The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs meet in a Week 15 matchup featuring two teams that are very similar, with one exception. Dennis Allen’s Raiders are simply playing out the string for a second consecutive year, while the Chiefs are hoping to clinch a playoff berth.
Both teams have gotten sporadic performances out of their respective offenses, although Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is far better than anything Oakland can counter with. He can also stay on the field, something the Raiders’ Darren McFadden has been unable to do.
Until recently, the two teams also relied heavily on their defenses.
The Chiefs stumbled a little bit on that side of the ball during their back-to-back losses against San Diego and Denver before bouncing back nicely against Washington. Oakland, however, has hit a defensive rut it can’t seem to get out of, which is a prime reason the Raiders are headed for their 11th consecutive non-winning season.
Allen’s team can salvage a little pride by preventing the Chiefs from clinching a spot in the postseason.
Here are four ways the Raiders can make that happen.
Keep Jamaal Charles Contained
As good as Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is (four 1,000-yard seasons in the last five years), he hasn’t had a whole lot of success against the Raiders. For Oakland to have any sort of chance at ending its three-game losing streak, that trend has to continue.
Charles scored a pair of touchdowns and ran for 78 yards when the two teams met at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6. He needed 22 carries, however, as Oakland crowded the box to slow him down.
It worked for most of the game. Nine of Charles’ carries netted two yards or fewer, while two others gained three yards apiece.
If the Raiders are successful in slowing down Charles, it would allow them to get after Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith a little more. Smith has not been sacked in either of the last two games.
Don't Wait Until Third Down
Oakland’s offense has shown some explosive capability at times, but the team repeatedly gets derailed on third down, a problem that has lingered all season and will definitely be a factor against Kansas City.
The Raiders have had just two games this season in which they’ve converted at least 50 percent of their third-down opportunities. A big factor in that is that the offense seems to constantly be in 3rd-and-long.
Nearly 63 percent (114 of 183) of Oakland’s third downs have been situations where six or more yards were needed for a first down. More than one-fourth were 3rd-and-10 or longer.
Kansas City’s defense has been among the league’s best but allowed San Diego and Denver to go a combined 15-for-29 on third downs during the back-to-back losses to the Chargers and Broncos. In a Week 14 win over Washington, however, the Chiefs held the Redskins to 3-of-15.
Let McGloin Be
People are still scratching their heads over the Raiders’ decision to bring in Terrelle Pryor for one series against the New York Jets in Week 14. Starter Matt McGloin was clearly rattled when he came back in and threw an interception on his first throw back.
Under no circumstances should that ever happen again. Allen and his assistants need to either go with McGloin and leave him alone or go with Pryor and do the same.
Pryor had one of his worst days against the Chiefs in Week 6, when he was sacked nine times and really seemed to lose confidence. Barring a complete breakdown up front, McGloin will probably be able to avoid that.
Kansas City will try to pressure McGloin and will likely try to bring some early blitzes to get the rookie off stride. That might just play right into Oakland’s hands, as McGloin has a very crisp delivery and gets rid of the ball quickly.
Keep It Out of the Kicker's Hands
Sebastian Janikowski is no longer the reliable scoring threat he once was. His accuracy is way off, and kicks that used to be second nature to the Polish Cannon have become major hurdles.
Holder Marquette King has taken a lot of the blame for Janikowski’s failures this season, but if that were the sole problem Oakland, would have made a change by now.
Janikowski missed on a 51-yard try against Kansas City in Week 12. The game was tied at the time and a successful field goal might have swayed momentum into the Raiders’ direction. Instead, the kick fell short and the Chiefs went on to win 24-7.
* All information and quotes used in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.