Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 29, 2018 at 2:10 am.

Latest version of Chiefs-Raiders rivalry not so hot

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Oakland Raiders on Sunday to renew the current version of what was once one of the hottest rivalries in pro football — first in the raucous American Football League and then the NFL.

But the Chiefs arrive with a 9-2 record, and one of the most explosive offenses in recent history. They visit the Raiders (2-9) in the middle of (pick one) — disassembling, rebuilding, juggling, evaluating — their roster and intentions.

The Chiefs lead the Raiders 63-53-2 in regular-season and postseason games, and they are 20-10 against the Raiders since 2002.

So, despite a dramatic Raiders victory over the Chiefs last year — thanks to an untimed play for a touchdown at the end of the game — the heat is turned down to tepid on this once great rivalry.

And remembering that win last year reminds us why the Raiders are in such a state of confusion now.

That win came on a pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who Raider Nation watched last week score a touchdown against Oakland in a Baltimore Ravens uniform.

Crabtree is part of the Raiders’ purge of players now doing great things for other teams, most noticeably pass rusher Khalil Mack in Chicago and wide receiver Amari Cooper in Dallas, who are keys to turnarounds in each town.

Meanwhile, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has managed to overcome a shaky start full of interceptions and red-zone mistakes to become one of the most consistent passers in the NFL.

Carr has completed 263 of 384 passes for 2,827 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Most impressive is his streak of six games without an interception, despite a young and problematic offensive line. It is the longest pick-less streak of his career by three games.

“I just think he’s a really good decision-maker,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s never been one to throw a lot of picks. I think he realizes right now that winning the turnover battle gives this team right now the best chance to win. He’s done a great job of taking care of the ball.”

Only Green Bay’s great Aaron Rodgers has a longer streak at seven games this season. Next best other than Carr is New England’s Tom Brady with four consecutive games without an interception. So Carr is in good company.

During his pick-less period, Carr connected on 119-of-183 passes, but for only 6.48 yards per attempt. Not exactly the vertical game associated with the Raiders and late coach/owner Al Davis when the Raiders dominated the AFC West, including the Kansas City Chiefs.

But it does rate high on efficiency despite being constantly harassed by a pass rush and a receiving crew that includes an ever-changing list of last week’s practice-squad players, some from other teams.

This week’s newcomer is Darren Waller, a former Georgia Tech wide receiver who is now more of a hybrid tight end. The Raiders brought him home from Baltimore, where he was on the Ravens’ practice squad.

OK, they didn’t literally bring him back from their road trip. Like the Raiders, Waller is looking for a comeback. He owned up to drug and alcohol issues that led to his being suspended last year. He wisely spent his time away from the NFL in rehab and has been vocal and vigilant since returning.

At 6-5 and 258 pounds with good speed and athleticism, Waller might remind the Raiders of their own Jared Cook, who is about the same size and is the key to creating advantageous matchups in Carr’s passing game. He has caught 47 passes for 509 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Baltimore drafted Waller in the sixth round of the 2015 draft as a receiver. He spent three seasons with the Ravens, playing in 18 games with four starts. He caught 12 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Raiders waived receiver/gunner Johnny Holton, whom they elevated from the practice squad last week, where he returned Wednesday after clearing waivers.

While Carr tries to remember the names of his revolving roster of receivers, he also must overcome an injury-plagued offensive line that is rated as one of the bottom three in the NFL. Carr has been sacked 35 times already this season, the most in his pro career.

There is a bad news/good news/other news way to look at the offensive line. The bad is obviously the sacks. The good, perhaps, is that both tackles are rookies (Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker) and might be expected to improve going forward.

And the other news is that veteran Donald Penn, who was moved from left tackle to right tackle to injured reserve (groin) might be back at some point this season. But his play early didn’t resemble his previous Pro Bowl level.

Gruden looks at the upside, even after three sacks by Baltimore last week.

“It went pretty good,” Gruden said of Miller. “It’s never perfect, but the last two weeks he’s played very good football for us. I was proud of both tackles, honestly. Brandon had some bad snaps at the end of the game, but both our young guys hung there and did quite well.”

SERIES HISTORY: 116th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 61-52-2. Kansas City has won 19 of the last 20 games against AFC West opponents. The lone setback came last year at Oakland, as the Raiders capitalized on an untimed down at the end of regulation to pull out a 31-30 victory. The Chiefs have an 8-2 record against the Raiders under head coach Andy Reid, with both defeats coming in Oakland.