Oakland Raiders Week 8: It's Chiefs Week!
It's that time of the schedule again. Of all of the Raider rivalries, real or imagined, none is more antagonistic than the one with the Kansas City Chiefs.
I normally like the color red. During Chiefs Week, I don't even correct papers in red ink. It's pro football's Hatfield's vs. McCoy's, but twice a year. Part one is this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium where the Raiders have acted quite like the uninvited guests they are, winning their last five meetings there.
After pulling their season out of the fire, Oakland has a chance to really set themselves up to right the ship in this 2012 season. A win puts them at 3-4 and suddenly, a home game with a chance to reach .500 for the first time this season.
By contrast, a loss eliminates any of the good vibes from the schizophrenic, but ultimately pleasing win against Jacksonville. Make no mistake—Kansas City may not possess a good record, but you can bet they will give the Raiders their best shot. They always do.
So winning is not about just lining up and outplaying the Chiefs. It is about what the Raiders don't do just as much. The formula is not very complicated in my opinion, so let's get to it. These are the five keys to beating the Chiefs Sunday.
No. 5: Don't Give Away Points
The Raiders have won three of the last meetings against the Chiefs. In the four wins, they committed a total of six turnovers. In their lone loss, a 28-0 thumping in Carson Palmer's debut, they committed six. Two of those turnovers were interceptions returned directly for touchdowns.
When the Chiefs were consistently getting the better of the Raiders during the Marty Schottenheimer era, it was because the Raiders would make a killer mistake that led to Kansas City victory: James Hasty's overtime interception in 1995, Jeff George's bonehead flip that led to a pick-six in the Chiefs' Monday Night win in 1997. It was always a mistake by the Raiders that was likely to change the course of the game.
So against a 1-5 team that will be desperate much like the Jaguars were last week, playing a clean game is absolutely essential. That means two things: One, no disadvantageous turnovers like last week where Jacksonville could score without doing anything else. Two, avoiding penalties that force obvious situations.
It is much easier to run a no-huddle offense at home than in a place that can still get loud like Arrowhead Stadium. Which leads me to my next point...
No. 4: This Week, Pass to Set Up the Run
The Raiders managed to defeat the Chiefs last year in spite of being outgained 435-308 and outrushed 135-71. Considering the state of the running game, two runs and a pass is probably not the best course of action.
That means the Raiders' best offensive player this year needs the ball in his hands. Carson Palmer has to work all of his receivers against a Chiefs defense that can be thrown on. Forget the rush numbers, this game will be won or lost offensively on Palmer. So, he should come out throwing and exploiting the matchups the Raiders have.
Namely, that's Marcel Reece. He has a chance to be a big factor against Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher in space. Brandon Myers could also get a lot of touches against the Chiefs' 3-4 defense.
But like last week, shots need to be taken down the field. We all know about Stanford Routt's propensity to commit penalties. Well this year he only has two, but according to some advanced NFL statistics, Routt rates out as the 77th best corner of 94 in football so far this year. His counterpart Brandon Flowers is only 52nd by the numbers, so the Raiders will have their chances.
And if Palmer is able to get it going, that at least takes Oakland out of obvious running situations for McFadden. He has got to be able to run without always being keyed on. That is how the zone blocking scheme will at least be offset for DMC going forward. Ideally, we'd all love to see a return to power blocking, but in lieu of that, actually catching Kansas City by surprise would be nice.
No. 3: No Big Runs for Jammal Charles
The Chiefs are going to try and run Jammal Charles all day (and night) long. He has been the meal ticket for Kansas City's offense, so that is not a surprise.
But while he may get the occasional seven, eight, 10, 12 yard run, it is the 40, 50 and 60-plus yard runs that the Raiders cannot allow in this game. Truthfully, home or away, I can't envision the Chiefs sustaining many long drives regardless of who is under center for them. Ultimately, they are scoring if the Raiders are gashed for big runs or if there are turnovers that set them up on a short field.
While Charles is a premiere back, I can't see a scenario where the Raiders don't play him more than honest. Stacking the box with eight should be the theme of the game. Make the Chiefs throw to win. If the Raiders do that, they should be in good shape because...
No. 2: Brady Quinn Should Not Be Good Enough to Beat You
And if the Raiders have any notions about being a decent team, forget the playoffs, they have to beat Brady Quinn and the Chiefs. There is a laundry list of bad quarterbacks the Raiders have made look serviceable over the years: Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore, Caleb Hanie, Blaine Gabbert (well on his way to a career performance before injury), and so on.
That simply can't happen Sunday. If Quinn is throwing more than Jamaal Charles is running, that should mean a Raiders victory. If it doesn't, then I'll be the first in the "What is going on Dennis?" line.
No. 1: SPECIAL Special Teams
Week after week, I have said the same thing: The Raiders must score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. They beat Jacksonville despite scoring touchdowns only 50 percent of the time in the red zone. In a game where points are at a premium, the Raiders have to cash in on their opportunities.
But beyond Sebastian Janikowski, there are elements to the special teams. Shane Lechler's punting has been booming as usual, but his ability to pin opponents deep has not. He has only pinned five of 32 punts inside the 20 and his net average of 38.5 is 23rd in the NFL. He will probably get plenty of chances to kick. The onus is on him to keep Kansas City from getting big returns. I have been a proponent of the angled kick for some time and it would be nice to see it this week.
While the Raiders return game hasn't been special, Mike Goodson has shown flashes of being a good kickoff guy (averaging a solid 24 yards a return). Phillip Adams can be elusive, but his muff of a Jacksonville punt nearly broke the game open. Adams has to be safe with the ball. Otherwise, he has been okay as well.
Ultimately, this is my biggest key because I think the Raiders defense has an advantage over Kansas City's offense. So points will have to come in unconventional ways for the Chiefs. In other words, Oakland has got to be ready for gimmick plays like a surprise onsides kick, fake punts/field goals, reverses, etc. The Chiefs are a desperate team. And you can believe they will play like one in this Sunday's game.
When it gets down to it, if the Raiders play a solid football game for four quarters, they're walking out of Arrowhead Stadium with their sixth straight win there. If this turns into one of those games where you are holding your breath or it turns into a penalty fest, they might let the Chiefs stick around and steal it.
I don't expect a rout, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Raiders pulled away late. That said, nothing from this year indicates any kind of win is going to come easy or without stress. But unless the Raiders self-destruct—and while they've played flat at times, they haven't packed it in recently—I see them winning another close game. Last week, the hero was Chad Henne in many ways for the Raiders. This week, it just might be Brady Quinn. Take that and run with it as you wish...
Final: Oakland 20, Kansas City 16