Raiders vow to bring it against Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs take the field on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium with everything to play for and the Oakland Raiders seemingly have little to nothing on the line, but don't tell that to Jon Gruden.
"It's our archrivals and we want to win just like everybody else," the Raiders' head coach said. "Just because we're not going to the playoffs doesn't mean we're going to go out there and pack it in. We want to win. We want to play hard. We've got guys playing for jobs and we got a strong desire to compete and a real will to win here."
The Chiefs have two paths in the playoffs -- the easy way and the hard way. A win over Oakland clinches the AFC West for Kansas City along with home-field throughout the AFC playoffs.
A loss, however, means the Chiefs need a combination of losses by the Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots and Houston Texans to avoid falling to the No. 5 seed and a road trip in the wild-card playoff round.
Securing home-field advantage and ensuring the road to the Super Bowl runs through Arrowhead Stadium means much to quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
"We want to make sure that we're staying here the rest of the way out," Mahomes said. "We know that if we can come together and play like we know we can, then we can make a run at this thing."
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, however, doesn't want his team caught up worrying about playoff scenarios. His message to his team: "Let your personalities show and go play." That's the most important thing, he says.
"If you get caught up in everything, that becomes an issue and then you're not yourself," Reid said. "When you focus in on the game plan, go through the process of getting ready and then you're confident and you go play to the best of your ability. You allow yourself to do that by preparation."
Four weeks ago, the Chiefs beat the Raiders and won 40-33 in Oakland. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had a career-high 12 catches, 168 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Conversely, wide receiver Tyreek Hill turned in one of the worst days of his young career, catching one pass for 13 yards.
"Statistics, unfortunately, don't tell half of the story the way I see it," Gruden said. "We've got to do a lot better job on Hill and on Kelce and on their whole offense, because they scored 40 points and I think they left some out there."
The Raiders enter the weekend at huge underdogs to the Chiefs, but an upset would have monumental repercussions throughout the AFC playoff picture. A victory would hurt Oakland's position in next year's NFL draft, but Gruden prefers seeing his team finish the season on a winning note.
"We're going to field the best team we can possibly field and we're going to play and prepare as hard as we can to win the game," Gruden said. "I know it's going to be a daunting challenge with that crowd against that team, but we're going to compete the best we can."
The Raiders are 4-11 after beating the Denver Broncos 27-17 on Monday night in what might have been the final game for the team in Oakland. The Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020 and the team and city are bickering about a lease, this time a one-season deal to cover 2019.
But Gruden is more concerned at this moment about Mahomes. The second-year player leads the NFL with 48 touchdown passes, tied for fourth most in league history.
"Not to take anything away from (Drew) Brees or anybody else that has played at a high level. This guy is making throws that people haven't seen before and closing in on 50 touchdown passes in your first year as a starter. It's quite amazing," Gruden said. "He's taking care of the ball and he's won games for his team, so if I did have a vote (for MVP), I would probably stand here in front of these microphones and say, 'I vote for him.'"
Updated December 26, 2018