Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders: 10 Keys To Raiders' Third Straight Win
Can Darren McFadden continue to shine against an improved KC defense?
This Sunday, Jamaal Charles and the surprising Kansas City Chiefs will head to Oakland Coliseum to take on red-hot Darren McFadden and the resurgent Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders are playing for a rare third straight win and to go 3-0 in division, while the Chiefs are looking to leave no doubt they are the team to beat in the AFC West.
This match up features the top two rushing attacks in the league, and two drastically improved defenses.
It should be a classic Raiders/Chiefs smash-mouth battle.
Let's have a look at where the Raiders can win—or lose this important divisional game...
Control The Chiefs Running Game—DUH!
Thomas Jones has really helped his new team.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Other than possibly Packer wide receiver Donald Driver, Thomas Jones may be the most under rated player in the NFL. Stopping him will not be easy.
The bad news is, even if you stop Jones, you still have to deal with the explosive Jamaal Charles. Teams have not been able to contain both of them at all this year.
Teams have stopped one of these great backs, but never both.
The Chiefs make their living running up the gut and off tackle. They especially like off tackle power plays. Containing this aspect of their offense will be the single most important key to beating the Chiefs.
Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant have to beat their man one-on-one and get into the back field to make plays.
If the defensive tackles don't get penetration, the linebackers must shed blocks, and get in the back field.
If neither of these squads can penetrate, it will be a long day for Raider Nation.
"Mike Mitchell, This Is Tony Moeaki. Tony, This Is Mike."
Tony Moeaki is a very talented young tight end.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Tony Moeaki has been a pleasant surprise for Chiefs fans, and Mike Mitchell has been a nice surprise for many in Raider Nation.
This could be the match up of the day!
Moeaki has made some serious noise recently. He has become quarterback Matt Cassel's favorite target—especially in the redzone and on third down.
He must be contained if the Raiders want to win.
Mitchell isn't likely to make the Pro Bowl, but lately, he has done more than anyone could have expected.
Mitchell limited Antonio Gates to one catch, limited Vernon Davis to one catch and took John Carlson completely out of the game last week. He can handle Moeaki.
I expect him to do just that.
Cover Dwayne Bowe
If Nnamdi Asomugha can play, covering Dwayne Bowe will be much easier.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
At 6'2" and 221 pounds, Dwayne Bowe is a big, physical wide receiver. He appears to finally be living up to his potential since being drafted in the first round four years ago.
He poses a serious problem for every team he faces.
If all-world cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has recovered enough from his high ankle sprain to play, then the "Bowe issue" is solved. If not, Bowe becomes a much more difficult problem.
Michael Huff played pretty well in Asomugha's stead last week. However, Mike Williams is not Bowe. Bowe is much stronger and more physical, as well as a bit faster.
Jamming Bowe on every down will not work like it did on Williams. I feel the Raiders will have to be more creative to keep Bowe from hurting them.
A mix of double teams, bracket coverage, over-under zone and inside-out zone coverages will be needed to cover Bowe all day.
Assuming the front seven can stuff the Chiefs run game, and Mike Mitchell can shut down Moeaki as suggested in previous slides, Cassel will be looking for some one else.
More often than not in these situations, he finds Bowe.
Cover The Running Backs in The Passing Game
Cassel likes to dump it off to his backs.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The Chiefs running backs have combined for 30 receptions for 262 yards. Jamaal Charles is third on the team with 16 catches behind only Moeaki and Bowe.
With that said, shutting down the run game as I suggested means offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss will look for other ways to get the ball to his play-makers.
Dexter McCluster is listed as "questionable" with injury, but Charles and Jones are play-makers too.
I fully expect the Chiefs to attempt to sneak Charles, Jones and fullback Mike Cox out of the back field on screens, flat routes and circle routes.
This means the Raider linebackers have to be diligent about sticking with their coverage assignments and not getting fooled by misdirection or play action.
Blitzing early on could force the Chiefs to keep their backs in the back field to block. That too will help limit the effectiveness of the Chiefs offense.
Take Advantage Of The Weaker Right Side Of The Chiefs Offensive Line
The Chiefs offensive line is much better than in recent years.
Starting right guard Ryan Lilja is listed as questionable and starting right tackle is almost unknown Ryan O'Callaghan.
If there is a weakness on this very solid offensive line, it's on the right side.
Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly and Kamerion Wimbley have to step up again and get after this soft spot of the Chiefs offense.
Blitzing Rolando McClain up the middle can force center Casey Wiegmann to block him and set up one-on-one situations for Kelly and Houston on the weaker right side linemen.
Bringing Michael Huff or Tyvon Branch off the edge will also create havoc for the Chiefs right side and create those one-on-one match ups.
Note to John Marshall: KEEP BLITZING LIKE YOU HAVE THE LAST TWO WEEKS.
Continue To Ride The Hot Hand—Darren McFadden
Running lanes will be hard to find, but McFadden will find them with some patience.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It's no secret the Raiders will keep feeding the ball to Darren McFadden. It wasn't a secret in Denver, and Seattle expected it too.
Neither team could stop it.
I suggest more of the same. Give McFadden the ball early and often.
The power blocking schemes seem to be the most effective, but there are more ways to get D-Mac in space. He is extremely effective at running the draw and the toss sweep.
The Chiefs enter this game ranked seventh in the league against the run. I don't see this deterring the Raiders however. The Seahawks were ranked second against the run, but the Raiders ran the ball 39 times any way.
Although the Chiefs have some very good linebackers, their defensive line can be taken advantage of as long as the Raiders are committed to the run.
Mixing in old fashioned dive plays to Bush and Reece right up the gut will further wear down the Chiefs' front seven.
By the third quarter, the running lanes could be enormous.
Attack The Pass Defense
Darius Heyward-Bey will need another career day against the Chiefs.
Thearon W, Henderson/Getty Images
Eric Berry has been a nice addition to the Chiefs secondary, but it hasn't been enough. The Chiefs are ranked 23rd against the pass.
Along with Berry, Jon McGraw and Brandon Flowers are very solid players. The only real weakness of the Chiefs secondary lies with Brandon Carr.
Carr is in his third year and still hasn't perfected his craft. He bites on play action and double moves quite a bit. This is the guy to challenge.
McGraw is a solid tackler, but has some gaps in his coverage skills. Zach Miller should be able to beat him in coverage fairly easily.
Not having Louis Murphy will be a big loss for the Raiders' passing game, but Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford have been playing pretty well lately.
If Nick Miller gets the playing time he deserves, he can make a big positive impact for the Raiders as well.
Run Screens on 2nd and 3rd Down and Short
Marcel Reece has proven me wrong and is having a great year.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Chiefs don't rush that passer particularly well. They're ranked 19th in sacks.
Normally the screen is used to slow down a great pass rush, but it can hurt a great run defense as well.
The Chiefs like to call run blitzes in short yardage situations. This means the linebackers are getting up field and in the gaps very quickly.
I say, let them come.
Dumping the ball off to Marcel Reece, McFadden or Bush in the flat on these short yardage plays can create huge opportunities for run-after-catch yards.
The screen takes advantage of an aggressive defensive line and linebacking corps. The Chiefs have a very aggressive linebacking corps.
Get Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford Involved In The Passing Game
Nick Miller has the potential to be great, but only if the Raiders give him a shot.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
All Nick Miller seems to do is make plays.
Miller rarely drops passes, usually finds room to run after the catch and always makes people miss in the open field.
It's high time the Raiders' coaching staff see the potential this pint-sized receiver has and utilize it.
Quick bubble screens, smoke routes and instant swing passes are a great way to get Miller, and even rookie Jacoby Ford, the ball in space.
Both of these players can hurt a defense with their quickness and explosion.
Cover Kick and Punt Returns Better
Javier Arenas will likely get the bulk of the return duties for KC.
J. Meric/Getty Images
The Chiefs have not torn up the league in return yards. Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster are tied for 49th in average return yards.
Don't let that fool you.
Either of these players can break the big return at any time. McCluster has proven it, and Arenas has been close a few times.
The good news for Raider fans is that McCluster is listed as questionable, but did participate in limited practice this week.
I wouldn't rule him out for Sunday.
Once again, it boils down to John Fassel's crew staying in their lanes and making solid tackles. This didn't happen all that well against the Seahawks returner Leon Washington.
Assuming the rest of my game plan is successful, the field position battle could decide this game. Fassel has to have his squad ready.
A full Black Hole could be the difference in this old-school rivalry.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Chiefs may be the most hated team in Raider Nation. This is one of the most heated rivalries in sports, period.
I probably don't need to say this, but I'm going to any way.
Raider Nation must fill the Black Hole this weekend.
The players play for money, sure. But, they also play for the fans. Their desire and morale increase as the fan noise increases. You being at the Coliseum could be the difference in this game.
The Coliseum sold out last week, just not by the NFL deadline to prevent a black-out. Don't let this happen again. Get your tickets, face paint and costumes ready early—do it NOW!
Do it for the Raider fans that are suffering financial hardships, (like most of the Nation) and can't afford to go to the game. Be there so they can watch the game on T.V. in their home.
The Black Hole finally has something to cheer for.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images
There they are. My keys for the Raiders to get their elusive third win in a row.
More importantly, a win on Sunday will make the Raiders 3-0 in the AFC West division. This could prove to be enormous when deciding the division champion and playoff positioning.
Hopefully for Raider Nation, whatever the coaches do to attack the Chiefs, (whether it's my ideas or something else) will work.
So, what do you think? Will my ideas work? Will they fail? What did I miss? Let me hear you in the comments.
Follow me at these great sites:
And be sure to read the BleacherReport Featured Columnist media poll-NFL Power Rankings