With their longest slide of the year behind them, the Kansas City Chiefs can now focus on clinching their first playoff berth in three seasons.
The Chiefs can secure a postseason spot on the road Sunday while trying to hand the Oakland Raiders a fourth consecutive defeat.
Kansas City (10-3) ended its three-game losing streak and regained some swagger with a 45-10 road rout against reeling Washington last Sunday.
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“We still have it,” defensive end Tyson Jackson told the Chiefs’ official website. “There’s a long road ahead of us and we still have to get some wins, but it’s good to have the mojo going into the rest of the season.
“It’s good for our confidence and we can build from the momentum to hopefully keep this going the rest of the season.”
A victory or tie at Oakland (4-9) would secure a playoff berth. The Chiefs could also punch their ticket if Miami suffers a loss or ties against New England on Sunday or Baltimore falls or ties at Detroit on Monday night.
“It’s a big deal,” said receiver Dexter McCluster, who returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown against the Redskins. “Having a chance to play in the postseason, you know, that’s what we play for. Let the chips fall where they may right now.”
What Kansas City hopes to do is build on a solid all-around performance.
The Chiefs allowed an average of 34.3 points and 371.0 passing yards while losing twice to Denver and at home against San Diego, but gave up 257 total yards to the Redskins and sacked Robert Griffin III five times.
Jamaal Charles rushed 19 times for a season-high 151 yards with a TD and caught a scoring pass from Alex Smith, who has thrown half of his 18 touchdowns in the last four contests.
In addition to McCluster’s TD return, Quintin Demps took a kick back 95 yards for a score.
“I think that there are ups and downs in the National Football League,” coach Andy Reid said. “I think you need to learn how to handle them and you can’t get too high for the highs and you can’t get too low for the lows.
“When you go through a three-game skid, that’s not easy in the National Football League against good teams. You have to trust yourself; you have to trust the guys around you that you’re going to fix the problem and that you’re going to come to work with a purpose and I thought the guys did that.”
Charles has averaged 6.9 yards per carry while gaining 359 and running for four TDs in the last three contests.
He recorded 128 total yards and ran for two scores as Kansas City snapped a three-game series skid with a 24-7 victory over Oakland on Oct. 13. The Chiefs had nine sacks on Terrelle Pryor and intercepted him three times, including one returned for a TD.
Though Pryor saw relief time during last Sunday’s 37-27 road loss to the New York Jets, Matt McGloin is expected to make his fifth straight start. Pryor, who has started eight games, could also see time.
McGloin threw two TDs with an interception for a Raiders offense that came to life after trailing 20-3 at halftime last weekend.
Though Oakland is in the midst of its 11th straight season without a winning record, the team feels confident it can at least avoid a second consecutive 4-12 finish.
“I think we’re a lot closer,” embattled coach Dennis Allen said. “Obviously, the record doesn’t say so. We all recognize that at the end of the day this is a production business. We understand that you are what your record says you are. But I also know there’s a lot of areas where this football team has improved.”
With Charles coming to town, the Raiders need to improve a rush defense that’s allowed 287 yards on the ground to Dallas and New York in the last two weeks. They yielded an average of 99.1 in the first 11 contests.
Oakland has also allowed the Titans, Cowboys and Jets to go 24 of 44 on third down during the three-game skid.
“I do think the defense is worn down, but we have to go out and we have to tackle and we have to do the things we have to do to be able to get off the field,” said Allen, whose team also is trying to avoid a third straight home defeat. “It’ll be something that we’ll continue to work on.”
It’s uncertain if running backs Darren McFadden (ankle) and Rashad Jennings (concussion) will play after both missed last weekend’s contest. Fullback Marcel Reese fared well in their place, rushing for a career-high 123 yards and a TD on 19 attempts against the Jets.
McFadden ran 16 times for 52 yards at Kansas City in October after he gained 224 on 59 carries in the two 2012 meetings.
Looking for its first season sweep of the Raiders since 2006, Kansas City has dropped two of three at Oakland since winning seven straight there.
McCluster will sit out Sunday after a small cut on his ankle turned into an infection following last week’s game against Washington. The Chiefs were concerned it was MRSA, but trainer Rick Burkholder said tests came back negative for the serious strain of staph infection. McCluster is being treated with antibiotics.