Kansas City, Mo. Two teams floundering near the bottom of the standings, meeting in late October, shouldn’t be enough to stoke the passions of fan bases weary of losing.
Unless it’s the Chiefs and Raiders.
There are few fiercer rivalries than this AFC West match-up of teams with proud traditions that have fallen on the hardest of times. This will be their 107th meeting, and so rarely has so little been on the line when they’ve met this early in a season.
The Raiders are 2-4 after rallying for an overtime win over the Jaguars last Sunday, while the Chiefs had a much needed week off following a miserable 1-5 start.
“Any game, you’re always desperate to get a win,” Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour said, “and you can throw the records out in this game, when you look at the Raiders and Chiefs. It’s always hard-fought football and I don’t expect anything less this Sunday.”
Hard-fought might be a relative description this time, though.
The Raiders have won five straight at Arrowhead Stadium, but they haven’t won on the road since the last time they visited Kansas City last December.
That includes a 35-13 rout at Miami and a 37-6 spanking by Peyton Manning and the Broncos earlier this season.
Of course, the Chiefs haven’t exactly been defending the home turf.
Kansas City is 3-10 over its last 13 games at Arrowhead Stadium, once regarded as the loudest and most intimidating venue in the NFL.
That includes blowout losses to Atlanta and San Diego and a 9-6 defeat to Baltimore that only Bronko Nagurski could have loved.
Things have been so bad that Chiefs fans hired an airplane to tow a banner at their last home game asking for the general manager to be fired and the quarterback to be benched.
Well, they got at least half of what they wanted.
Scott Pioli is still calling the shots in Kansas City, but Matt Cassel has become one of the NFL’s most highly paid backups. Brady Quinn started in his place two weeks ago at Tampa Bay when Cassel wasn’t cleared to play following a concussion, and over the off week, coach Romeo Crennel made the decision to stick with the former first-round draft pick under center.
“Look, they’re a division opponent. It’s a big game for us. Our focus is purely on the task at hand, and the objectives we’re trying to accomplish,” said Quinn, no stranger to intense AFC West rivalries after spending last season in Denver.
“We need every single person rooting for us and cheering for us, come good or bad.”
There’s been no shortage of bad this season, though Cassel’s a big part of that.
He was completing about 58 percent of his passes for 230 yards of game, most of that when games were out of hand. And his nine interceptions and five fumbles lost made him more turnover prone than just about any other TEAM in the NFL through their first five games.
Quinn was 22 of 38 for 180 yards with two interceptions — both on tipped passes — at Tampa Bay. It was his first start since 2009, when he was with the Browns.
“We haven’t seen him in a while, so what we saw last game in Tampa, I thought he managed the game well,” Crennel said. “He showed some poise in the course of the game, and as I mentioned, he was rusty. I think that he will get better with more reps and also more playing time.”
Quinn could hear a lot of boos from the hometown fans when he takes the field today.
Call it collateral damage.
His big right tackle, Eric Winston, will be playing at Arrowhead for the first time since his inflammatory comments following a loss to Baltimore. Winston called some fans who cheered when Cassel was hurt over the course of that game disgraceful, a stance on which he’s never wavered — although he has clarified to say it was only a small percentage of fans cheering.
So in many ways, the crowd today has the potential to be hostile toward everyone.
It’s certainly going to be difficult on the Raiders, if for no other reason than the Chiefs’ hated rivals haven’t lost in Kansas City since Nov. 19, 2006.
“I don’t know there’s any advantage to be had,” said first-year Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “When we kick the ball off on Sunday, it’ll be our players trying to execute against the Chiefs’ players, and whoever executes best will probably win the game.”