NFL: Chiefs-Raiders rivalry is relevant again
AP Pro Football Writer
Cue up the classic NFL Films music. Round up Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, Ken Stabler and Ted Hendricks. Bring in John Madden.
The Raiders-Chiefs rivalry is relevant again, with Sunday’s game in Oakland a potential decider in the AFC West.
“The Chiefs-Raiders rivalry was about as spirited as any in professional football in my time,” says Jim Lynch, a linebacker for the great Kansas City teams of the ’60s and early ’70s. “They didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. Now it looks like the Chiefs have something going again. This week will be fun.”
It also could be fierce and memorable, like the old days of the rivalry the Chiefs lead 54-46-2. With both teams on the rise, Kansas City is 5-2 atop the division, and Oakland is 4-4 after winning three of the last four. It’s the first time neither team has a losing record when they’ve met since the 2002 regular-season finale.
Off this week are Tennessee, Washington, St. Louis, San Francisco, Denver and Jacksonville.
SAN DIEGO (3-5)
at HOUSTON (4-3)
HOUSTON – Philip Rivers against the Houston Texans’ defense seems like a mismatch.
The San Diego quarterback leads the league with 2,649 yards passing through the first eight games, and is on target to break Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 yards in 1984. He also has a touchdown pass in a team-record 21 consecutive games.
The Texans? Their pass defense is ranked last in the NFL, having allowed 16 touchdown passes and seven pass plays covering 40 yards or more.
Tampa Bay (5-2)
at Atlanta (5-2)
Seeing the Falcons atop the NFC South is no shock. But the Bucs?
Last year, Tampa Bay won just three times. Now, the rapid development of QB Josh Freeman, his offensive line and receivers – Mike Williams could be the top offensive rookie – and a big-play defense has made the Bucs look legit.
So legit that coach Raheem Morris proclaimed them the best team in the NFC.
at Philadelphia (4-3)
The Eagles love games following a bye: 11-0 under Andy Reid. This matchup surely will test that streak because the banged-up Colts still have a healthy Peyton Manning, starting his 200th straight game, and as the four-time MVP showed Monday night against Houston, he can tear apart any defense – even when Jacob Tamme and Mike Hart are main targets.
at Baltimore (5-2)
The more frequent flyer miles the Dolphins get when they travel away from South Beach, the better: Miami is 4-0 on the road, 0-3 at home. Keeping such a contradictory streak going against the Ravens will be difficult if Miami doesn’t get production through the air because running on the Ravens is a tough chore.
San Diego (3-5)
at Houston (4-3)
Some folks think the Chargers saved their season by beating Tennessee and will begin their usual midseason turnaround. Perhaps, but they need to be more protective with the ball – 19 giveaways – to take advantage of Philip Rivers’ ability to spread the ball. Houston’s porous secondary is an inviting target in what could be a shootout, although San Diego could be without its best threat, tight end Antonio Gates (foot).
New York Giants (5-2)
at Seattle (4-3)
Talk about defensive impacts, that’s what the Giants have had on quarterbacks, sidelining five of them already. Matt Hasselbeck sustained a concussion last week against Oakland, which doesn’t have half the defensive players the Giants do.
New York has won four in a row and comes off a bye. Seattle is all banged-up, but Qwest Field is a difficult place for visitors to win; the Giants have played some of their worst games on defense there.
at Minnesota (2-5)
Drama, turmoil, transient players: Minnesota has had it all.
Randy Moss is gone, the defense can’t find the quarterback – Jared Allen has one sack – and Brett Favre has ankle, elbow and chin injuries. Coach Brad Childress is embroiled in controversy over his handling of the Moss affair.
Yet the Cardinals, with their woes at quarterback, a minus-9 turnover differential and a defense that can’t stop the run might be in worse shape. Two division winners from 2009 who have lost their way.
at Green Bay (5-3)
Speaking of losing their way, the Cowboys fell off the face of the earth as they pursued becoming the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Amid talk of quitters and major changes, Dallas is a shell of the team that used to torment the Packers.
Green Bay’s 9-0 shutout of the Jets last week was due as much to New York’s ineptitude as the Packers’ D. That doesn’t mean Clay Matthews – probably the league’s best defensive player this season – Charles Woodson and mates aren’t capable of another blanking here.
at Cincinnati (2-5), Monday night
Another team that has plummeted this season is Cincinnati, which won all six AFC North games a year ago on the way to the division title. A loss against the angry Steelers, who were way too sloppy in last week’s loss at New Orleans, pretty much ends the Bengals’ shot at the playoffs.
The Steelers have won five in a row on Monday nights, making coach Mike Tomlin perfect under that spotlight.
Chicago (4-3) vs. Buffalo (0-7) at Toronto
Wouldn’t it be fitting that the Bills had to leave the States to get their first win? They haven’t fared well in Toronto, but they’ve played two strong teams, Baltimore and Kansas city, very close the last two weeks, losing both games in overtime.
Chicago hasn’t looked strong since starting 3-0.
New Orleans (5-3)
at Carolina (1-6)
Last week’s win over the Steelers should catapult the Saints back toward the top, but they haven’t swept the Panthers since 2001. Of course, the Panthers rarely have been so bad in that span.
New Orleans could get starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter (left knee) and Jabari Greer (left shoulder) back, not that the Panthers are much of a threat through the air. Carolina ranks last with 12.1 points per game, 251.4 yards per game, 23 turnovers, 13 interceptions and minus-10 turnover margin.
New York Jets (5-2) at Detroit (2-5)
The Jets often struggle coming off a bye, so their stinker against Green Bay last Sunday is no shock. A loss here would set off the panic alarms in Florham Park, though.
Mark Sanchez was betrayed by his receivers with drops all over the ballpark by Santonio Holmes and the usually surehanded Jerricho Cotchery against Green Bay. Besides, the better second-year quarterback in this matchup probably is Detroit’s Matt Stafford, who threw for four TDs last week against Washington.
New England (6-1) at Cleveland (2-5)
Belichick wannabe Eric Mangini against the real thing. Will they shake hands after the game?
The Patriots are on the rise, and already own the best record in football. They dominated the Vikings in the second half last weekend, and their running game is coming around. Teams can pass on the Pats; is Colt McCoy capable of doing so?