Carson Palmer didn't stand much of a chance the last time he faced the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders had traded for him just a few days after Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, and thrust him into the game against Kansas City with little preparation. He was part of a combined six-interception performance by Oakland quarterbacks in a frustrating shutout loss.
In some ways, Kyle Orton understands what Palmer was going through.
He was claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos late last month, after Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a season-ending injury to his throwing hand. Orton was also thrust into a tough spot last Sunday, making his first start for Kansas City against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers, and came through with a dazzling performance in a surprising victory.
Now, Orton and the Chiefs face Palmer and the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday, both teams needing to win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.
“They're a different team. We're a different offense now,” Palmer said this week. “They're playing a little bit differently now, and we're definitely playing a little bit differently.”
The Raiders have plenty of experience facing Orton from his days in Denver, and considering how they've fared against him, they should feel pretty good about their prospects. Orton is 1-3 as a starter against Oakland, completing just a shade over 50 percent of his passes.
But he's coming off a virtuoso performance against Green Bay in which he completed a career-best 74.2 percent of his throws for 299 yards without an interception, one that came despite having little time to grow accustomed to his new teammates and a sore index finger on his throwing hand.
“It'll be a work in progress every week, no doubt about it,” Orton said. “I'm excited about the way we played, though. We won the game and hopefully that's just a building block for us. I think we did a lot of good things on offense.”
The Raiders have grown more accustomed to Palmer since he took over in late October, though the results have been mixed. They won three straight at one point, only to follow up with a trio of losses that culminated with a meltdown last Sunday against Detroit.
Matthew Stafford threw a short touchdown pass with 39 seconds left to cap a 98-yard drive, and Ndamukong Suh blocked the potential winning field goal as time expired for the Lions.
“At the end of the day you have to grind it out,” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. “It's been very hard, but at the end of the day, we weren't ready to win that game, because we didn't.”
Difficulty putting games away hasn't been Palmer's fault, at least not entirely. He was an incredible 32 of 40 for 367 yards and a touchdown without an interception against Detroit, though he did miss on a couple of passes down the stretch that could have helped wrapped things up.
“It's frustrating, no matter how good or bad you play,” Palmer said. “A loss is a loss. When you're winning for 90 percent of the game, if you lose, you lose.
“This team's too good not to finish games out.”
Now, the Raiders need to beat the Chiefs and the Chargers in their final two games, and hope Kansas City knocks off the Broncos in Week 17, to squeak into the playoffs. It's not necessarily a long shot, but it's certainly a longer shot than before their three-game slide.
“You can't run from that,” Jackson said, when asked whether he talked about to his team about controlling its own destiny. “They know we have let that slip away, but at the same time it's not over. We have to go play as well as we can and change that in our favor.”
Kansas City also needs a whole lot of help to make the playoffs.
The defending division champions need to beat Oakland and Denver in their final two games, Buffalo to upset the Broncos on Saturday, and the Chargers to lose one of their two remaining games.
Of course, the way this season has gone, they'll take whatever the odds might be.
There have been devastating injuries to star players like Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, a three-game losing streak that was among the worst in NFL history, and a four-game winning streak that put them in a brief tie atop the division. There was another losing stretch that culminated in the firing of Todd Haley last week, and a buoyant victory over the Super Bowl champion Packers last Sunday.
If it's been a nauseating rollercoaster ride for Oakland, it's been more so for the Chiefs.
“This Raider team, they're in the same situation we are, they need to win like we need to win, so they'll be ready to go,” said the Chiefs' Romeo Crennel, who was elevated to interim coach last week and whose calming influence has helped stabilize a team in disarray.
“We have to put the best effort out there,” Crennel said. “We really have to play our best game of the year, so that's what I talked to them about, and try to get that done. Hopefully they listened, they took that in and they'll apply it in their preparation.”