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NFL Preview - Kansas City (10-3) at Oakland (4-9)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The turnaround for Kansas City is almost complete.
After finishing a league-worst 2-14 in 2012, the Chiefs are 10-3 and have a chance to clinch a playoff berth in Oakland on Sunday.
A win by Kansas City against the Raiders or setbacks from either Baltimore, which plays at Detroit on Monday night, or Miami, which hosts New England on Sunday, would send the Chiefs to the postseason.
Last week, first-year Kansas City coach Andy Reid became just the 21st mentor in NFL history to win 150 games (including postseason) when the Chiefs routed Washington 45-10 inside the Beltway.
Dexter McCluster returned a punt for a touchdown and Quintin Demps did the same on a kickoff to highlight a 38-point first half that lifted Kansas City in that one.
Alex Smith passed for 137 yards and a pair of scores on 14-of-20 efficiency for the Chiefs, who put the brakes on a three-game skid in emphatic fashion. Jamaal Charles ended with a season-high 151 yards rushing and a TD on 19 attempts and also caught a pass for another touchdown.
"It seems like a year (since we last won)," Reid remarked. "Those are dog years, as you would say, each week that you have a loss in the NFL. So for the guys to come back and rebound after that, I was proud of them."
Dwayne Bowe added 69 yards and a receiving score on four grabs while Tamba Hali garnered his second Defensive Player of the Week award this season by notching six tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss.
"We still have it," defensive end Tyson Jackson told the Chiefs' website. "There's a long road ahead of us and we still have to get some wins, but it's good to have the mojo going into the rest of the season."
Oakland, meanwhile, continues to play out the string with former Penn State walk-on Matt McGloin, who has 957 passing yards with six TDs and a 88.7 passer rating, as the team's starting quarterback.
The Raiders started last week's 37-27 loss to the New York Jets alternating between McGloin and Terrelle Pryor but stuck with McGloin from the midway point of the second quarter.
McGloin finished 18-for-31 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Pryor was a pedestrian 2-for-5 for 20 yards in just two series.
Marcel Reece rushed for a career-high 123 yards and a touchdown and Rod Streater caught seven passes for a career-high 130 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders, who have dropped 13 straight games played in the Eastern time zone. Oakland's last win on the right coast against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 6, 2009.
"We didn't start fast and gave up a lot of points. We turned the ball over and put ourselves in a hole. I thought the offense did a great job trying to come back in the second and give ourselves a chance," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen.
Kansas City leads its all-time series with Oakland by a 54-50-2 margin and is aiming to sweep the season series for the first time since 2006 after topping the Raiders, 24-7, back on Oct. 13. Charles amassed 128 scrimmage yards and two TDs and safety Husain Abdullah added a 44-yard pick-six in that win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Chiefs had the game's best defense during their 9-0 start, never allowing more than 17 points in any of those games. Things changed against Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, however, when Kansas City allowed an average of 34.3 points and 371.0 passing yards while losing twice to Manning's Broncos and once to Rivers' Chargers.
Luckily quarterbacks like that don't grow on trees and when matched up against the embattled Robert Griffin III, the Chiefs went back to resembling a wrecking ball with five sacks and just 257 yards allowed.
McGloin and or Pryor are a lot closer to RG3 than Manning or Rivers at this point so Kansas City figures to be in good shape again this weekend. The Chiefs amassed nine sacks against Pryor and intercepted him three times during their win on October.
"I think that there are ups and downs in the National Football League," Reid said. "I think you need to learn how to handle them and you can't get too high for the highs and you can't get too low for the lows."
Oakland should make that its mantra because the Raiders are currently enduring their 11th straight losing season with little pointing toward an end to that streak though Allen remains positive.
"I think we're a lot closer," the Raiders coach said. "Obviously the record doesn't say so. We all recognize that at the end of the day this is a production business. We understand that you are what your record says you are. But I also know there's a lot of areas where this football team has improved."
They better improve defending the run this week.
Charles has amassed 359 yards and four TDs while averaging 6.9 yards per carry in his last three games. Oakland, meanwhile, has surrendered a total of 287 yards via the ground over the past two weeks.
"I do think the defense is worn down, but we have to go out and we have to tackle and we have to do the things we have to do to be able to get off the field," said Allen. "It'll be something that we'll continue to work on."
The tea leaves point toward the Chiefs earning the playoff spot in Oakland this week.
Kansas City is 5-1 on the road this season and has won eight of its past 10 in the Bay Area against the Raiders. Meanwhile, QB Alex Smith is 3-0 as a starter against the Silver and Black.
"It's a big deal," said McCluster. "Having a chance to play in the postseason, that's what we play for. Let the chips fall where they may right now."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chiefs 24, Raiders 16
12/12 13:35:50 ET