1. Do you expect Jamaal Charles to get a full load this week? And if so, will he be the same player as before? How key is his return to the success of this Chiefs team?
No I don't expect him to have a full load. The Chiefs have been extremely cautious with him. He will tell you that he is 100 percent healthy (actually he said 110 percent) and ready to go but with as cautious as the Chiefs have been - his first game back was Week 4 in Pittsburgh - I can't see him having a big role. He played 10 snaps and touched the ball twice along with one target. I could see him playing something like 20 snaps and getting a few more touches but this won't be the Jamaal that you're used to seeing. Which is good news for Oakland, at least.
His return is key in the big picture but again it's different with the emergence of Spencer Ware. Jamaal likely never goes back to being the 20-touch a game lead back he once was. The Chiefs are going to use both him and Ware with Ware more likely to be the lead back. Let's revisit this question in the next match-up because at this point I'm still doing some guessing on what the Chiefs will do.
2. It's tough to get a read on this Chiefs team. High scoring, come-from-behind win over the Chargers, low scoring loss to Texans, blowout win over Jets, blow out loss to Steelers. Are you having as difficult a time as me or is there some logical explanation?
We're all having a hard time. What sticks out to me the most is the slow starts. They got down big against San Diego and Pittsburgh very quickly. They were down against Houston in the first half. This makes the Chiefs one dimensional and it creates an environment where Alex Smith can throw it 40-plus times a game, which is outrageous. Chiefs fans know that if Alex Smith is throwing that many times, they're probably in trouble. This team is at its best when they're balanced, when they can run and the playaction works. That's a long way of answering that I'm not really sure who this team is yet either.
3. There's only two teams in the NFL with fewer sacks than the Raiders (7.0) and the Chiefs (5.0) are one of them. What's happening there and how much of a factor do you expect that to play in this game?
Justin Houston is out. That's pretty much the answer here. Dee Ford starts but he only flashes every once in a while with little consistency. Tamba Hali is on a pitch count and is older coming off knee surgery. Frank Zombo offers nothing in the pass rush. The defensive line is solid but doesn't offer much in the pass rush (Chris Jones is a rookie who has that ability but has only played four career games). Plus, the Chiefs haven't been winning very often so the opposing offense isn't forced in many must-pass situations where the pass rushers can pin their ears back and go.
4. Now in their fourth season in Kansas City, how confident are you that Andy Reid and Alex Smith can take the Chiefs on a championship run?
Probably about as confident as I've ever been ... which is not all that confident. It was always hoping that the Chiefs make the playoffs, have homefield advantage and draw a couple of weaker teams in the AFC. Admittedly that's gotten easier with the departure of Peyton Manning and what he did here the past few years but the Chiefs performance against the Steelers a couple weeks ago shows me that the Chiefs have a long way to go to beat the elite teams. They're very good at beating the teams they should as their 5-1 record against Oakland the past three years shows. They've always struggled against elite teams and elite quarterbacks. They won't win if they can't beat those teams in January.
5. I don't usually ask this question, but for some reason this week I'm legitimately interested. Who do you think wins this game and what makes the difference?
My homerism has me taking the Chiefs but I'll add a few non-homer reasons why. Alex Smith kills the Raiders (stats here). It's time he gets back on track. The Chiefs will be the best defense the Raiders have faced this year. The Raiders have won four games by 12 total points and have a ton of turnovers to help them. The Chiefs won't be giving them the ball four times. Plus . . . the Raiders have to prove to me they're legit. This 4-1 start is admittedly impressive but the Raiders have been down for the last 13 years. It's fair to ask them to prove it to you before crowning them.
I will post the link to my answers to his questions when available.