Something On The Line … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

There really wasn’t any other way this strange, strange NFL season could roll to its conclusion than to have the 6-8 Chiefs fighting for a spot in the playoffs on Christmas Eve.

But that’s where the wacky 2011 campaign has taken us – to the end of the year on the wings of parity and mediocrity. That the Chiefs could still dream of the post-season should not come as that big of a surprise. Remember it was the Seattle Seahawks that earned a home game last year and a victory in the 2010 playoffs after finishing the season with a 7-9 record in the NFC West.

This year it’s the AFC West that is the beacon of inconsistency – 14 games in the books and the difference between first place (Denver) and fourth place (Chiefs) is just two games. One of the four teams has a winning record and the 8-6 Broncos are the only one holding their own destiny in their hands. The Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs need help

So today at Arrowhead Stadium, the Raiders and Chiefs meet for the 104th time in their storied rivalry. The winner will have a shallow breath of life; the loser will be done, no matter the outcome of the final pre-season game. Kickoff is at noon, with television coverage on CBS-TV.

Talk of the playoffs is not something that dominated the Chiefs locker room conversation this week. With Romeo Crennel hammering a theme early of don’t worry about that stuff, the players seemed content on preparing and planning to play Oakland and for their let the cards fall where they may.

“We have to win two, right?” LB Derrick Johnson asked when the conversation turned towards the Chiefs making the playoffs. “And there are other things that have to happen, right? It’s nonsense to think about anything but playing and beating Oakland. That’s it. Then we play Denver, and then if something happens, they will tell us to comeback in and get ready to play somebody else.

“We’ve been too many places up and down this year to get ourselves wrapped up in all of that stuff. I just want to win.”

That’s all Crennel has been talking about – the Raiders.

“They are in the same situation we are, they need to win like we need to win and they’ll be ready to go,” Crennel said. “And so what we have to do is we have to put the best effort out there, we really have to play our best game of the year and so that’s what I talked to them about and try to get that done and hopefully they listened and they took it in, and then put it out there on Saturday and be the best that we can be.”

It was a remarkable week for the Chiefs on the betting boards in Las Vegas. The game was essentially pick’em on Sunday evening. But as each day of the week went on, the bettors pushed the margin the point where the Chiefs are now 2½ to 3½-point favorites. That’s a big swing and an indication that the Kyle Orton-led victory over the unbeaten Packers has convinced the bettors they might be able to do what seems like the impossible.

“We know what’s at stake and we know that we have an opportunity in front of us,” said FS Kendrick Lewis. “Guys are hungry, but humble about the task we have at hand. We have a chance to make it to the playoffs if we can keep things going good on our end. Hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

The teams know each other quite well, given their twice-a-year meetings. The Raiders have won four games in a row in Kansas City and they’ve been able to run the ball. Oakland’s defense can be shaky at times and prone to costly mental mistakes. They were 7-4 in late November when they beat Chicago by five points. Since then, Hue Jackson’s team has dropped three straight games, by 20 points to Miami, 30 points to Green Bay and one-point to Detroit. At 7-7 they need two victories, just like the Chiefs.

The Broncos are in Buffalo and the Chiefs must have a Bills victory. The Chargers are Detroit, and the best case circumstances say the Chiefs need a Lions victory. The Denver-Buffalo game starts at noon; San Diego-Detroit at 3 o’clock CST. The fans will be scoreboard watching, but what about the team itself?

“It’s hard to do because human nature tells you to look at that scoreboard and see what’s going on and what’s happening so I tell my guys, you have to focus on the job at hand and the job at hand is the Raiders game,” Crennel said. “That’s the only thing we can control. We cannot control what Buffalo does, we cannot control what Denver does. The only thing we can control is what we do. So if we go and do what we are supposed to do and win the game, that’s all we can do.”

Although it’s not his decision to make, Crennel was asked if the Chiefs were going to allow the in-stadium scoreboards to provide scores from Buffalo.

“Well I think that scoreboard has been on every time we have played up there so I don’t expect it’s going to change,” Crennel said.

If the Chiefs win, and the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos all lose, the Chiefs will hold their 2011 post-season future in their own hands; need a victory over Denver on New Year’s Day.

In a season of an owners’ lockout, mega-injuries, winning and losing streaks and a fired head coach, it Christmas and against all odds the Chiefs still have something on the line other than pride.

2 Responses to “Something On The Line … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • December 24, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    It’s hard to believe we still have a shot at the playoffs with the roller coaster season we’ve had but I’m still thankful we’re playing in a meaningful game in the playoff picture on Christmas Eve. That’s true no matter how ugly it was getting to it. The fact that our playoffs hopes rest on beating the Raiders and Broncos back to back at the end of the season makes it all the more appealing. Let’s hope the scenario for us to make it plays out today so we can have another week and game to look forward to. Go Chiefs!

  • December 24, 2011  - ED J says:

    It would be one of the best stories in Chiefs history if Broncos and Chargers lose and Orton goes back to Denver with a chance to beat Broncos to go to playoffs. That probably be story of the year. I would love to see it. Raiders going to give us all they have but Orton should be able to attack this undiciplined secondary but key going to be stop run on defense. As good as our secondary been the front seven needs to tighten up against the run.

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