The Raiders return home from a tough loss in San Diego to remain winless on the season. Now 0-10, they are riding a 16-game losing streak dating back to last season. The Chiefs on the other hand are riding a 5-game win streak and have taken control of the AFC West with the Broncos losing to the Rams last week.
Here are the things to look for in the game
Jamaal Charles vs Khalil Mack/Sio Moore
No one seems to run through the Raiders quite like Jamaal Charles. Maybe he is just a merciless tyrant to lives to remind the Raiders that they chose Darren McFadden in the first round while he tumbled to the third round. Whatever it is, he feasted on the Raiders last season. These two teams met week 16 of last season in Oakland and Charles went OFF. He had 195 yards receiving and 215 total yards with FIVE touchdowns. Earlier in the season he had 128 yards from scrimmage with 2 touchdowns.
This season Charles has 692 rushing yards and 840 yards from scrimmage with 10 touchdowns. He is literally carrying this Chiefs offense and will look to continue to do so against the Raiders.
The one big difference between what Charles faced when he saw the Raiders last season and now stands a solid 6-3, 251 pounds. His name is Khalil Mack and he is the number one run defending linebacker in the NFL. Charles will have to go through Mack if he is to run the ball successfully.
However, with Charles getting a good portion of his yards on screens and short passes, it will be Sio whose job it is to shadow him when he squirts out of the backfield. Sio was here last year when Charles had his big day but he didn't have Mack lining up in the defensive backfield with him back then. The two of them have been playing very well together of late.
The Chiefs are playing pretty much mistake free football these days. They just grind teams down on both sides of the ball. The last team to fall victim was the Seattle Seahawks, but that was no walk in the park. It was a hard-fought, 24-20 home win for the Chiefs. Now they have to go on the road, in a short week to face a division rival. The possible hangover from the quick turnover and the flight across the country is the only real advantage the Raiders have.
The flip side, of course, is the Raiders also had a hard-fought game against the Chargers in which the defense played their hearts out for 68 snaps. The Chiefs are a much better team than the Chargers, but the Raiders will need all the possible angles they can to hope for a win.
The weakest part of the Chiefs defense is supposedly their run defense. That is also the Raiders weakest area. And the Raiders have far weaker running it than the Chiefs are at stopping it. This season the combo of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew has been historically bad. Even if the fault lies mainly on the offensive line, the Raiders must look at other options to find out for sure. Murray is that other option.
The 6-3, 225-pound back was out all of last season with a foot injury and coming into last week had just six carries this season. He added four carries in that game for 43 yards along with two catches for 16 yards. That included runs of 14 and 23 on consecutive carries - his first of the game. That's easily enough for the second-year back to get a longer look this week. If he runs well again, the Raiders coaches would have a tough time explaining why he wouldn't be the starter going forward.
The utility back/receiver in this Chiefs offense is one De'Anthony Thomas. He is for the Chiefs what they had hoped they got from Dexter McCluster a few years back. He is lightning fast, can run the ball as well as he can fly on a go route, and is a superb blocker. He also returns kicks and punts. Just his presence in the game presents problems for the defense because they have to account for him. And yet, when they do, plays open up for others. His versatility makes him a real X-factor in much the same way as we have spoken of Marcel Reece in the past.
Being a Ducks fan, I watched him light up defenses for three years. Like many Oregon players, they have to be put in the right situation to succeed. DAT is an athlete above all else. His ability to block comes from Chip Kelly's Oregon offense which required receivers and running backs to block as often as they went on a route or touched the ball. Now the Chiefs are using his rare skillset perfectly.
Prime time performance
This is the only nationally televised prime time game the Raiders have this season. They don't deserve any, but these things are decided before the season so there's no going back now. That being said, it gives the Raiders an opportunity. Most casual football fans who aren't Raiders fans haven't really watched the Raiders play much this season. Same goes for a lot of the players in the league who may be coming up on free agency. Showing a little promise tonight could go a long way to helping them earn a little respect for their future possibilities.
And as Marcus points out, that performance opportunity very much applies to Derek Carr.
Charles Woodson vs Travis Kelce
The Chiefs may have one of the most underrated tight ends in the league. Travis Kelce hasn't been mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but from the looks of it, that time is coming. The 2013 third round pick is the fourth ranked tight end by Pro Football Focus this season. Just Gronk, Graham and Witten are ranked ahead of him. He is also currently 8th in the league in receiving yards among tight ends, just a couple yards behind Antonio Gates.
Gates was often Woodson' assignment last week in San Diego and he figures to D up on Kelce in this one as well. The Chiefs don't utilize their receivers much which makes Kelce more of a threat for Woodson to deal with. He was able to hold Antonio Gates to three catches last week and one of those was a near interception in which Gates had to make a spectacular grab. Woodson didn't do near as well against Broncos tight end Julius Thomas the previous week.
Oakland, we have a problem
His name is Houston. Justin Houston. Dude has 12.0 sacks this season. That's more than a sack a game. He had 11.0 sacks all of last season. With six games left, that puts him on pace for 20 sacks on the season which would approach the NFL record. I would say there's a match-up here but this one isn't about match-ups. He will come from various places and the Raiders must simply know where he is at all times. With the poor blocking by much of the Raiders offensive line, he's going to get some pressure. The best shot at keeping him from getting sacks is for Derek Carr to get the ball out quickly. The problem there is it usually leads to throwing into coverage or for minimal gains.