The NFL is full of great games on Sunday, but this isn’t one of them. With a combined record of 5-21, these are two of the worst teams in the league.
It would be easy to throw in the towel and start playing for draft position, but there are jobs on the line. A good performance over the final three games could be the difference between a roster spot next season and the unemployment line.
The players will be playing hard and the coaches will prepare like they would any other game. Both teams want to win, but both teams also will be trying to get a look at their young players for next season.
The Chiefs—despite their horrible play this year—actually have several advantages over the rival Raiders. The NFL is all about mitigating your own weaknesses, maximizing your strengths, exposing your opponent’s weaknesses and neutralizing their strengths.
Every piece (player) has strengths and weaknesses and it’s all about how the team uses those pieces. There’s a reason they call it a chess match.
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
When the Chiefs played the Raiders in Week 9 in Kansas City, Jamaal Charles had just five carries for four yards. By now you would think the Chiefs would have realized that their best chance to win games is by putting the ball in Charles’ hands as often as possible.
Why didn’t Charles get the ball more when the two teams faced off six weeks ago? With the game tied 6-6 late in the second quarter, the Chiefs muffed a punt at their own 11-yard line. The Raiders scored a touchdown and went into the half up 13-6. Matt Cassel fumbled the ball away on the first offensive play of the second half at the Kansas City 18-yard line and the Raiders added a field goal to make it 16-6.
Down by 10 points, Charles had just three more carries the rest of the game and two were nullified by holding penalties. The Chiefs have been able to clean up their turnover issue over the past several weeks, and a clean game Sunday should help them keep Charles involved.
However, the game plan needs to feature Charles more than he was when these teams last played each other. The Chiefs gave the ball to Peyton Hillis, Shaun Draughn and Dexter McCluster twice before Charles got his third carry of the game. Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel combined for nine pass attempts before Charles had that third carry.
Oakland’s pass defense is weak, but Kansas City’s pass offense is arguably weaker. Without Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City’s passing offense is likely to struggle. Oakland’s run defense has been nearly as bad as their pass defense, and a commitment to running the ball is a key for a Chiefs’ victory.
When the Raiders Have the Ball
Expect the Raiders to be able to move the ball with both the run and pass because of how evenly matched Oakland’s offense is with Kansas City’s defense. The game will likely come down to stopping the Raiders on third down, keeping them out of the end zone and turnovers.
These are really the keys for most games, but are particularly true because of the small gap between these two teams. The Raiders like to throw to score and that is Kansas City’s weakness. The Chiefs have been tough to run on in the red zone and that’s Oakland’s weakness.
The advantage would seemingly be in Oakland’s favor, which is what makes third downs that much more crucial for Kansas City’s defense. The Chiefs’ third-down defense has been surprisingly good this season and Oakland’s alarmingly bad, and that’s where the Chiefs could have an advantage.
When the Raiders came to Kansas City they converted just two of their 12 third-down attempts and only scored one touchdown on six trips to the red zone. If the Chiefs repeat this performance and don’t gift the Raiders with 13 points off three turnovers, they should have a very good chance to win the game.
The final margin in the first game between these two teams ended up being 13 points. That’s worth noting because it was the turnovers that were the difference. The Raiders won the turnover battle 4-1 the last time these two teams met.
For teams as bad as these two teams they are surprisingly evenly matched, and the turnover margin could be the difference once again. It’s the classic keys for these two struggling teams: Turnovers, third downs and red-zone scoring.
If the Chiefs can keep Charles involved early and avoid turning the ball over, they have a very good chance to beat a similarly bad Oakland team.