The good news for the Oakland Raiders in their quest to be considered a worthy rival to the New England Patriots is that the Patriots showed all their vulnerabilities Thursday night. In fact, they looked a lot like we think the Raiders will – long on points, almost as long (or worse) on points allowed.
But the bad news for the Oakland Raiders is who did it to them, and how. The Kansas City Chiefs and their allegedly-soon-to-be-past-it quarterback Alex D. Smith are suddenly a more intrepid team and decidedly more difficult to defend. Smith managed Thursday’s 42-27 win in Foxborough in a way he has rarely managed a game, and the result was a performance that not only diminishes the Patriots but elevates the Chiefs.
In other words, the hard part of the Raiders’ journey just got about 1,500 miles closer to home.
True, there is much to be determined between now and throat-cutting time. The Chiefs will have their befuddling moments, and so will the Raiders and Steelers and Broncos and Ravens and whatever hot mess comes out of the AFC South. But all that means is that there is no longer a clear path to triumph. Every game just got harder because the teams who have legitimate aspirations to dethrone New England have a greater sense of belief, as in “The Chiefs were trying to lose their quarterback for something newer, and it turns out he could be a badass after all.”
And any team with a quarterback is by definition a contender.
So it’s happy days in Oakland (and Pittsburgh and Denver and Baltimore and, of course, Kansas City). Now the Swords Through The Head set out for the scary new American frontier, Nashville – the edge of the war with a new and far more vengeful weather that has decided to wreak its “Ain’t No Global Warming, Eh” wrath.
Either way, strap in, lads. Your pursuit of the crown just got easier, and harder, all in one night.