Well it’s that time of the year again: Chiefs week.
In Week 6, the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs renew their 53 year old rivalry. The Chiefs lead the series 55-51-2. Coming into this game both teams are playing relatively well. The Raiders are coming off a 27-17 win over the San Diego Chargers and the Chiefs move on from a comeback win over the Tennessee Titans. While the Raiders have owned the Chiefs at Arrowhead over the last six years, this week could prove difficult for the Silver and Black against the vaunted Chiefs defense.
The Chiefs are playing tough football on defense and short quick passing game on offense. The Raiders are flying high behind first year starter Terrelle Pryor and the blitz happy defense.
Let’s examine a gameplan that the Raiders could utilize to hand the Chiefs their first loss of this young season:
1. Ground Game
The Chiefs have the 23rd-ranked run defense by statistics, but don’t let that fool you–they only allowed 17 yards to the Titans’ Chris Johnson on 10 carries last week. The Chiefs defense may only be ranked 10th in overall defense, but they are a mean nasty bunch. For the Raiders to open up their offense and stay on schedule, they would have to run the ball to keep the defense honest.
The Chiefs’ defensive line is anchored by second year player Dontari Poe, who has the ability to eat up blocks and end up at the quarterback. The Raiders’ offense will have to find a way to get to the edge off-tackle to get some room in the run game, all without the hobbled Darren McFadden.
2. Denarius Moore
Moore had five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown last week against the Chargers. This week, Moore will be vital in stretching the field to keep Eric Berry away from the line of scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson will have to get him involved early to draw some double teams over the top.
The Chiefs have very physical corners in Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, and rookie standout Marcus Cooper. All three corners have the ability to play man coverage and thus allow the safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders offense will have to mitigate this by getting Moore involved to draw some attention to him. Good news for the Raiders is the return of suspended wide out Andre Holmes, who was a camp standout. Rod Streater will also have to get going against Smith. Another necessary contributor could be rookie tight end Mychal Rivera against the Chiefs linebackers.
3. Offensive Line
Tony Sparano deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done with the banged up offensive line. This week could be the first regular season start for rookie Menelik Watson, and that could be a much needed reinforcement because they will need it.
The Chiefs feature arguably the best edge rushers in the NFL in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Houston could miss this game with a concussion and that could be a huge factor in this game as I will explain later. In the middle of the Chiefs’ defensive line is nose tackle Poe who will command some attention.
It will be very important for Raiders to get Stephen Wizniewski back to hold down the line and move Andre Gurode to left guard. If Watson is able to go then Khalif Barnes can finally move to the right tackle spot and go against Houston. Tony Pashos missed last week through injury and getting Watson would be a huge boost on game day.
4. Terrelle Pryor and ball security
The Chiefs are a league best +10 in turnover differential. For the Raiders to win in such an uncompromising environment, ball security is paramount. The Chiefs rarely turn the ball over and the Raiders aren’t bad either with a turnover differential of +2, but historically this game features huge hits and nasty play overall. The Raiders would have to go into the game ready for a brawl and I’m certain head coach Dennis Allen will have his team aptly prepared.
Terrelle Pryor has a habit of rolling to his right when he escapes the pocket. The Chiefs will scheme their backers to cover the strong side runs that Raider fans have gotten used to from Pryor. If Justin Houston is a no go on Sunday this will immensely help the Raiders quarterback in addition to the offensive line, but Pryor will have to be very careful with the ball against the ball hawk Chiefs defenders.
The pocket will be very crowded with the pressure coming up the middle so Pryor will have to be on his game to get the Raiders a win in Arrowhead.
5. A complete game by the defense
Last week against the Chargers, the Raider defense finally closed out a game. This week they will have to repeat that feat. Kevin Burnett will be busy covering Jamaal Charles, who has a league high 44 targets for a running back. Andy Reid likes to get his backs involved in the passing game and the Raiders’ front seven will have a busy day covering the Chiefs’ multi faceted offense.
Lamar Houston and the Raiders defensive line will have to hold down Charles and get pressure on Alex Smith to force turnovers. The secondary will have to play lots of man coverage to allow the linebackers and safeties to minimize the Chiefs’ run game.
Surprisingly, Raider fans feel this game is winnable — given the expectations coming into this season, a win would be remarkable. Finally, it feels as though the Raiders have turned the corner and are headed for relevancy.