Watch Video: Fantasy: Four waiver wire grabs for week 12.
The Kansas City Chiefs are mired in a three-game losing streak, and their first-string quarterback and running back have one NFL start between them.
A home game against the lowly Oakland Raiders appears to have come along at just the right time.
Kansas City looks to sweep the season series from the Raiders for the fifth straight time when they meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs (4-6) beat Oakland 12-10 on Oct. 21 to improve to 4-3 and move into sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Kansas City hasn’t won since, but is just a game out of first in its weak division.
“It’s not what people anticipated,” Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said of the AFC West. “They probably figured Denver and San Diego would have at least maybe nine wins by now. They don’t. They have five. We have four and are still in it.
“But you’re only in it if you win. If you don’t win you’re really not in it. It looks good on paper, you know, we’re only one game out. But you’ve got to win.”
Kansas City hopes to get its first victory in more than a month when it faces the Raiders, whom they’ve beaten nine straight times since a 24-0 loss on Dec. 28, 2002.
A victory may not come easy for the Chiefs, however, as they have practically no NFL experience in their backfield.
Running back Priest Holmes retired Wednesday, ending a short comeback. The three-time Pro Bowler was out of football for 22 months after sustaining head and neck injuries in a game in October 2005, before starting the last two games in place of Larry Johnson, who has been out with a foot injury.
Johnson will be out again this week, leaving Kolby Smith, a rookie who has 10 carries for 19 yards, as the probable starter. He’ll be joined in the backfield by quarterback Brodie Croyle, who made his first pro start in last Sunday’s 13-10 loss at Indianapolis.
Croyle, a third-round draft pick in 2006, replaced turnover-prone veteran Damon Huard and went 19-of-27 for 169 yards with one touchdown. He did lose a fumble that led to a Colts field goal.
“I’m proud of (Croyle),” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “If that’s what the future holds for him, he’s going to do very well for the Chiefs. We’ve just got to give him the right stuff to work with.”
Kansas City has been unable to do much offensively this season, as it ranks 30th in the NFL in scoring (14.5 points per game) and total offense (280.8 yards per game), and 31st in rushing (77.5 ypg). In their last three games without Johnson, the Chiefs are averaging 2.8 yards per rushing attempt.
The Raiders are 31st in the league in rush defense (152.6 yards per game), although that may not make much difference against the struggling Chiefs.
In last week’s 29-22 defeat at Minnesota, Oakland (2-8) allowed a season-high 228 rushing yards, turned the ball over twice and committed 11 penalties in dropping its sixth straight game.
After the Raiders’ 28th loss in 32 games dating to 2005, defensive tackle Warren Sapp called out his teammates for their sloppy play and self-destructive actions during a profanity-laced tirade.
“It’s not going to change until we get out of our own (darn) way,” Sapp said. “There’s nothing else to be said. We’re just an undisciplined unit from top to bottom.”
Culpepper completed 23 of 39 passes for 344 yards and one touchdown against his former team, but also lost a fumble and threw an interception. Culpepper, who will start again this week, was 18-of-30 for 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss to the Chiefs last month.
Oakland is 1-4 on the road this season and has lost five straight games in Kansas City since a 27-24 victory on Sept. 9, 2001.
The Chiefs are 15-3 against the Raiders at Arrowhead since the start of the 1989 season.