Chiefs, Raiders hope QBs can lead them to playoffs

Carson Palmer didn’t stand much of a chance the last time he

faced the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders had traded for him just a few days after Jason

Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, and thrust him into

the game against Kansas City with little preparation. He was part

of a combined six-interception performance by Oakland quarterbacks

in a frustrating shutout loss.

In some ways, Kyle Orton understands what Palmer was going

through.

He was claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos late last

month, after Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a

season-ending injury to his throwing hand. Orton was also thrust

into a tough spot last Sunday, making his first start for Kansas

City against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers, and came through with

a dazzling performance in a surprising victory.

Now, Orton and the Chiefs face Palmer and the Raiders at

Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday, both teams needing to win to keep

their flickering playoff hopes alive.

”They’re a different team. We’re a different offense now,”

Palmer said this week. ”They’re playing a little bit differently

now, and we’re definitely playing a little bit differently.”

The Raiders have plenty of experience facing Orton from his days

in Denver, and considering how they’ve fared against him, they

should feel pretty good about their prospects. Orton is 1-3 as a

starter against Oakland, completing just a shade over 50 percent of

his passes.

But he’s coming off a virtuoso performance against Green Bay in

which he completed a career-best 74.2 percent of his throws for 299

yards without an interception, one that came despite having little

time to grow accustomed to his new teammates and a sore index

finger on his throwing hand.

”It’ll be a work in progress every week, no doubt about it,”

Orton said. ”I’m excited about the way we played, though. We won

the game and hopefully that’s just a building block for us. I think

we did a lot of good things on offense.”

The Raiders have grown more accustomed to Palmer since he took

over in late October, though the results have been mixed. They won

three straight at one point, only to follow up with a trio of

losses that culminated with a meltdown last Sunday against

Detroit.

Matthew Stafford threw a short touchdown pass with 39 seconds

left to cap a 98-yard drive, and Ndamukong Suh blocked the

potential winning field goal as time expired for the Lions.

”At the end of the day you have to grind it out,” Raiders

coach Hue Jackson said. ”It’s been very hard, but at the end of

the day, we weren’t ready to win that game, because we

didn’t.”

Difficulty putting games away hasn’t been Palmer’s fault, at

least not entirely. He was an incredible 32 of 40 for 367 yards and

a touchdown without an interception against Detroit, though he did

miss on a couple of passes down the stretch that could have helped

wrapped things up.

”It’s frustrating, no matter how good or bad you play,” Palmer

said. ”A loss is a loss. When you’re winning for 90 percent of the

game, if you lose, you lose.

”This team’s too good not to finish games out.”

Now, the Raiders need to beat the Chiefs and the Chargers in

their final two games, and hope Kansas City knocks off the Broncos

in Week 17, to squeak into the playoffs. It’s not necessarily a

long shot, but it’s certainly a longer shot than before their

three-game slide.

”You can’t run from that,” Jackson said, when asked whether he

talked about to his team about controlling its own destiny. ”They

know we have let that slip away, but at the same time it’s not

over. We have to go play as well as we can and change that in our

favor.”

Kansas City also needs a whole lot of help to make the

playoffs.

The defending division champions need to beat Oakland and Denver

in their final two games, Buffalo to upset the Broncos on Saturday,

and the Chargers to lose one of their two remaining games.

Of course, the way this season has gone, they’ll take whatever

the odds might be.

There have been devastating injuries to star players like Jamaal

Charles and Eric Berry, a three-game losing streak that was among

the worst in NFL history, and a four-game winning streak that put

them in a brief tie atop the division. There was another losing

stretch that culminated in the firing of Todd Haley last week, and

a buoyant victory over the Super Bowl champion Packers last

Sunday.

If it’s been a nauseating rollercoaster ride for Oakland, it’s

been more so for the Chiefs.

”This Raider team, they’re in the same situation we are, they

need to win like we need to win, so they’ll be ready to go,” said

the Chiefs’ Romeo Crennel, who was elevated to interim coach last

week and whose calming influence has helped stabilize a team in

disarray.

”We have to put the best effort out there,” Crennel said. ”We

really have to play our best game of the year, so that’s what I

talked to them about, and try to get that done. Hopefully they

listened, they took that in and they’ll apply it in their

preparation.”