The Kansas City Chiefs will try to end the regular season with a win and lockdown home-field advantage in the playoffs when they play host to the Oakland Raiders in Week 17. The two AFC West rivals will get started at 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 30, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Fans in certain markets can watch the game on CBS.
Based on the Week 17 betting odds, the Chiefs are favored by 13.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 54 points.
Despite looking unstoppable for most of the season, the Chiefs have looked rather beatable in recent weeks. They have lost three of their last five games, including a close win against the Ravens that easily could have gone the other. As a result, Kansas City hasn’t even locked up the AFC West title yet. They are tied with the Chargers at 11-4, and so a loss in Week 17 could force them to settle for a wild-card spot.
On the bright side, a win over the Raiders on Sunday will clinch both the AFC West crown and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. All Kansas City has to do is put back-to-back losses behind them and take care of business against the Raiders to confirm their long-standing reservations as the top seed in the AFC.
As for the Raiders, they are actually poised to finish a dreadful 2018 season with some positive momentum. Oakland has won two of their last three games, including a shocking win over the Steelers and a rivalry win Monday night against the Broncos. However, those wins are a small consolation for a 4-11 team, especially when their only road win of the season came against the Cardinals.
Oakland will also be fighting history during Sunday’s game. The Chiefs have won nine of the last 11 head-to-head meetings between these two teams. That includes a 40-33 win for the Chiefs in Oakland earlier this month.
I have little doubt that Kansas City will win this game, but that doesn’t mean I trust them to cover the spread. The Chiefs haven’t won a game by two touchdowns in nearly two months. They simply are not the dominant team they looked like early in the season. Meanwhile, the Raiders clearly aren’t giving up on the season and will surely want to keep the Chiefs from winning the division if they can. I like the Chiefs to win but the Raiders to beat the spread.
Kansas City’s defense remains their biggest problem heading into the playoffs. That side of the ball could end up hurting the Chiefs in the playoffs. In the short-term, it could also keep them from covering the spread against Oakland. The Chiefs are giving up over 35 points per game over their last five games and have only held their opponent to 20 points or less twice this season. Outside of a formidable pass rush, there’s not much to like about Kansas City’s defense.
Obviously, the Raiders have plenty of flaws on offense, but they’ve been able to take advantage against weak defenses a few times this year. The running game has been largely unreliable this year, but Oakland got a good performance out of Doug Martin last week. More importantly, they have Derek Carr, who’s capable of carving up defenses despite a lack of elite skill players. Carr threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs earlier this month. Unless the Chiefs can have a much better defensive performance, I wouldn’t count out the possibility of Carr being able to match Patrick Mahomes in a shootout.
To be fair, the Raiders scored a lot of their points against the Chiefs a few weeks ago in garbage time. Kansas City led the game 33-16 after three quarters before the Raiders scored a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns to pull within a field goal. Those late touchdowns may have made the final score a little misleading, but it also shows that Kansas City’s defense can rarely keep a team contained for 60 minutes. Even if the points come in garbage time, the Chiefs are prone to give up points sooner or later, making it difficult for them to win by comfortable margins.
Of course, it’d be easier to lean toward the Raiders in this game if their defense was more reliable. There’s been little improvement for Oakland on that side of the ball, especially on the road. However, the Chiefs have been slightly less potent offensively without Kareem Hunt. There’s a good chance Spencer Ware will return from injury this week to help out. But the Chiefs still have to be better running the ball in order to cover the spread. If nothing else, they want to keep their defense off the field as much as possible.
Ultimately, I hate eating this many points in a rivalry game, and Kansas City’s defense gives me a good reason to avoid doing so. I don’t think the Raiders will be able to stop the Chiefs from scoring. But I also don’t think the Kansas City defense can get enough stops to pull away and cover the spread.