It’s taken 13 weeks for the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs to meet on the gridiron, but the two will finally collide this Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The AFC West rivals are on opposite sides of the division, as the Silver and Black own a record of 2-9, while the Chiefs own a record of 9-2. The Raiders are out of the playoff hunt, but when the Chiefs come to town it’s as if it the two were competing in the Super Bowl. True rivalries are hard to come by nowadays, but these opponents truly dislike one another.
Last year’s game at the OACC was arguably the most-thrilling matchup of 2017, going down to the wire, eventually culminating in a Raiders’ last-second victory. Only time will tell if last year’s theatrics repeat this Sunday, but I expect a competitive game from both sides.
Before Sunday arrives, let’s take a look around the division to see what’s happened the last couple weeks.
It wasn’t the start to the season the Broncos expected, entering Week 11 3-6, but after back-to-back wins the team is clicking at the right time. Not only are the Broncos almost back at .500, but their two wins came against tough AFC opponents in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Chargers. As the final five weeks of the season begin to unfold, the Broncos will be in a neck-and-neck race with the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and Cincinnati Bengals for the final playoff spot.
This weekend the Broncos will travel to Ohio for a showdown with the Bengals, and the outcome could determine whether they clinch a postseason berth later this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
It’s been over a week since the Chiefs played in a game – Week 12 was their bye – but they’re going to be ready come Sunday against the Raiders. As I mentioned earlier, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense are putting up points at an impressive rate, and Derek Carr will need to keep pace with the second-year gunslinger if the Raiders hope to finish Week 13 with a win. Offense will be the name of the game this weekend, but defensively the Chiefs could see the return of one of their leaders in the locker room soon.
Wednesday, All-Pro safety Eric Berry returned to practice for the first time in three months. The goal is to obviously get him back in game-shape quickly, but Head Coach Andy Reid said they’ll ease him back slowly.
“We’ll see how he does and just kind of ease him back into it,” Reid told reporters on Wednesday. “The one thing we’ve done great is that the communication has been great (throughout this process). I think he’s as curious as we are to see how he feels. We’ll go easy with it.”
Los Angeles Chargers
Quietly, the Chargers have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL this season, and much of it is because of Philip Rivers’ proficient passing; however, the addition of Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon has been the piece in recent memory that’s elevated the team to another level. In 10 appearances, the former Wisconsin Badger has 802 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, 453 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns. Gordon’s versatility has been a problem for opposing defenses, but the Bolts will be required to play without him the next couple weeks. Earlier this week Gordon was diagnosed with an MCL sprain, and will be evaluated week-to-week.
Even though they’re losing an important piece of their offense, the Chargers recently got back arguably their best defensive asset. After missing the first 10 games of the season, defensive end Joey Bosa returned to action in Week 11, and is coming off an impressive performance in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals, totaling five tackles, two for loss, and two sacks.
This is a team with a handful of playmakers, we’ll see if they can continue stringing wins together as the season transitions into the playoffs.