A lot of NFL fans have complained about the Thursday Night Football schedule this season and there have been some less-than-attractive matchups. But the tide is turning. Last week’s excellent game between the Cowboys and Vikings went down to the final play — and was a winner for you here betting on Sports Interaction if you took my recommendation of Minnesota +3.5 — and this Thursday’s game between the Raiders and Chiefs in Kansas City is for first place in the AFC West and perhaps the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Point spread: Chiefs -3
Date: Thursday, Dec. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
If the playoffs started today, the Raiders would have home-field advantage through the AFC postseason. They are tied with New England at 10-2. The first tiebreaker would be a head-to-head matchup, but the teams don’t play in the regular season. The second is record inside the conference. They are both 7-1. Oakland currently wins the third tiebreaker, which is best win percentage in common games. But the Pats are -111 favourites to win the AFC and the Raiders are +550.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr absolutely deserves NFL MVP consideration — and he wasn’t suspended four games like presumed leader Tom Brady was. The Raiders won their sixth straight game Sunday, 38-24 over Buffalo, and Carr threw for 260 yards and two scores. Latavius Murray rushed 20 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. If there was one concern, it’s that the Raiders had to stage another second-half comeback as they were down 24-9 midway through the third quarter.
That was the team’s sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. Sign of a good team, sure, but also one playing with fire too often. With four games left this season, Carr has already matched the win total he posted in his first two years combined. He’s tied for fourth in passing yards with 3,375 and seventh with 24 TD throws. Oakland ranks third in the NFL in scoring at 28.8 points per game.
The Raiders also have a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Khalil Mack, who has 58 tackles, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles, an interception and a defensive touchdown. That Oakland defense could be missing good looking rookie safety Karl Joseph, who was in a walking boot after the Bills win. For the season, Oakland is 8-4 against the spread and 5-0 ATS on the road. Both its losses overall were at home.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs (9-3) are one game behind Oakland in the AFC West and currently would be the conference’s top wild-card team. There could easily be three 10-win teams in that division with defending Super Bowl champion Denver at 8-4. Obviously only one of those teams can host a playoff game.
Kansas City, which is +700 to win the AFC title, has had back-to-back remarkable wins. It had no right winning 30-27 in overtime at Denver in Week 12. Then last week at Atlanta, the Falcons had rallied from a 27-16 fourth-quarter deficit with back-to-back touchdowns. The second was a Matt Ryan 5-yard TD pass to Aldrick Robinson for a 28-27 lead with 4:32 to go. Atlanta tried a 2-point conversion to potentially lead by a field goal, but Ryan’s pass was intercepted and returned for the winning 2-point score by Chiefs Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, who is from Atlanta but had never played a pro game there.
Amazing. That doesn’t even show up in the official statistics. No stats for a conversion play are officially recorded. So it was unofficially Berry’s second pick of the day as he also returned a Ryan pass 37 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He became the first player to have multiple interceptions for touchdowns in 2016. The Kansas City defense didn’t play all that great otherwise, allowing 418 yards and 32 first downs to the NFL’s No. 1 offense.
The Chiefs have six wins in games in which they trailed by at least a touchdown. That’s the most in the NFL this season. Lucky or good? Kansas City is hoping to get back No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin this week. He has missed the past four games with a groin injury. K.C. is 6-6 ATS this season and 1-4 ATS at home.
Raiders vs. Chiefs Prediction
The Raiders aren’t used to playing in cold-weather conditions too often, but that will be the case on Thursday night as it will be about -9 Celsius in Kansas City at night. And I believe that is a huge advantage for the home side, which is much better defensively. Oakland’s last loss was 26-10 at home to the Chiefs in Week 6. Carr had one of his worst games of the season. I think this game will be closer than that, but take the Chiefs. Give the 2.5-point alternate line (-139) to be safe. And under the total.