When the Chiefs walk out on the field against the Oakland Raiders in o.Co Coliseum on Thursday night, they will be the better team. They are picked to win by nearly every NFL expert in cyberspace. They're the odds-on favorite in Vegas. The Chiefs should not lose.
The Raiders, on the other hand, should definitely lose. They haven't won a game in over a year. Former head coach Dennis Allen was let go already, and Tony Sparano hasn't given Oakland fans reason to believe his interim title will be changed after the season. They're a team in need of a reboot a few years after they already hit the reset button, a complete mess already entrenched as one of the worst teams in NFL history.
Even still this is not a trap game. It wouldn't surprise me for most fans to believe it could be. The Raiders game is slipped in on the schedule just days after an emotional home win over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. It's also the week before the Chiefs host their bitter rivals in Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. It's easy to assume the "W" next to both remaining Raiders game and move on to worrying about the bigger match-ups.
But let's say it again: this is not a trap game. Need some reasons? Of course, we do:
1. The coaching
The value of having an excellent coaching staff is partially found in their ability to focus the roster on what is important. And what is important is keeping a week to week mentality in front of players on a winning team.
Picture this: the Buffalo Bills were 5-3 on Nov. 8 and being discussed as dynamic young team with playoff potential and stability at quarterback after switching to Kyle Orton. Six days later, they were 5-5 and Doug Marrone was answering hot seat questions and a switch back to E.J. Manuel. A lot changes in the NFL from week to week.
Reid knows this as well as any other coach and he will undoubtedly have the Chiefs focused on the right thing. And the only right thing here is the Raiders game and nothing more.
2. The mentality
Some female singer told me one time that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. (Thanks, Kelly.) The Titans game has turned into a godsend. Even before the season, the Titans game was one of those few wins that Chiefs fans were counting on when looking at a brutal schedule. Several weeks later, the Titans game is an anomaly that still has me scratching me head. It also reminds the Chiefs that anything can happen.
Even with a five-game winning streak, Reid only has to point back to the season-opening dud to show the locker room that every team can lay an egg at any time. No matter who you are facing, you must play your best. And let's be honest, even Reid learned some lessons on that ugly day in Week 1. There's no way the Chiefs overlook a single team for the rest of the season.
3. The rivalry
Despite the record, let's not forget that most of us would fund a Kickstarter placing a snake in the shoe of every Raiders player. The Chiefs know this. The Chiefs are prepared for this. Raiders fans would find some solace if their only win of the season came against Kansas City. There's just no way the team takes this rivalry for granted, since every game against Oakland is a must-win despite the disparity in the standings.
If the Chiefs lose on Thursday, it will not be because it was a "trap game". It will be because they were outplayed. It will be because Khalil Mack is a force or Derek Carr had a breakout game or the Chiefs had another Titan-esque performance. t's hard to see that happening, of course, but anything is possible.
Except for one thing: this being a trap game.