If you share my view that the Kansas City Chiefs are a better team than they have shown for much of this young season, then you may also share my view that the time has come to shift gears. Since we are in the latter half of the month of October and the Halloween ghouls and goblins have begun to awaken in preparation for their annual fifteen minutes of fame (as it were), I thought it was appropriate to discuss the Chiefs need of exorcising their demons.
This first part, of a two part story, begins with the Chiefs finding themselves in a pivotal moment of their season as they trudge into the black hole of Oakland, and finishes up next week with more on the Chiefs upcoming rematch with the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football -- Halloween edition.
From a big picture overall season perspective, it just doesn't get any spookier than this for 2011.
Having just come off a bye week, the Chiefs should be in the best shape they will be in for the remainder of the season. That's a good thing, considering all the demons that have beset the team this season. From losing three key players for the season, to having to overcome the lack of proper practice time in an effort to become properly conditioned, to enduring the slings and arrows of a very upset fan base and being told that the decision had been made to fire the head coach, these Chiefs could easily have felt as though they were jinxed.
We already know that Todd Haley is superstitious as all get out, so what exactly, do the Chiefs have to look forward to?
Raider week baby. What better place to start killing demons than the black hole?
This rivalry goes all the way back to 1960 when the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans. There have been too many times over the years that this match up has defined the AFC west and even times that it defined the playoffs. These two games vs. the Raiders are big, big games for KC.
Beating the Raiders is where it starts every season for the Chiefs. If they can accomplish this, they can do just about whatever else they want that season. It's truly more than just a football game. Winning this game builds confidence. It's like getting a magic amulet that the winner gets to wear around their neck to ward off further demonic interference for the rest of the season. It is ALWAYS a hard fought, nasty struggle that both teams recognize as a must win situation.
Here are some quotes from some participants you might know about Raider games:
Those were my favorite games...I always likened them to a heavyweight fight. You knew you were going to get beat up, but it was fun. We needed the Chiefs. We wouldn't have been as good without them.
-Ben Davidson, former Raiders defensive end.
It's something special. It's not just media hype...You can sense it with coaches and players. Then you get out into the community, and you realize what a huge game this is for both cities.
-Will Shields, former Chiefs offensive guard.
"It's a dark game. I characterize it as a lot of darkness." When asked whether "dark" was meant as 'a good vs. evil dark'-"You can read between the lines".
-Gunther Cunningham, former Raiders defensive coordinator and former Chiefs Head coach and defensive coordinator, currently working as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator.
We knew we had to go through Oakland to win the championship, and they knew they had to go through Kansas City...That made it a very bitter rivalry.
-Hank Stram, former Texans/Chiefs head coach
Only one word: Blood.
-Harvey Williams (who was with Oakland that season after four years in Kansas City) in a 1995 NBC interview for the team's first meeting in Oakland since 1981.
Folks, this game is a blood feud, plain and simple. It's the kind of game that tests one's mettle and resolve. For my money, it's the biggest demon that the Chiefs have to exorcise this season. Just look at the spells that the 2011 Raiders have conjured and cast upon us.
First, the firing of Tom Cable. Here was a guy that apparently liked to beat up his own assistant coaches. Very Raider-esque if you ask me. I just couldn't figure out why they would want to get rid of him after presiding over two victories of the Chiefs last season. Maybe he threatened Al Davis and that was the end of his tenure. More likely Hue Jackson got in the Crypt Keeper's ear and promised to cast a bigger spell this season. What do you know? He just may have done it.
Don't you think that Carson looks sickly? Look how thin his neck looks. Methinks he will make only a morsel for Tamba Hali. If Carson starts this game, there is more than a chance that Kyle Boller has his second clean up game in the last two weeks. Word in the Chiefs locker room is that Tamba was seriously pissed that he missed out on some Curtis Painter hors d' oeuvres in an unsuccessful hunt a couple of weeks back. He now has had two entire weeks of famine to prepare for a feast. Would you want to be Carson Palmer this week, demon though he is? Hey Bengal, say hello to the Lion. Ha-ha!!
Then there is the biggest spell of all.
The Krypt Keeper has let go of his worldly presence in favor of an other worldly one. Make no mistake about this. Al will be in the Black Hole when the Chiefs take the field. In his current form, he will be able to affect the game like he has never been able to before. If this isn't a spooky thought, you ain't trying.
In all honesty, I miss Al Davis. Al was a connection to the past for those fans that are old enough to remember what this rilvalry is all about. Al was the coolest, quirkiest, weirdest owner in the NFL. Who was out there that was more fun to hate? The jokes were unbeatable. When Al hired Jon Gruden? The Krypt Keeper turns to Chucky (the kids doll in the movie Child's Play that killed EVERYBODY) in order to resurrect the Raiders? That's a Creep Show episode if I ever heard one! Seriously, RIP Al, you will live forever in infamy in the hallowed halls of the NFL--and keep your stinking paws off my boy Matt on Sunday. NO CHEATING from the dark side!!
So with all of this going against the Chiefs, do they stand a chance to win without Max von Sydow to choose an Exorcist? Absolutely!! The Raiders, in spite of all their spells and gnashing of teeth, have not been all that fantastic this season. Yes they have won a couple games in dramatic fashion, but let's take a look at what we are really facing here, shall we?
First, the Defense. I don't get why so many fans are running around in here expressing their 'fear' about Oakland's 'scary' defense this season. They may not be the bunglers that we would like for them to be, but they sure are a lot closer to that (statistically speaking anyway) than they are to being above average. The Raiders are currently 29th ranked in total defense for 2011 having given up nearly 400 yards per game to the opposing offenses. They rank 29th against the pass allowing almost 284 yards per game through the air. They rank 21st against the run, allowing an average of 113 yards per game on the ground. They have allowed 150 points scored in six games, giving up exactly 25 points per game on average. This does not sound like a world beater to me. Yes they have some skill, but then so do the Chiefs. This is shaping up to be a classic Chiefs/Raiders battle where both teams will have the opportunity to win the day. It should be exciting!!
Second, the offense. Oakland has been much better offensively ranking 9th in the NFL through six weeks in total offense. With McFadden anchoring their running game the Raiders have averaged 160 yards rushing per game plus just shy of 218 yards passing per game. They have been scoring on average nearly 27 points per game. Sounds pretty scarey right? Well, hold on a minute.
What has changed recently with this offense? They lost their starting QB. Now many here would point to the fact that Carson Palmer is an upgrade over Jason Campbell. In a larger sense, I don't think anybody would really disagree with that, but the circumstance of this game happens to tilt it a bit in the Chiefs favor (in my opinion). By the time Carson takes a snap under center on Sunday (if he indeed does) it will have been 294 days since he last did so in a live game, and a bit longer since he has taken a practice snap. What's more, Carson said he was retired because of irreconcileable differences with the Bengals. Now, if he thought he was going to sit on the sidelines all season (not so unbelievable considering who the owner of his previous team was) just exactly how 'in shape' do you think he has kept himself? The odds of him stuttering, stammering and just plaing trying to knock off the rust seem to be significant when you consider how long he has been away from the normal NFL routine. The fact that he is joining a new team (albeit with a coach that he shares some knowledge of) and the reality that he has absolutely no chemistry so far with his receiving corps in Oakland just add to the difficulty of playing well. In short, it's a pretty tall order for Carson to be able to come in and carry this team on his back given the circumstances.
Carson was the starting QB for a team that went 4-12 last season. His accuracy may be better than that of Jason Campbell, but he is also slower. In five full seasons as a full time starter, he has lead his team to a winning record only twice. If you think Matt Cassel sucks based on his record, Carson Palmer doesn't have much more to sing about. So far, he's shown to be an average to slightly above average QB in the NFL, nothing more and nothing less. He's exactly the kind of QB that the Chiefs need to beat on a regular basis to be considered a good team.
Added to the QB issues are the Raiders injury problems. The Week 6 injury report listed no less than 15 players in varying degrees of game shape. It varies from nicks and cuts to not being able to go. I would assume that several of those same names will be listed on the report when it comes out today as well. The Raiders have suffered right along side most of the NFL teams in terms of not having the proper time spent on conditioning from the preseason. Now that the season is 35 percent complete, those injuries are afftecting teams abilities to go at full strength on a weekly basis.
Basically, what I am getting at here is that there is no reason to panic and consider this 'Fright Night'. We are well matched and should be able to go into the Black Hole with confidence and make some plays. It's all about keeping the mojo going. Haley metioned in a recent presser that if he could have taken the bye at another time during the season, he would have kept it as it fell because it has given a few guys a needed respite and more time to review the Raiders. All of that should come through on Sunday in the way the Chiefs play the game.
It's time to shift those gears. The Chiefs are on track to overcome a season threatening pot hole that was potentially big enough to swallow the car. They have fought back from the edge of hysteria (like kids on the edge of their seat at a scary movie) to find their purpose and realize their potential again. If indeed the Chiefs make something out of this season, you have to tip your hat to them. They have endeavored to persevere. If they do, it will become fodder for Chiefs lore for the next 20 years.
So what say you Chiefs fans? Can the Chiefs exorcise those demons? Can they turn the tables on a terrible start and stay in the winning groove? You know what I think. I see a victory coming on Sunday in a hard fought match up. Will Al Davis be able to make his ghostly presence felt or will having broken the Indy curse propel the Chiefs into the safe zone where the bad ju-ju can't follow? For the answers to these and other questions, tune in Sunday. Until then just remember this--the Chiefs need a demon slayer to rid them of all these gremlins.
Where will this Demon Slayer be found? Truth is, we already have one. You didn't know? I thought everybody knew that Demon Slayers live in the..