Raiders vs. Chiefs: 10 Things To Watch for Kansas City
The Kansas City Chiefs will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive this weekend when they host division rival Oakland on Sunday afternoon.
Last week, we saw interim head coach Romeo Crennel lead a spirited effort by taking down the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers.
The Chiefs will hope for much of the same against the Raiders in Week 16.
Here are 10 things to watch for in this pivotal AFC West matchup.
Can Romeo Do It Again?
By all accounts, interim head coach Romeo Crennel had a lot on his plate last week.
First, he had to take over for the departed Todd Haley as head coach, and then, he had to lead his squad against one of the best teams in the league.
In the end, Romeo succeeded for the Chiefs, downing Aaron Rodgers and the Pack by the score of 19-14.
This week, KC will face an easier opponent in the Oakland Raiders, but nothing is easy about divisional games in the NFL.
Can Romeo go two-for-two as new head coach of the Chiefs?
How Will Kyle Orton Fare Against a Better Defense This Week?
There's little doubt that the play of new Chiefs QB Kyle Orton was one of the keys to victory against Green Bay last week.
He completed 23-of-32 passes for 299 yards, while making it look easy with a variety of screen passes, short throws while using a good amount of play-action.
However, he was also doing that against the worst overall pass defense in the league.
This week proves to be a tougher test for Orton, as he will be going against a physical Oakland defense.
Will the Running Game Get It Going?
The Chiefs have been very solid in their ground attack this season, even without star Jamaal Charles.
Coming into Week 16, they have averaged 118.0 yards a game, which is good enough for 14th in the league.
Last week, they had 139 rushing yards against the Packers, including a key one-yard TD run by fourth-year RB Jackie Battle to help seal the game late in the fourth quarter.
It will be important that KC's ground attack has another good game on Sunday, considering how much it will help open up the offense for Orton and the passing game.
How Will the Offensive Line Hold Up?
Last Sunday, the KC offensive line enjoyed one of the best performances of the season.
They allowed zero sacks of Kyle Orton, while helping to pave the way for nearly 140 yards of rushing offense.
It's safe to say that this unit will more than have their work cut out for them this weekend when they face Oakland and their defensive front seven.
The Raiders average nearly three sacks a game and will likely be blitzing early and often in an attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the Kansas City offense.
Dwayne Bowe's Effort
Some expected that Chiefs' star wideout Dwayne Bowe would fall off some after Todd Haley—the coach that brought out the best in him—was fired early last week.
So far, Bowe's critics have been right.
D-Bowe promptly was benched to start the game against the Packers last week for violating a team rule.
He did manage to have 49 receiving yards in the game, but KC would like to see the Pro Bowl effort that they say out of the Miami, Florida, native during last season, since re-signing him in the offseason seems to be a priority at this point
The Rookies' Progression
This is the time of the year when rookies start to get tired around the league due to playing a longer regular season schedule in the pros.
The Chiefs, like many other teams, can't allow this to happen to their own first-year players.
Rookies Jonathan Baldwin, Justin Houston and Allen Bailey have all looked good this season, and their progression will be key to this team's success in the future.
However, Kansas City will also find out more about what they have in these three players in the present when Oakland comes to town on Sunday.
KC outside linebacker Tamba Hali is having another great season for the Chiefs this year.
Coming off of a 14.5-sack performance last year, Hali is already up to 12 sacks in '11, with still two games left on the remaining schedule.
He has been relentless in getting to the QB, and like last season, seems to be getting better near the end of the year.
The Chiefs would love for Tamba to repeat his three-sack effort from Week 15 against Carson Palmer and the Raiders on Sunday.
The Chiefs' secondary has been up and down all season but is coming off a dominant effort last Sunday.
In that game, they turned in one of their best performances of the season by holding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack to just 235 yards through the air.
Second-year safety Kendrick Lewis has really stepped up and become a leader in this unit while Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr continue to make plays at the cornerback position.
They need to have another great game this week to help KC get one step closer to making a return trip to the playoffs this year.
Overall Team Discipline
The Chiefs have been one of the most penalized teams in the league this season.
Last week, they added seven more penalties to their '11 season totals.
One of the biggest knocks on Romeo Crennel when he was head coach in Cleveland was that his teams seemed to be lazy and undisciplined for the most part.
This will definitely be tested this week, as the Raiders will force KC to play more physical than they want to at times in this contest.
The Arrowhead Factor
For years, opposing teams have cracked under the pressure while playing at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
When playing at home, the Chiefs automatically have a decent chance to win each game because they play in one of the loudest stadiums in all of football.
That was clearly evident last week when KC knocked off the Packers, as the Arrowhead crowd was in the game for most of the afternoon.
There's a great chance that it will be very loud once again this Sunday when Kansas City takes on the Raiders, but how much of an overall factor will the crowd have on this game?