Chiefs Need to Punish Division Rival

After a bitter and painful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, the Chiefs need to climb back on their winning horse. With the limping Oakland Raiders heading into Arrowhead this weekend, the Chiefs have the perfect remedy to cure the bad taste of their first loss of the season.

The Raiders come into town with a third string quarterback, depleted offensive and defensive lines and a 3-7 record. The Raiders have been decimated with injuries, infighting and terrible coaching. They are mired in their worst season since the 1960's but they're playing their most hated rival and anything is possible.

Can the Raiders win this week? Of course they can but they won't if the Chiefs have anything to say about it. The Raiders only hope for a victory is a solid ball control offense. They feature three backs that are capable of breaking off long runs at anytime.

Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner and Zack Crockett are the perfect trio of backs that can give the Chiefs ailing defensive rushing unit fits all day long. The Chiefs rushing defense was blitzed last week by the Bengals, the Raiders running game can be just as effective.

It has to be because Rick Mirer is not your typical prolific passer, though he does have a completion rate of 64%. Mirer can make the short passes but he can't air the ball out and that should keep the Chiefs closer to the line of scrimmage.

In the Chiefs 17-10 victory over the Raiders earlier this season, the defense did a great job shutting down the Chiefs receivers until the final quarter when they went to a prevent. But that won't happen this time around.

Mirer is very susceptible to the interception if he gets any pressure on him. So he has to rely on handing the ball off and occasionally attempt a pass to keep the defense honest. That's the focus of their offense. Even with a banged up offensive line the Raiders have been effective when they stick to the run.

When Rich Gannon was the starting quarterback, they relied on the passing game. The Chiefs did a great job of shutting down Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter in the first game because they played a lot of bump and run coverage. They need to follow that formula this year.

The Chiefs defense has to control the line of scrimmage. They must get in the backfield and create havoc. Middle linebacker Mike Maslowski injured his knee in practice and might not play. If that's the case, then rookie Kawika Mitchell will get his share of snaps. Mitchell is the future at middle linebackers. He is faster and stronger than Maslowski who is slower but a better tackler.

Opposing teams are making a living going up the middle and Maslowski has not been as effective as he was in years past. Though he is near the top in team tackles, Maslowski has not been the run stopper the Chiefs had hoped he'd be this season.

Mitchell was a highly touted player in college and the Chiefs were fortunate to find him still on the board in the second round. They need Mitchell to develop over the next six games because teams are going to try and run the ball on the Chiefs in the playoffs.

The Chiefs also have to do a better job attacking the line of scrimmage on defense. It seems last week that the Bengals just pushed and shoved the Chiefs defensive line all over the field. They need to show more fire on every play. Too many times, defenders were taking on blockers instead of moving toward the ball. That left gaping holes for Rudi Johnson and Corey Dillon.

Defensively the Raiders have little to nothing on the defensive line. Their best two defensive linemen Trace Armstrong and John Parella are out for this game. The secondary still has Charles Woodson, Phillip Buchanon and team vocal leader Rod Woodson to lead the charge. They also have a stellar linebacker in Napoleon Harris who has the ability to rush, cover or help defend the run.

On offense, the Chiefs have to stop getting into so many third and long situations. Last week they converted only one third down possession and that cost them field position and put a lot of pressure on the defense.

One of the reasons the Chiefs offense struggled last weekend was the inability to run the ball effectively. Priest Holmes has not had a 100 yard rushing game since the last time the Chiefs played the Raiders. The problem with the Chiefs offense has been they've either gone exclusively pass or run. They need to get the balance back or more performances like the one in Cincinnati are possible.

Green has been on fire and the Chiefs should use him to get the offense rolling. Then turn to Holmes. But Holmes has to be used more in the passing game. They need to set up screens and not waste him in passing situation by blocking. He's their best playmaker on offense and they are still not utilizing him enough. Holmes needs more touches.

With Marc Boerigter and Eddie Kennison both plagued by nagging injuries and possible snow during the game, Holmes, Green and tight end Tony Gonzalez should be at the center of the Chiefs offensive attack.

Guard Brian Waters is questionable for the game and Donald Willis will fill in for Waters if he's unable to go. Willis does a great job at pass blocking but he's not as skilled as Waters in blocking the run. The Chiefs like to pull their guards and this week they'll probably run outside and rely on their tackles more than in past games.

On paper this is a complete mismatch but the loss of the Bengals game has lingered in the locker room this week and that's a concern.

If the Chiefs use the loss to motivate them, than it was a fortuitous loss. But if the Chiefs come out sloppy and struggle to beat or worse get beaten by the Raiders, then the Chiefs very favorable second half schedule might become even more difficult. It starts now with the Raiders.

Nick's Notes:

* The Chiefs are 8-3 against the Raiders the last eleven seasons. They've outscored the Raiders by nine points per game at Arrowhead in that same time period.

* Running back Zach Crockett has been the Raiders go to guy in short yardage situations. Crockett is automatic near the goal line as he's scored six touchdowns already this season.

* The Raiders offensive line has already given up 24 sacks this season trying to protect Rich Gannon, Marquez Tuiasosopo and Rick Mirer. One of those sacks was courtesy of the Chiefs Shawn Barber who knocked out Gannon for the season and quite likely ending his NFL career.

* The Raiders are 0-5 in road games this year. The Chiefs are undefeated at home going 5-0.

Fearless Prediction : Chiefs 31 – Raiders 14

Season Prognostication Record : 8-2

2003 Game Recaps
Week #10: Bengals 24 – Chiefs 19 Week #9: Chiefs 41- Browns 20 Week #8: Chiefs 38 – Bills 5 Week #7: Chiefs 17 – Oakland 10 Week #6: Chiefs 40 – Packers 34 OT Week #5: Chiefs 24 – Broncos 23 Week #4: Chiefs 17 – Ravens 10 Week #3: Chiefs 42 – Texans 14 Week #2: Chiefs 41 - Steelers 20


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