The Raiders head to Kansas City this Sunday. Not to get them some Kansas City barbeque but hoping rather to barbeque them some Kansas City Chiefs. And whether they cook up a win or are burnt to a crisp will depend on a few key match-ups.
Tamba Hali may be considered the best pass rusher on the Chiefs. But it is the guy on the other side, Justin Houston, who has racked up the sacks for the Chiefs. He has six sacks this season and he will be going up against the Raiders' fill-in right tackle. Smith has given up a great many pressures this season as well as outright sacks. He will have his hands full with Houston. I don't expect him to be able to keep him at bay all day. But if he lets him get consistent pressure on Palmer, the Raiders are in trouble.
Another solid running back for Rolando McClain to deal with. He has been among the key match-ups the past two weeks facing the likes of Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew. He did a fine job against Turner and last week Jones-Drew left the game on the second play with a foot injury. He has yet to face a challenge the likes of Charles this season. The Chiefs will be counting on Charles to move this offense and it will be McClain's top priority to try and stop him. He can't do it alone but it only takes one bad angle or wrong gap by McClain and Charles is gone.
The Raiders know better than anyone else what to expect from Stanford Routt. He was a hot and cold player with the Raiders and his burn rate was among the highest in the league because of it. He also was known for pass interference penalties. The key will be for Palmer to recognize when will be the right time to throw Routt's way. By the same token, Routt has a bit of insight into Palmer so there will be a little chess game happening. He who wins the battles, should win the war.
Darren McFadden vs Greg Knapp
It is pointless to pit Darren McFadden against the opposing team. It has not been the opposing team which has been holding him back. It's a combination of the scheme and the playcalling. The scheme appears to be going nowhere...or I mean... it's here to stay, so the key here will be either calling the right plays to get McFadden going or leaving the playcalling up to Palmer at the line. The one big run McFadden had all season was a play Carson Palmer changed at the line. And McFadden ran for three times as many yards per carry last week from when Knapp was calling the plays and when Palmer was running the no-huddle-going from 1.3 ypc to 3.9 ypc.
The Jaguars didn't expect Lamarr Houston to play the way he did last week so they focused their attention elsewhere. The Chiefs now realize they must keep him and Matt Shaughnessy under wraps. The pass rush works best when the opposing team must account for both sides. Brady Quinn is not a huge threat much the same as the combination of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne last week. But with time to throw, they can still be dangerous. With pressure, they will get rattled and that means turnovers or at very least, stalled drives. That is how the Raiders were able to pull out the win last week. It will be a delicate balance, however. They must put pressure on Quinn while not leaving the Raiders vulnerable to Jamaal Charles around the edge. Their ability to recognize when Quinn looks to throw and not bite on the play action will be important.