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Chiefs Aim to Lock UP AFC West, Continue Dominance of Raiders in Christmas Day Matchup

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By Dave Skretta

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The one-sided nature of the Chiefs’ recent history with the Las Vegas Raiders perhaps appropriately mimics the way the AFC West has turned into a one-team division since Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City just over a decade ago.

After second-place finishes in his first three seasons, Reid has led the Chiefs to seven straight division titles, and they could clinch their eighth on Monday with a victory over the Raiders — or a tie if the Broncos lose to the Patriots the previous night. The only streak longer in NFL history belongs to the Patriots, who won 11 straight AFC East championships from 2009 to 2019.

“That’s something we talk about at the beginning of the year: Our first goal is to win the AFC West,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “We have to be ready this week, and that would clinch our first goal if we are able to do that.”

The Chiefs (9-5) also are trying to keep their hopes alive of earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed and lone first-round playoff bye. They head into the weekend two games back of the Ravens and a game behind the Dolphins, whom they have already defeated.

They Chiefs have an easier finishing stretch than either of those teams, and it begins with Las Vegas (6-8), which they have beaten six straight times and 11 of the last 12 in a series dating to Sept. 16, 1960, when the Chiefs were in Dallas and the Raiders in Oakland. In fact, the Raiders have won only once at Arrowhead Stadium since Oct. 28, 2012.

“It’s a team that I’m just tired of losing to,” said Raiders cornerback Amik Robertson, who thought back to their 31-17 loss to the Chiefs in late November. “We’ve got the pieces. We’ve got the guys to be able to beat that team, and unfortunately we took an ‘L.’ That’s something I thought about for a long time. I’m happy that it’s back, that we’ve got an opportunity.”

Despite the lopsided nature of the rivalry, the Chiefs and Raiders remain just that: rivals.

There is a mutual hatred between the franchises, borne of the days of Len Dawson and Jim Otto, nurtured through the era of Bill Kenney and Jim Plunkett, and continuing into the present. Mahomes is 10-1 in his career against the Raiders.

“Any time you play a team like this,” Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell said, “you got to stay within yourself. Play one play at a time. Obviously there is history between the two teams, but I think any game you have to lock in on each play, each situation, try to stay ahead of the sticks and just make smart decisions.”

PLAYING ON CHRISTMAS

This is not the first time the Raiders and Chiefs have played on Christmas Day — the Chiefs won 31-30 in overtime in 2004, when Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez had two TDs apiece for Kansas City. The Chiefs also have a Dec. 25 win over the Broncos in 2016 and a Christmas loss to the Dolphins in the divisional round of the playoffs in 1971.

The only other game the Raiders have played on Christmas was in 2017, when they lost at Philadelphia.

AND PLAYING SANTA

Mahomes gives his offensive line gifts each year, and this year it was tricked-out golf carts that the big fellas whipped around the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot. Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams heard about it and was impressed, but noted that his own rookie QB probably won’t have anything quite so extravagant lined up for his guys.

“It’s a lot better than some gifts that I’ve seen quarterbacks give across the league. That’s a hell of a gift,” Adams said, “but Aidan’s bank account I don’t think is ready for that. So he’ll do that when he’s ready.”

FLUKE OR FABULOUS

The Raiders raised plenty of eyebrows a week ago, when they set a franchise scoring record in their 63-21 victory over the Chargers. They scored a club-record 42 points in the first half, and eight different Raiders reached the end zone.

Now, they need to prove that it was not a one-off occurrence.

“We’re not expecting to have 60 points every time we go out there, but it was more the style and togetherness that we played with,” Adams said. “When you can go out there and play together like that and everybody does their job and play at a high level, it’s fun. So, hopefully we can continue to do that.”

FINISHING MATTERS

The Raiders have gotten off to good starts in two of their last three games against Kansas City, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in their October 2022 matchup and leading 14-0 earlier this season. In both cases, the Chiefs rallied for victories.

SPEAKING OF FINISHING

The Chiefs are last in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 2.8 points per game — a full point behind Arizona, the next-to-last team. They were shut out by New England last week and managed only a field goal the previous week against Buffalo.

“We’ve got to do better there,” Reid said. “Bottom line, you have to score.”

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AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl