AFC playoff implications are on the line when the Oakland Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13. Both teams are looking to get a leg up in their quest for a wild card spot.
Last week, the Raiders snapped a three-game losing streak with a comeback win over the Tennessee Titans. It's been a season of ups and downs for Oakland, but at 5-6, the team is still alive in the playoff race. That's more than you can usually say for a Raiders team in early December.
The big reason for the Raiders' resurgent year is the play of Derek Carr, who has taken a big leap forward in his second year. Through 11 games, Carr has thrown for 2,895 yards, 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions. His 101.5 QB Rating is sixth in the league and he's averaging 7.7 yards per attempt, tied with Drew Brees for seventh overall. Possessing a rare combination of touch and velocity on his throws, Carr looks the part of a franchise quarterback, something Raiders fans have waited over a decade to see.
Unfortunately, the Raiders' defense is a big reason why they're still below .500. Oakland ranks 18th in rushing yards and 29th in passing yards allowed per game, while also giving up an average of 25.5 points. As good as Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and Michael Crabtree have been, the defense has consistently forced them into shootouts and comeback mode. Not ideal situations for such a young team.
The Chiefs have bounced back in a big way after starting the season 1-5, winning five games in a row to climb into the playoff picture. Right now, the Chiefs hold the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs and can put some distance between themselves and the Raiders with a win Sunday.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Chiefs' surge is that they're doing it without Jamaal Charles, who tore his ACL in Week 5. The offense had been getting by fine with backup Charcandrick West until he pulled a hamstring in Week 11. So it went down to third-stringer Spencer Ware, who promptly went off for 114 rushing yards and a touchdown in last week's win over the Buffalo Bills
The running game is strong enough that even Alex Smith is starting to take more shots downfield. Last week, Smith went deep early and often for Jeremy Maclin, who had his best game of the season with nine catches for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Of course, the Chiefs' identity remains their defense, and once again it's a solid unit this year, ranking ninth in rushing yards and 11th in passing yards allowed per game. Justin Houston is having another Pro Bowl-caliber year with 7.5 sacks and two interceptions (though he will likely sit Sunday), while Tamba Hali has 6.5 sacks of his own. Marcus Peters is making an instant impact in his rookie year with four interceptions and 16 passes defended.
How to watch
When: 4:05 p.m. ET
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
Online: NFL Game Pass