GAMETIME: 7:25 p.m. CST on Thursday, November 20LOCATION: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif. HOW TO WATCH: NFL Network (KSHB Local) HOW TO LISTEN: 101.1 The Fox | NFL Network Game Rewind (Friday, 2:30 p.m. CST)GAMCENTER/LIVEBLOG:KCChiefs.com
Entering Week 3, the Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) and Oakland Raiders (0-10) were both teams with two losses in search of their first victory. The Chiefs traveled down to Miami to play the Dolphins while the Raiders visited Foxboro to play the Patriots.
In South Beach, the Chiefs secured their first of what would become seven wins in eight games, and 1,235 miles away in Foxboro, the Raiders lost their third game of the season.
Eight weeks later, the Raiders are still in search of their first win and this Thursday night, hope it comes against their AFC West division rival in the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since that Week 3 game against the Dolphins, the Chiefs have played like one of the best teams in football, a description most recently validated by their 24-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
Running back Jamaal Charles, sans an injury that kept him out for most of the game against the Broncos and the entire Miami game, is putting together an exceptional season and has played a major role in the team's overall success.
He currently sits in second place among all running backs in both yards per carry and rushing touchdowns and last game ran for a season-high 159 yards and two touchdowns.
"Right now he's the best back in the league," tight end Travis Kelce said this week of Charles. "He does it all, everything, even in the run game. In the pass game, he blocks, receives. He can do it all."
As Charles continues to compile touchdowns on the ground, the passing offense, while not scoring the last two games, has played sufficiently enough for the Chiefs to win the last five games in a row.
Quarterback Alex Smith has been a leader for the Chiefs on the field and hasn't thrown an interception since before the team's bye week.
"For us I think it's all about the three phases – offense, defense, special teams – and playing good in all three phases," he told the media this week. "You never know whose turn it is going to be to make the play to win a game. But I think we have confidence to kind of take pride in that you want to be the phase that's going to do it.
"All three phases have that mindset. We walk out on the field and expect it, expect to do it."
Against the Raiders, Smith's phase will be up against the 12th best pass defense in the league according to yards per game given up through the air. Because of the obvious disparity between that rank and Oakland's run defense (27th), it could be another opportunity for Jamaal Charles to have a big game.
The key players to watch for the Raiders on defense are rookie linebacker Khalil Mack (No. 52), who notched the first sack of his career last week in the Raiders' close game against the Chargers, and veteran defensive end Justin Tuck (No. 91). Tuck at the age of 31 has still shown an ability to get to the quarterback this season, recording two of the 10 total sacks Oakland has on their stat sheet.
As far as the pass rush for Kansas City, it would be wise for the Chiefs to not take the winless Raiders lightly. The Oakland offensive line has given up just 12 sacks this season, the second best mark in the league.
For a team that has sacked the opposing quarterback 30 times this year, even that could be a challenge for nose tackle Dontari Poe and LBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, who all together combine for 22 of those 30 sacks. Vance Walker, the reserve defensive lineman for the Chiefs, will be looking to add to his sack total of 1.5 in his first game against Oakland since spending all of 2013 as a member of the Raiders.
Those four men will join together as part of a unit whose goal will be bringing down rookie QB Derek Carr, who like many of the quarterbacks the Chiefs have faced this year, possesses an ability to use his mobility as an advantage.
"He moves around in the pocket very well and he could use his feet when he wants to," LB Josh Mauga said. "He gets the ball out quick so it's definitely going to be a challenge for us getting to him and trying to keep him in the pocket."
Carr has also shown an ability to spread the ball around. Three receivers in TE Mychal Rivera (No. 81) and wideouts Andre Holmes (No. 18) and James Jones (No. 89) all have at least 50 targets from Carr and three touchdowns apiece.
On the ground, the Chiefs will be up against the three-running back tandem featuring Darren McFadden (No. 20), Maurice Jones-Drew (No. 21) and second-year back Latavius Murray (No. 28).
McFadden has the only two rushing touchdowns for the Raiders this season, but Murray could see significant time against the Chiefs after running for 43 yards on just four attempts last week against the Chargers.
Despite the records of these two clubs, a game between the Chiefs and Raiders historically is a nasty, physical one and there's no reason to expect otherwise from this upcoming Thursday night showdown.
In the 111th meeting between a rivalry that dates back to days of the AFL, a Chiefs win would mean standing alone on top of the AFC West, at least until the current first-place Denver Broncos play on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Photos of the 2014 Oakland Raiders starting lineup.