Oakland Raiders vs. AFC West: Linebackers

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Dec 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback

Derek Carr

(4) throws a pass and is pressured by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker

Justin Houston

(50) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 31-13. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs linebackers edge Denver for the top spot in the AFC West by the thinnest of margins. They’re built much like their counterparts in Denver, with veteran Derrick Johnson returning from an injury that wiped out virtually all of his 2014 – an injury that has some questioning what kind of player he will be at 32 years old, coming off an Achille’s injury. Kansas City also has veteran Josh Mauga who led the Chiefs in tackles last season with 103 – his first year with the club after coming over from the Jets.

On the outside, the Chiefs will run out ten year veteran Tamba Hali, who is one half of one of the most dominant and lethal pass rushing duos in the league. Hali, despite turning 32 during the coming season, is still playing high level ball and has to be accounted for by opposing offenses.

The other half of Kansas City’s dynamic duo of course, is Justin Houston, who in four seasons in the league, has racked up 48.5 sacks – 22 last year alone. Houston is big, strong, fast, and utterly dominant. The question now becomes, will he be able to continue stoking those fires and that hunger now that he’s been fed – and fed very well?

Kansas City has the best linebackers group in the division. Arguably, in the NFL as a whole. They are going to keep the Chiefs in some games this year as the offense has to prove that it can take some strides and help the team win some games. Though, that might be difficult with Alex Smith as the quarterback.

Next: Oakland Raiders vs. AFC West: Defensive Line