Having stunned the San Diego Chargers, with their best overall performance of the season, the Oakland Raiders get another crack at making up ground in the AFC West when they travel to Kansas City for another critical division showdown in Week 6.
The undefeated Chiefs might be the biggest surprise in the entire NFL behind quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid, who together have helped transform a franchise that has had more downs than ups over the past several seasons.
Oakland does have history on its side, however. The Raiders have won six straight at Arrowhead Stadium and eight of 11 overall in the series between these two former AFL rivals.
Here are a few things to be aware of heading into Sunday’s game, one which looms larger for Oakland than Kansas City. A win could catapult coach Dennis Allen’s team right back in the thick of things in the division, while a loss could drop the Raiders four games off the pace.
AFC West Record
Another incredible performance by Peyton Manning helped the Denver Broncos outlast the Dallas Cowboys in a wild shootout in Week 5 and kept Denver tied with Kansas City for first place in the division.
The Chiefs held on to beat Tennessee after blowing a 13-0 halftime lead, continuing their best start since 2003. The Raiders kept pace by beating the Chargers behind an outstanding game by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and an opportunistic defense.
Jennings sat out most of the second half after suffering a slight hamstring pull. Head coach Dennis Allen doesn’t believe it’s serious, however, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
That’s good news because Darren McFadden’s status is still uncertain. The other positive is that fullback Marcel Reece’s knee injury wasn’t much of an issue at all against San Diego when he had to fill in at running back after Jennings went out.
Flynn has been awful and showed very little progress from the offseason. Having dropped him to third on the depth chart, the Raiders had no reason to keep him around and gave Flynn his walking papers, along with the $6.5 million that was guaranteed in his contract.
What Must Improve
- As good as the secondary was with three interceptions, Oakland still allowed San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers to pass for 411 yards. Part of that was because the Chargers’ running game was shut down and the team fell in an early hole, forcing Rivers to throw 49 times. The breakdowns in the Raiders’ coverage, however, have to be a concern. Safety Charles Woodson was beaten on a pair of long passes, while rookie D.J. Hayden was having another rough night until his interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
- Give credit to Oakland’s offensive line, which held up well for the most part against the Chargers, despite missing two starters. That being said, the pass protection has to get better. Pryor’s mobility helped the team avoid several sacks, but that’s not always going to be the case.
- Discipline hasn’t been much of an issue under Allen’s watch, but the Raiders have had a tendency to make some silly and costly mistakes. Cornerback Mike Jenkins picked up a senseless unnecessary roughness penalty after he shoved a San Diego receiver in the back after an incomplete pass. Although it didn’t end up hurting too much, the Raiders aren’t a good enough team to consistently overcome those kinds of errors.
- The decision to add Andre Holmes to the 53-man roster gives the Raiders some additional depth at wide receiver. Now, Holmes has to see where he fits in. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater have firmly established themselves as the top two wideouts on the team, so Holmes will be battling Jacoby Ford and rookie Brice Butler for playing time. That bodes well for Oakland’s offense and gives them the flexibility to use more three- and four-receiver sets.