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.”