Week 15 Preview: Chiefs @ Raiders

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Stop the presses.

The playoffs race just got very interesting Thursday night with the Denver Broncos (11-3) losing to the San Diego Chargers (7-7).

“I think guys really have been happy today,” Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito said with a grin during Friday’s locker room media session.

Oct 13, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) rushes for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 13, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) rushes for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It was just earlier in the week the media chatter around the team’s training facility surrounded potentially resting players, especially when considering the Chiefs have a virtual lock on the No. 5 playoff seed as a wildcard team.

But with three games remaining, the Chiefs (10-3) have plenty to play for outside of a wildcard berth.

While the Chiefs also need outside help, the first step in the process is not overlooking the Oakland Raiders (4-9).

“It’s imperative that we’re locked in and ready to go,” safety Eric Berry said. “You can’t sleep on anybody in this division, that’s the one thing about it.

“You’re going to get everybody’s best game, their A-game. We just got to make sure we come correct and come ready to play.”

DeVito agreed, adding it was important to not allow the outside distractions such as the weekly playoff scenarios to impact how the team prepares.

“You don’t want to start looking ahead, you don’t want to start putting added pressure on yourself,” DeVito said. “The second you go watching other stuff, it can get in your head, that’s added pressure and things like that, so we just got to go out there and play like it’s Week 1 and put our best effort.”

Still, surely some of the Chiefs players will watch the scoreboard in coming weeks. It’s part of human nature, right?

Not so fast, according to cornerback Brandon Flowers.

“No scoreboard watching at all,” Flowers said. “We don’t want to worry about what somebody else is doing. Keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve had a good season so far, don’t try and change anything.”

That message of staying focused on the opponents resonated in Friday’s locker room.

While they’re aware of their current playoff position and how Denver’s loss put numerous scenarios at play, the team isn’t looking ahead.

“We’re just trying to stay on course, stay focused,” wide receiver Donnie Avery said. “We’re not worried about everybody else. Get our win against the Raiders and move on from there.”

In the meantime, the earlier talk of resting players goes by the wayside.

The Broncos (11-3), New England Patriots (10-3), Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) are in a race for the all-important playoff seeding.

The Broncos own the tie breaker over the Chiefs based on the series sweep, while the Patriots own the tie breaker over the Broncos based on the Week 12 victory.

If the Bengals finished tied with the Patriots, they own the tie breaker from Week 5’s 13-6 win in New England.

The Chiefs need a lot to happen in the final weeks in order to win the AFC West, but another loss by Denver opens the door.

Sunday’s opponent will have a say in how the playoffs are set, as the Raiders’ final three games are against the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers.

“I don’t think our mentality is the spoiler mentality or anything like that,” Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin said during Wednesday’s media conference call. “We consider ourselves a good football team.

“Unfortunately things haven’t gone our way so we’re going to go out, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to compete. We want to continue to get better and do everything we can to try to get a win this Sunday.”

Ultimately, the Chiefs can start what is sure to be a wild finish to the regular season by taking care of business Sunday.

And then let the chips fall where they may.

“Regardless of what happens, our mentality is to go out and play as hard as we can and win the rest of these games,” Berry said. “If we handle what we’re supposed to handle, we feel like everything will fall in place.

Tale of the tape

Offense

• The Chiefs rank eighth in rushing (129.3 yards per game) and 24th in passing (208.7 yards per game).
• The Raiders rank fourth in rushing (134.4 yards per game) and 27th in passing (200.9 yards per game).

Defense

• The Chiefs rank 16th against the run (113.2 yards allowed per game) and 19th against the pass (244.6 yards allowed per game).
• The Raiders rank 12th against the run (105.9 yards allowed per game) and 23rd against the pass (250.5 yards allowed per game).

The last time

The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 24-7 in Week 6 behind a dominating defensive performance with nine sacks and three interceptions, one a pick-six return by safety Husain Abdullah.

The Week 6 win snapped a six-game losing streak to the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Sunday marks the 110th meeting between the Chiefs and Raiders, the most the Chiefs have faced a single opponent.

The Chiefs own a 56-51-2 all-time overall record against Oakland, including a 54-50-2 mark in the regular season.

Ground it out with No. 25

Forget last season’s dismal showing against the Raiders where running back Jamaal Charles totaled 14 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll isn’t walking through the door.

As for 2013, Charles totaled 128 yards (78 rushing) and two touchdowns in Week 6’s meeting against the Raiders.

And he’s been coming on since the Week 10 bye.

Since Week 11, Charles has two 100-yard efforts in the past three games, adding five total touchdowns in that span.

The Raiders have allowed four rushing touchdown in the past two games, three coming from Dallas Cowboys tailback DeMarco Murray in Week 13.

Of course, the Chiefs will pass the ball, but Charles already has a career-high 57 catches.

Sunday’s matchup favors No. 25.

Plan B galore

The Chiefs could be without wide receiver Dexter McCluster (ankle) Sunday, a blow to a return game that has fired on all cylinders in the past two games.

Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder addressed the media Friday and said McCluster had an ankle infection that required a “minor procedure.”

“He still has a chance to play on Sunday because it’s basically a laceration that he had an infection in,” Burkholder said.

[Related: McCluster treated for infected ankle]

McCluster first appeared on Thursday’s injury report and didn’t practice the past two days leading to a questionable designation.

The Chiefs on Friday brought back wide receiver Chad Hall, who has experience returning punts. And coach Andy Reid said Hall or Quintin Demps could fill in for McCluster if needed.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs are likely to continue using Donald Stephenson at left tackle in Branden Albert’s (knee, out) absence.

Also ruled out are tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee) and outside linebacker Justin Houston (elbow).

“They’re making progress,” Reid said of Fasano and Houston during Friday’s media session. “They worked out all week and did a pretty good job during the workouts working with the scout team, but they’re not quite ready yet.”

Linebacker Frank Zombo will continue to fill for Houston, while tight end Sean McGrath will start for Fasano.

Quotable

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on his 150 career wins:

“Let’s get the next one,” Reid said. “We’re on that.”

Chiefs safety Eric Berry on playing in Oakland:

“To me it’s one of my favorite stadiums, away stadiums,” Berry said. “It’s a lot of fun, the fans are wild.”

Raiders coach Dennis Allen on the Chiefs’ return game:

“Their return game is second to none the National Football League,” Allen said during Wednesday’s media conference call.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on special teams coordinator Dave Toub and assistant special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea:

“He (Toub) and Kevin O’Dea are like Batman and Robin,” Reid said. “They work very well together.”

Prediction

The last time these two teams met, the Chiefs defense notched nine sacks. The team comes off a six-sack performance without Justin Houston.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs offense has been coming on in recent weeks. And last week the team put it all together on offense, defense and special teams for the first time this season en route to a dominating 45-10 win against the Washington Redskins.

The NFL is all about momentum.

The Chiefs have it for all the right reasons; the Raiders have it for the wrong reasons.

Sure, it is a division game where anything can happen.

But with everything to play for, the Chiefs won’t disappoint.

Outcome: Chiefs 38, Raiders 17

——-

Friday’s official NFL Injury Report, as released by the league:

Kansas City Chiefs

Out: T Branden Albert (knee), TE Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee), LB Justin Houston (elbow)
Questionable: WR Dexter McCluster (ankle)
Probable: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Rodney Hudson (elbow), LB Nico Johnson (ankle), TE Sean McGrath (knee), CB Ron Parker (shoulder), RB Anthony Sherman (knee, ankle)

Practice Report

Did not practice

Wednesday: T Branden Albert (knee)
Thursday: T Branden Albert (knee), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle)
Friday:: T Branden Albert (knee), WR Dexter McCluster (ankle)

Limited participation

Wednesday: TE Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee), LB Justin Houston (elbow)
Thursday: TE Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee), LB Justin Houston (elbow)
Friday: TE Anthony Fasano (concussion, knee), LB Justin Houston (elbow)

Full participation

Wednesday: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Rodney Hudson (elbow), TE Sean McGrath (knee), CB Ron Parker (shoulder), FB Anthony Sherman (knee, ankle)
Thursday: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Rodney Hudson (elbow), TE Sean McGrath (knee), CB Ron Parker (shoulder), FB Anthony Sherman (knee, ankle)
Friday: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Rodney Hudson (elbow), LB Nico Johnson (ankle), TE Sean McGrath (knee), CB Ron Parker (shoulder), RB Anthony Sherman (knee, ankle)

Oakland Raiders

Out: RB Darren McFadden (ankle), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee)
Doubtful: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), DT Vance Walker (concussion)
Questionable: WR Denarius Moore (shoulder)
Probable: T Khalif Barnes (knee, ankle), G Mike Brisiel (ankle, knee), DE Jason Hunter (foot, finger), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), LB Sio Moore (neck), T Tony Pashos (foot)

Practice Report

Did not practice

Wednesday: RB Darren McFadden (ankle), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee), DT Vance Walker (concussion)
Thursday: RB Darren McFadden (ankle), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee), DT Vance Walker (concussion)
Friday: RB Darren McFadden (ankle), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee), DT Vance Walker (concussion)

Limited participation

Wednesday: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), LB Sio Moore (neck)
Thursday: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), LB Sio Moore (neck)
Friday: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), LB Sio Moore (neck)

Full participation

Wednesday: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), LB Sio Moore (neck)
Thursday: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), LB Sio Moore (neck)
Friday: T Khalif Barnes (knee, ankle), G Mike Brisiel (ankle, knee), DE Jason Hunter (foot, finger), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion), T Tony Pashos (foot)

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