I hope everybody is ready for this year's first installment of the historic rivalry between the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. With K.C. coming off a bye week we know the Chiefs will be ready to play. Hopefully the Raiders come out ready to do the same after last week's win against Jacksonville.
The Raiders definitely come into this game knowing that even with the QB change from Matt Cassel to Brady Quinn their main focus has to be stopping the run. The Chiefs rely on their running game, which is anchored by the great running back Jamal Charles, to impose their will on their opponents to try to win games. If the Raiders plan to win they absolutely must win the battle in the trenches.
Charles has been great in every year he has played in the league but there was a little uncertainty on how he would return from blowing out his knee early on last year. That worry was heightened for Chiefs fans when he managed to rush for only 2 yards in week 2.
As it turns out, that worry was all for naught as soon as Charles started trusting his knee. He has accumulated 501 yards rushing since week 2 and has eliminated any concerns of him not being able to return to form. He also is dangerous in the passing game so the Raiders must always know where he is on the field.
As good as the Chiefs 3rd ranked rushing game (164 ypg) has been is about as bad as the Chiefs 23rd ranked passing offense (214 ypg) has been. It isn't so much the yardage that is killing the Chiefs passing game, its the TD-INT ratio. They have only 5 TD's to 11 INT's between their two lackluster QB's.
The passing game still has Dwayne Bowe who is dangerous any time he can get involved. Bowe is one of the best WR's in the game even despite being handcuffed by poor quarterback play.
Bowe has nearly a third of the Chiefs receiving yards with 427 yards out of an available 1,362 yards thrown. He also has 60% of the TD's from the passing game with 3 out of the 5 thrown. Charles is the number one worry for the Raiders defense but Bowe is a very close 2nd.
Hopefully Michael Huff has progressed enough at corner to shadow Bowe all day Sunday. Huff's willingness to be aggressive is going to need to be on display. Every time Bowe goes out for a pass the Raiders need to have a defender bump him at the line. If he gets free releases all game he will win his match-ups so the Raiders really need to make him work for his catches.
The Raiders' offense on the other hand now needs to embrace their new identity as a uptempo offense. Hopefully we see more no-huddle in the game plan as it is an obvious strength of the team.
If the Raiders can get to the line quickly it will give more control to Carson Palmer to make adjustments. Carson has shown his talent at reading the defenses while deploying the no-huddle and it is a talent that must be utilized more. Getting into plays early keeps the defense from subbing players in and out and allows Palmer more opportunities to call audibles.
Going at a higher tempo also has helped Darren McFadden in the rushing game. Anything to help our star running back break out of this funk needs to be applied. The Raiders are still only one game behind the lead of the division and that's basically been without DMC, so imagine how much ground they can make up if he starts performing well.
The Raiders offense needs to target former Raider Stanford Routt. There is not a player on the Chiefs that the Raiders know better than Routt. They need to exploit his tendencies and force him to be aggressive. He gets a lot of penalties when playing aggressive and DHB is a Wiz at creating penalties. With Brandon Flowers on Denarius Moore most of this game it will be Routt covering DHB. Take advantage of this match-up early and often.
The Raiders also need to make sure to get rid of the ball quickly. The Chiefs defensive line is high energy and Tamba Hali is the best pass rusher Veldheer will have faced this year. That's not good news considering Jared's recent tendency to give up blindside sacks that result in fumbles. Veldheer needs to redeem himself this week for his recent troubles and keep Hali in check.
Expect a lot of leg shots at Tamba after calling out the Raiders "dirty" play. He might be telling the truth but I doubt it helped his cause to go public with it. It probably will cause the Raiders to play even more aggressively with him.
The other outside linebacker on the Chiefs has been very formidable himself. Justin Houston could be a bigger threat than the Veldheer/Hali match-up because he's up against the Raiders fill-in right tackle Willie Smith. Houston already has 6 sacks on the year and is likely in line to increase that number Sunday.
The Raiders will have no choice but to keep an extra blocker in on many pass plays when dealing with this excellent linebacking corps. I haven't even mentioned Derrick Johnson and he is a great linebacker too. I honestly think that it is the best linebacker crew in the NFL.
Despite the Chiefs impressive roster on paper they are still having a lot of trouble transitioning it into wins. They are sitting at 1-5 right now which puts them needing a win even more than the Raiders do and that's saying a lot. No matter what the records are, Chiefs/Raiders games are always tough and this game will probably be no different.
The Raiders really need to win this game. Its been a long time since the Raiders last had back to back wins and it would really feel good to do that now. Not to mention 2-5 sounds so much worse than 3-4. It could also mean the difference between a share of first place in the division and tied for last.
This is a winnable game against a divisional rival. Losing it and heading home to play the burning hot offense of Tampa Bay is not an appealing prospect.