Kansas and Oakland face off in a game that could decide the AFC West title. Neil Harvey breaks down the action...
"The Chiefs are in absolute disarray after losing four on the bounce, including defeats to the motley crew of the Giants, Buffalo, and the Jets."
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday December 10th, 18:00 GMT
TV - Live on Sky Sports Main Event
You know the AFC West must be bad when either of these teams could still make it to the play-offs despite only having 6-6 records. They're currently battling it out with the LA Chargers, who are also 6-6. This division is just drowning in mediocrity.
That said though, it means there's a lot riding on this game - quite possibly a place in the post-season. And both sides arrive in contrasting form. The Chiefs are in absolute disarray after losing four on the bounce, including defeats to the motley crew of the Giants, Bills and Jets. It's hard to believe given the way Kansas started the season. Back then they looked like title contenders after winning their first five, beating the Patriots and Eagles no less during that run. But oh how they have fallen.
Putting a finger on what's gone wrong will depend on who you ask. But one school of thought is that their opponents simply got wise as to how to play them on defense. Instead of playing man to man, the Steelers were the first to employ soft zonal coverage - not allowing the Chiefs to exploit their many gadget plays - usually involving speedster Tyreek Hill. The approach worked. And every man and his dog has been using it against the Chiefs since.
We always knew Alex Smith was really just a game manager under centre. And he's eventually been exposed as just that, following some ridiculous early season hype. He now looks more the kind of anchor that weighs you down, than the kind that offers stability. And with no passing game to offer balance, the wunderkind runner Kareem Hunt has been the one to pay the price. Remember when the rookie was chalking up a hundred yards per game? He was down to just 40 yards against the Jets last week. Travis Kelce prospers whatever the weather though. Especially when he's a much needed, short-pass outlet.
Raiders bouncing back
Meanwhile Oakland's form is heading in the other direction following back to back wins. They did come against the Giants and Denver though, so a large pinch of salt is needed. Their improvement has come off the back of a return to form of key players. Derek Carr is again posting upwards of 250 passing yards a game. And Marshawn Lynch has shown that he's not yet ready for the scrap heap. I wrote earlier this season about how Lynch was performing much better than his stats revealed in terms of yards gained after contact. Well his performances are now getting the gains they deserved.
There's not been a whole lot of points around in the Raiders games of late. And accounting for turnovers, it's been a similar case with Kansas. So with the nerves bound to be a jangling, I'm expecting more of the same. The start that Oakland are getting seems the value option here, especially given the horrific run Kansas are on. But a lot will come down to how the Raiders D performs. We are due a real nail biter, and this game looks to have all the ingredients. That big price on there being overtime is going to come good eventually. And today could be the day.
5pts Oakland (+4) to beat Kansas @ [2.00]
3pts 1st Half Points Under 24 @ Evens
3pts Marshawn Lynch rushing yards Over 64.5 @ 5/6
3pts Travis Kelce receiving yards Over 62.5 @ 5/6
1pt Marshawn Lynch to score 1st team touchdown @ 4/1
1pt Overtime to be played @ 9/1