RAIDERS (10-2) AT CHIEFS (9-3)
TV: Ch. 4, NFL; Radio: WCBS (880)
Chiefs by 3; O/U: 46
If the NFL could flex Thursday night games, you can bet they would’ve used that option many times this season. Not this week.
Raiders vs. Chiefs, two of the hottest teams in the NFL essentially vying for a first-round bye in the playoffs, is about as good of a matchup you can draw up. Throw in that this rivalry game will be played in 20-degree weather at Arrowhead Stadium and well, this has the potential to be the game of the year.
The Raiders have won six in a row, their last loss in Week 6 at home against . . . yep, the Chiefs. After a 2-2 start, Kansas City has won seven of eight. The turnaround started after its bye week — a staple for an Andy Reid-coached team — when Kansas City racked up 183 yards on the ground and its defense grounded Oakland to a season low in points in a 26-10 win.
Derek Carr, the front-runner for MVP, and the Raiders have put it in overdrive since then, averaging 32-plus points during their win streak. Carr last week set an NFL record for most game-winning touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and overtime in a season with five. With the way he’s playing, you never can count out the Raiders, who are 5-0 on the road.
Not including the Mexico City game — technically a home game for Oakland — the Raiders haven’t been on the road since Oct. 30. Think about that for a second. That’s nearly 40 days. That’s a big deal, especially when the first trip away for a warm-weather team is at frigid Arrowhead.
As great a season as the Raiders are having, the belief here is that the Chiefs are the better all-around team. Yes, Oakland’s offense is unstoppable at times — just ask the Bills, who last week saw a 24-9 lead disappear in a flash as the Raiders reeled off 29 unanswered — but Kansas City wins with all three phases. In last week’s win at Atlanta, it scored on a pick-6 and pick-2 (both by Eric Berry) and a 55-yard touchdown run on a fake punt.
The Chiefs have won 19 of their last 22 regular-season games, and after two dramatic road wins return home with a shot to take over the AFC West lead and move closer to a first-round bye. Alex Smith will do just enough, and the run game will beat the Raiders again. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs also get another big play on defense and/or special teams in an instant classic. Chiefs 23, Raiders 17.
The pick: Chiefs
Bob Glauber: Chiefs
Tom Rock: Raiders
Kimberley A. Martin: Chiefs