A week after the Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers, 27-17, they have another heated AFC West rivalry game this Sunday when they travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders (2-3) face a (5-0) KC team that has surprised many people (except a good friend who expected them to be a sleeper team) by playing at an extremely high level after going 2-14 last season.
The Chiefs off-season makeover included firing Romeo Crennel and bringing in veteran Eagles coach Andy Reid who didn’t waste much time in trading for quarterback Alex Smith. Reid, Smith, and a very good defense have them looking at their first playoff spot (yes, I know it’s a bit early for that) since 2010-2011.
Both teams are coming into this game after a win last week (KC beat Tennessee, 26-17), but this will be another closely contested game between the long time rivals, 7 of the last 10 meetings at Arrowhead have been by 7 points or fewer.
The Chiefs 4th ranked scoring defense has experience facing a quarterback that can get out and run, they faced Michael Vick in their 26-16 road win on September 19th. Vick ran 4 times for 99 yards, but he only completed 13 of 30 passes for 201 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Raiders QB Pryor has been surprisingly efficient this season, he has completed 68.3% of his pass attempts, which is 6th best in the NFL (Vick was completing 53.8%, 31st before getting hurt). He also hasn’t been the turnover machine Vick has. Pryor has thrown just 2 INT’s (with 4 TD’s) and has not fumbled the ball this season.
So, KC’s defense may get tested in this game with Oakland’s 7th ranked rushing offense (130.8ypg). Darren McFadden has been limited in practicing, but there’s a good chance he’ll play after missing last week with a hamstring injury. McFadden and Pryor will give the Chiefs 22nd ranked run defense (115ypg) all they can handle. Not to mention, a gaudy 5.3 yards per carry.
However, KC does a good job of jumping out to an early lead and forcing their opponent to throw the ball and play catchup. Teams have run the ball 109 times in comparison to 191 pass attempts. The Chiefs only allow teams to complete 52.9% of their passes, best in the NFL. A huge reason for that is the pass rush, KC leads the League with 21 sacks led by OLB Justin Houston. Houston leads the team with 8.5 sacks (2nd in the NFL) and will be a huge test for the Oakland offense to contend with.
So, the Raiders need to run, run, run all game long and force KC to stop it. Pryor will need to continue to make good reads and not make any risky throws. The Chiefs pass defense has allowed just 4 TD’s, while picking off 7 passes. Denarius Moore seems to be Pryor’s favorite target when he throws the ball and Moore has been making the most of it with 20 catches for 317 yards (16 First Downs and 63.4 yards per game), 15.9 yards per catch, 4 plays of at least 20 yards and 3 TD’s.
The Chiefs offense is centered around Smith (227.8 passing ypg, 7 TD’s and just 3 INT’s) and Jamaal Charles (79ypg on the ground and 50ypg through the air). Defensively, Oakland will need to get pressure on Smith who is on pace for a career high in rushing yards, he is averaging 32ypg and 4.9ypc.
“I think he’s (Smith) done a great job of running that offense,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen told Raiders.com. “He’s very efficient in how he runs the offense. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He makes good decisions in the passing game, so they’ve done exactly what they needed to. They do a great job of not having negative plays, staying on schedule, moving the chains.”
The Raiders will need to control the line of scrimmage and slow down KC’s running game (which has been a bit disappointing 10th with just 120ypg). Oakland has been very effective in that aspect this season, allowing just 3.7ypc (9th). The Raiders defense had 5 turnovers in their win against the Chargers (8 in the last 3 games) and the defense seems to be coming together as a unit, but the Chiefs have only committed 5 turnovers all season.
However, the Raiders may have a secret weapon in former 49er Linebackers coach Jason Tarver. “He (Smith) does a good job of throwing the ball where the coaches want him to and taking what the defense gives him,” Tarver said to Raiders.com. “We need to make sure that we challenge in coverage, that we’re tight when we’re supposed to be tight, that we control the pocket how we want because he does a great job of pulling the ball, feeling the pocket and taking off. Those are a little different playing this week versus playing last week-different type of quarterback. He’ll get out of the pocket more. He can make throws when on the run, so we’ll vary our looks accordingly.”
Prediction: Chiefs, 23-16.
-The Chiefs lead the all time series, 55-51-2, but have lost the last 6 consecutive home games to the Raiders.
-The Raiders have cut down their penalties a lot this season. They have only had 26, which is tied for 8th fewest.
-Matt Flynn was released on Monday by Oakland after they traded for him in the offseason.
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