NFL players are seldom excited to play on Thursday night, but the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders relish the opportunity to get back on the field Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum after disappointing losses.
"Getting beat like we did on Sunday, it probably happened the right way to get the bad taste out of our mouth," Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
The Chiefs (5-1) took their first defeat of the season Sunday, falling 19-13 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Raiders (2-4) find themselves trying to dig out of a deeper hole after the Los Angeles Chargers kicked a game-winning field goal for 17-16 victory, sending coach Jack Del Rio's squad to its fourth straight defeat.
"We're excited about the next opportunity," Del Rio said. "We're just looking to bounce back and get a much-needed win."
While the Raiders' losing streak includes dropping the past two games at home, the Chiefs find themselves amid several streaks in the other direction. Kansas City owns wins in nine consecutive regular-season road games along with a 12-game winning streak against AFC West opponents. The Chiefs won each of their past five meetings with the Raiders.
"It's pretty impressive because it's a good division," Del Rio said of Kansas City's streaks. "But they've been rolling, they're playing excellent football."
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr puts the losing streak on his shoulders, acknowledging he hasn't played his best football.
"I need to play better for my team," Carr said. "I have no problem putting that on me and making sure that when I show up on Thursday night that I do my best in preparation to put my best foot forward."
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said the team realizes the stakes for this game. A bounce-back win over the Raiders this week coupled with a home win against the Denver Broncos (3-2) next week would give the Chiefs a commanding lead in the division and put them in the driver's seat for the AFC's top playoff seed at the season's midpoint.
"We understand where we're at, we understand what happened Sunday," Smith said. "I think a little bit you're flushing that. You realize what a big game this is -- on the road, short week, division game, Raiders. I think that's enough said. We've got to go full steam ahead, do whatever we can to get a win."
The short week, however, presents a different set of challenges. Del Rio knows from experience, having played in four Thursday games during his career as an NFL linebacker.
"You do the best you can," Del Rio said. "There are two ways to look at. It's a short week, that's the negative part of it. The positive part is you get a nice long weekend, kind of a mini-bye prior to your next ballgame."
Johnson said playing a division opponent makes the preparation a bit easier with only one day of on-the-field practice.
"It definitely helps," Johnson said. "It definitely helps playing in the division on a short week against the Raiders. They know us, we know them. It will be a knock-out, drag-out game. It will come down to the fourth quarter, of course."
Injuries play a factor during the quick turnaround, and both teams have players in doubt at key positions.
Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson did not practice Tuesday due to a sprained knee, putting him in danger of missing his second game in a row. Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who left the Sunday game with a neck injury, appears ready to play Thursday night after practicing in full Tuesday.
Chiefs starting center Mitch Morse, out with a sprained foot since Week 2, and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, out the past two games with a sprained knee, remain limited in practice and may not return this week.
The Raiders share similar issues along the offensive line. Starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse did not practice Tuesday because of a foot injury. Vadal Alexander likely would start in his place if the injury keeps Newhouse out of the Thursday game. Starting right guard Gabe Jackson was also limited in practice with a foot injury.
While the mention of the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry normally evokes bad blood and hard feelings among fans and players alike, Del Rio and Chiefs coach Andy Reid see themselves as more friendly adversaries.
"I think we both honestly have a lot of respect for each other, our families know each other, known him for a long time," Del Rio said of Reid. "A lot of respect there. Obviously, we're both very competitive and look forward to the competition on Thursday night."
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