Alex Smith and Derek Carr are headed to another shootout.

Oakland arguably has the toughest schedule of the three teams, still having to play at Kansas City and Los Angeles with a trip to NFC juggernaut Philadelphia in between. But the Raiders’ makeup last season was coming through consistently in the fourth quarter with Carr and being fearless on the road, no matter the distance, no matter the opponent.

The trick is carrying over the fire and intensity, which shouldn’t be a problem now with sudden life in the quest for a second consecutive playoff berth. It probably won’t take more than nine wins to capture a division that was expected to be the best in the NFL. Consider the Broncos were in third place at 9-7 last season, while both the Raiders and Chiefs were 12-4.

Give the slight edge to Kansas City because of desperation at Arrowhead.

What transpired Tuesday was even more embarrassing than New York’s 2-9 record for a team considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering the season. The Giants railroaded Manning into ceding his starting job when telling him backup Geno Smith would play in the second half of Sunday’s game at Oakland no matter how things unfolded in the first two quarters. New York knew someone as prideful as Manning wouldn’t accept such a cockamamie plan just to keep alive his string of 222 consecutive starts (including the postseason).

Manning bowed out as gracefully as he could under the circumstances and shifted to a second-string role.

Don’t be fooled by McAdoo’s gaga about this move being made because the Giants want “a complete evaluation of the roster top to bottom, especially at the quarterback position, moving on to next season.” This was all about putting New York in better position to lose its final five games with Smith and rookie Davis Webb under center and thus secure the highest draft pick possible to select a quarterback.lakers_004

Redskins offensive tackle Morgan Moses echoed this sentiment.

LeBron James shook off a blow to the face and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter — including 18 straight for Cleveland — as the Cavaliers won their sixth straight, 119-109 over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Stevens noted that Los Angeles’ compacted schedule could be impacting the team’s play. The Vegas game was the Kings’ fifth in eight days, and with days off Monday and Tuesday, he hopes to have a re-energized team hit the ice against Winnipeg.

“We did not score enough and gave up too much in these last five games,” Stevens said. “It was the end of a tough week. I thought that if we came out strong in the first 10 minutes against Vegas we would have been fine.”

“To have him go down is a huge, huge setback for us,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “Chris Thompson is one of the best in the league when it comes to running the ball, catching and making plays. To lose him is tough. It’s hard to replace a guy like that with his talent and his ability to do what he does. It’s a tough situation to be in.”

“It’s hard to replace a guy like that,” Moses said. “You might not be able to replace a guy like that, what he brings to the offense, what he brings to the locker room. … But we can’t [dwell] on it.”

Alex Smith entered Week 11 as the NFL’s top-rated passer and is on pace to set career records for touchdowns and yards. But Smith is trending the wrong way. His three games with a passer rating of less than 100 have come in the past five, and he was at his worst in Sunday’s loss to the Giants. He threw two interceptions and failed to have a touchdown pass for the first time this season. — Adam Teichernike_patriots_562

Undefeated Chiefs beat Texans 42-34; Watt breaks left leg

Alex Smith threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns to help the Kansas City Chiefs remain undefeated with a 42-34 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday night in a game where J.J. Watt broke his left leg.

Deshaun Watson’s 48-yard touchdown pass got the Texans within six early in the fourth quarter before Smith extended the lead for Kansas City (5-0) to 32-20 on a 10-yard pass to De’Anthony Thomas with about 9 minutes left. Tyreek Hill padded the lead when he returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.

Watson threw for 261 yards and five touchdowns, but the Texans (2-3) failed to recreate the magic they found last week when they scored a franchise-record 57 points in a victory over Tennessee.

Marcus Mariota (hamstring) is iffy at best to play. If Matt Cassel has to go for the Titans, he drags down the entire offense and further exposes a defense that can’t stop anything. Jay Cutler and Jay Ajayi have been in front of Miami’s major offensive woes, but they also haven’t had a chance to perform at home. The Dolphins’ skill players will drive the Titans batty as Miami wakes up big-time.

The Chargers get a much-needed second road game to get away from the mess in Los Angeles. Philip Rivers is the better overall QB than Eli Manning, now, then and always. The Giants’ defense has hit a free-fall, and their pass-happy ways play into the strengths of the Chargers’ defense. With a lot of Rivers and enough Melvin Gordon, it’s LA getting its first win instead of NY.x (9)