Following Sunday’s game in Oakland, Todd Haley will refer to the fourth game in the second quarter of the season. On the ensuing Monday, he’ll close the door on the second quarter and direct attention towards opening the third quarter of 2010 with success.
With an ultimate goal of three wins per quarter, Kansas City continues to follow the short-term/big-picture blueprint that Haley has laid out for 2010. The “quarters system” is a great way to remain focused and attack each week of a 16-game schedule with the same approach.
But this game is different.
While the approach may be the same, even Haley admits that this week carries some extra juice. Sunday’s visit to Oakland isn’t just the fourth game of the second quarter. This game is the biggest of the season thus far; the biggest game regardless of quarter. It’s a big game against a hated rival.
“This is obviously our biggest game of the year, there’s no doubt about it and there was no doubt about it last week either but this is the biggest game of the year to us,” Haley said.
As the Chiefs continue to win, the games keep getting bigger. It all started with the Monday night opener against San Diego and has continued into Week Nine. Sunday not only represents the biggest game for the Chiefs thus far in 2010, it also presents one of the biggest opportunities that the Chiefs have seen in recent history.
The potential results are simple.
With a win, Kansas City takes a commanding lead on the rest of the division. At the very minimum both San Diego and Oakland would sit a full three games behind the Chiefs with just seven games remaining on their respective schedules.
With a loss, Kansas City still leads the division, but is in the middle of an old fashioned AFC West fight.
“Our focus has not changed,” Haley said. “Mine, our staff and our players’ has got to be consistent and focus on the task at hand and just trying to do the things that make you better and give you a chance to be a good football team and that’s what we’re focused on. This is just another opportunity for us to take another step and I feel like if we go out and play our best game to-date, that’ll be good for the Chiefs.”
This first Sunday of November, as odd as it sounds, carries a dose of post-season implications along with it. Sunday’s result sets the path towards the AFC West crown. If there was ever a game that defined a pivotal midseason matchup, this one would be it.
Still, Kansas City remains even-keeled.
“I think that every game is pivotal, here especially at this point in the year,” WR
“You’re sitting here at 4-3 or at 5-2; what sounds better? You look back at those games and wonder why you’re sitting where you are at the end of the year.”
The fact that this week’s game is against Oakland only adds to the intrigue of Sunday. Kansas City and Oakland haven’t finished one-two in the division, in any order, since 1993. This one brings relevance back to one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.
With both teams pushing themselves back into contention at the same time, there’s a nostalgic feeling to Sunday’s matchup. The great Raiders/Chiefs tilts of the 1990s and the smash mouth meetings of the 1960s almost always seemed to have something extra to them. Those are the intangibles that helped set this rivalry apart from others in the NFL.
Kansas City and Oakland have met 102 times since the early days of the American Football League. The win/loss tally from 50-plus years of meetings is nearly even and the games often aren’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.
“Those other factors all just play into (this being a big game),” Haley said. “That’s alright, our guys know we’re playing a really, really good team.”
If the Chiefs can win on Sunday they will have defeated the Raiders more times than any other opponent. A win would also push Kansas City’s winning streak in Oakland to eight games; the most consecutive wins of any team visiting The Black Hole.
There’s a chance to make some history on Sunday, but more importantly, there’s an opportunity for the Chiefs to separate themselves from the resurgent Raiders.
This is the biggest game of the year…to date.