Chiefs chase another Raiders rout and controversial playoff bye

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The NFL's one-season rule change could have complicating factors for the Kansas City Chiefs further down the line, but their task for Week 18 is simple: beat the Las Vegas Raiders and earn a bye to the divisional round.

With the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals – both rivals for the first seed in the AFC – to finish the year having played only 16 games, neither will be able to catch the Chiefs should they defeat the Raiders.

That will not necessarily mean an AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, with a neutral venue potentially coming into play, but it does assure them of a week off and a favourable route through the postseason.

Fans in Buffalo and Cincinnati could reasonably be frustrated, and their hopes of the Chiefs being halted rest with an unlikely Raiders victory.

The Chiefs are 9-1 in their past 10 games against the Raiders, and their most recent nine meetings – including a high-scoring defeat in 2020 – have seen Kansas City score at least 28 points.

Only the Los Angeles Rams against the Green Bay Packers, between 1949 and 1953, have ever scored 28 or more points in 10 straight encounters.

Even in Las Vegas, there is little reason to believe that sequence will end this week, given the Chiefs' dominant road form this year.

They have scored 264 points across eight games away from Arrowhead, meaning the Chiefs will have scored the third-most road points in a season in NFL history if they hit their average of 33.0 again.

MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes loves playing the Raiders, too, having thrown more touchdowns in this matchup (26) than in any other.

In 2022, he has passed 5,000 passing yards (5,048) and 250 rushing yards (329) in a season for the second time in his career; only two other quarterbacks in NFL history have ever enjoyed one such campaign (Jameis Winston in 2019 and Justin Herbert in 2021).

Yet the Raiders improbably have their own in-form QB, with former New England Patriots backup Jarrett Stidham last week impressing in his first career start.

Stidham threw for 365 yards and three TDs against the San Francisco 49ers, joining Mike White last season as the second QB in the Super Bowl era to mark his first start with 350 passing yards and three passing TDs.

Repeating that performance against the highly motivated Chiefs is a tough ask, though.