time the team sniffed the red zone after Charles got them there. I think there’s no doubt that the team has cleared that hump.
As for the Chargers, I think it’s likely that the Chiefs and Chargers will be fairly equal teams next year, with a lot of possibility and uncertainty. This will be gut check time. Can the Chiefs eke out a must-win victory in Dolt territory in Week 17 to sweep ‘em and sneak into the playoffs?
Only time will tell, but for this fantasy to become a reality, it all starts with pummeling the Raiders to the turf at every opportunity.