Ah, the classic National Football League Rivalry between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. These two AFC West teams, known throughout the league for their passionate fan-bases and their American Football League heritage, have been destined to oppose each other since the dawn of their existence back in 1960. From the Chiefs upset win in the 1969 AFL Championship, to the bench-clearing brawl in the 1970 season, to the Wild Card Playoff Game at Arrowhead in 1991, to the Raiders knocking the Chiefs out of the playoffs in the 2000 regular season closer, to the 72-yard game winning drive capped off by the decision to go for a two-point conversion by then-Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil in 2005, to the game in Oakland just last season where the Raiders won the game in overtime 23-20, this rivalry has been littered with great games and a never-ending hatred between the two teams throughout their 52-year span of playing against each other.
Though meaningful games between the two teams have been scarce in recent years, the Chiefs and the Raiders, with records of 16-14 and 15-15 respectively since 2010, seem to have slowly developed themselves into contenders for the AFC West crown. Granted, those records are still around .500, which usually doesn't win the division, but in my humble opinion, both teams are just a few pieces away from fighting for the West year after year like they did back in the glory days. I mean, after all, this next game between Kansas City and Oakland (given the proper outcome of the other AFC west teams) could ultimately be for a playoff spot.
In all honesty, it's still hard for me to believe what I'm writing. After losing to the New York Jets 10-37 in Week 14, the Chiefs were essentially ruled out for any chance of the playoffs this season. Though they were not technically out of contention quite yet, they were (and still are) one loss away from elimination. When they faced the then-undefeated Green Bay Packers last Sunday, almost no one gave the Chiefs any chance of winning that game. And yet here they stand; accomplishers of the impossible and vanquishers of the undefeated, winning the game 14-19, which puts them at an unlikely 6-8 this year.
Regarding the Chiefs' playoff hopes, this miracle would have been meaningless if the Denver Broncos, at 8-5, had gotten another astonishing win when they faced the New England Patriots. All the Broncos need to stick a knife in the Chiefs' post-season hopes is one more win. Fortunately for us, however, they didn't get it last week, and losing to the Patriots now puts them at 8-6. Because of this turn of events, the Chiefs are even now still alive in the hunt, despite the fact that they now have a different head coach and starting quarterback than they did when the season started.
Meanwhile the Raiders, our sworn enemies, lost to the Detroit Lions 28-27 to fall to 7-7 on the season. And since the San Diego Chargers also won last week against the Baltimore Ravens 14-34, the AFC West Standings are as follows;
Denver Broncos: 8-6 (@Bufallo, Kansas City)
Oakland Raiders: 7-7 (@Kansas City, San Diego)
San Diego Chargers: 7-7 (@Detroit, @Oakland)
Kansas City Chiefs: 6-8 (Oakland, @Denver)
Because first and last place in the division are separated by only 2 games with 2 weeks left to go in the regular season, not one single AFC West team is out the race for the division title. That means that these last couple of games are of critical importance for all 4 teams, both for this season (the division title) and next season (position in the 2012 NFL Draft and certain 2012 opponents).
That is precisely why the Chiefs-Raiders game in Arrowhead this Christmas Eve is so important to both teams; it's essentially the equivalent of a playoff game within the division. Granted it's all for naught for the Chiefs if Denver wins next week, but should that not be the case, the winner of this game will be one win away from winning the AFC West and going to the playoffs, while the loser will officially and mathematically be eliminated from claiming the division (and in all likelihood, any playoff spot at all).
Talk about a sweet early Christmas present for us Chiefs fans. To me, the only way that a Chiefs-Raiders game can get any better that it already is, is for the entire season for both teams to be at stake. True, it's not looking good for Kansas City even if they do win this game. But how can we say no to Chiefs-Raiders even when it doesn't mean elimination for the loser? This scenario not only makes me look forward to the game even more, but I think I'll enjoy it that much more because of what's at stake.
So to all of my fellow members of Arrowhead Pride, I say to you Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time with your family and friends, and be ready for an epic showdown this Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.