2004 RANKINGS: Raiders: offense 15th (32nd rush, 7th pass); defense 30th (24th rush, 31st pass). Chiefs: offense 1st (4th rush, 4th pass); defense 31st (14th rush, 32nd pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: While the Chiefs have averaged 39.8 points the past four games, the Raiders have allowed an average of 32.0 during that same span. Kansas City is rolling in large part because of the big-play ability of RB Larry Johnson, who will start even if Derrick Blaylock is healthy. The Raiders don't stop the run or pass very well, and it will be interesting to see if CB Charles Woodson is used against Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez again - that is if Woodson gets past a knee injury and a Monday morning arrest to play. But Oakland has managed to split those past four games because QB Kerry Collins is heating up with his young receiving corps. Oakland barely pretends to run the ball anymore and Collins will have to exploit the Chiefs' weak secondary for the Raiders to keep it interesting.
FAST FACTS: Raiders: Collins has 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in his past five games. ... Their opponents' .582 winning percentage is the second-highest in the NFL. Chiefs: Johnson has 373 rushing yards and a 6.5-yard average in the past three games. ... QB Trent Green's 629 completions from 2003-04 is a team record for a two-season span.
SCOUT.COM PREDICTION: Chiefs 34-24
RAIDERS PERSONNEL NEWS:
CB Charles Woodson (ankle) continues to be listed as doubtful and is not expected to play Saturday.
CB Phillip Buchanon (tailbone) continues to be listed as doubtful and is not expected to play Saturday.
DT Warren Sapp has his streak of seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections snapped when he did not make the AFC roster announced this week.
RB Tyrone Wheatley will miss another game with his hamstring injury and it's not known whether he will be able to play in the season finale.
TE Courtney Anderson (knee) has been practicing this week and might play Saturday for the first time since being injured Nov. 7.
CHIEFS PERSONNEL NEWS:
WR/KR Dante Hall, who was scheduled to start a second straight game at wide receiver for the injured Johnnie Morton, did not work in Thursday's final extensive practice prior to Saturday's 4 p.m. Christmas Day home game with Oakland. Hall, who twisted an ankle in Wednesday's practice, is listed as questionable, though coach Dick Vermeil held out hope Thursday that Hall would be ready to play.
WR Samie Parker, after catching three passes for 84 yards with a 48-yard touchdown bomb in his only extensive action of the year last week against Denver, got plenty of first-team reps Thursday in the absence of receivers Johnnie Morton and Dante Hall. Parker worked with the first-unit offense and the kickoff return unit, where he will play against Oakland if Hall can't on a sore ankle.
RB Larry Johnson, who will be looking for his fourth straight 100-yard game when he starts for a second straight time against Oakland on Saturday, could also figure in kickoff return duty should Dante Hall not be able to play because of a sore ankle.
T Willie Roaf, named to a 10th Pro Bowl on Wednesday, missed a second day of practice Thursday with pain in his feet caused by gout, an ailment that can be brought on by dietary habits. "This is not a football issue; it's a fork issue," said coach Dick Vermeil, who remained hopeful that Roaf would be able to play. If he doesn't, the Chiefs will have to put Trent Green's blind left side in the hands of two unproven candidates, second-year man Brett Williams or rookie Kevin Sampson.
WR Eddie Kennison, who caught a 70-yard bomb in which he ran through two tackles for the game-winning touchdown in the final 124 seconds of the game in Oakland just three weeks ago, would also return punts against the Raiders should Dante Hall not be able to play on a sore ankle.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
RAIDERS - Quarterback Kerry Collins is listed as probable on the injury report with an abdomen injury. In reality, he's just dealing with general soreness and there's nothing to be concerned about.
Especially considering Collins was named the NFL player of the week following his career-high five touchdown performance against the Titans last Sunday. He finished the game with a 119.5 passer rating and threw for 371 yards.
Collins continues to appear more and more comfortable in the offense, and is clearly beginning to flourish in coach Norv Turner's vertical passing scheme. In his last five games, Collins has 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Compare that to five touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in his first seven starts of the season.
So it was certainly a welcome site when Collins returned to practice midweek to begin preparations for the Chiefs. Collins has not been limited in what he's able to do, coach Norv Turner said.
"In fact, we had a couple movement-type things for him, and I was going to let (Marques Tuiasosopo) do it, and (Collins) said, 'I'm fine. I can do it,'" Turner said.
CHIEFS - For a 6-8 team vying to reach .500 by running the table over its last five games, the Chiefs did better than expected in having five players voted into the Pro Bowl.
Three others were named alternates. All were offensive players.
Having three players selected from Kansas City's imposing offensive line was not a surprise. Especially when considering that two of them, guard Will Shields and tackle Willie Roaf, were honored for the 10th time each.
But the feel-good story among the Chiefs selections was guard Brian Waters, a college tight end turned defensive end in his final year at North Texas who broke into the NFL as an undrafted center candidate who failed to stick with Dallas in 1999.
After a stint in NFL Europe in 2000 and special teams action with the Chiefs that same season, Waters was Kansas City's emergency starting center in the 2001 season opener. He had two fumbled exchanges with Trent Green in his Chiefs debut and went home that night "just hoping I'd still be on the roster that next week."
But "the next week" was delayed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and Waters suddenly had a different perspective on football.
"That put a lot of things into perspective as far as with football and how the world works and life in general," he said. "It's sad to say it, but (9-11) actually took a lot of light off the performance the week before. When Casey (Wiegmann, KC's starting center) came back, people kind of forgot about it. But I have yet to forget about it."
Moved to guard later in that '01 campaign, Waters worked and improved to the point that he's now considered among the league's elite linemen. He'll make his first trip to Hawaii with Roaf, Shields, fullback Tony Richardson and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Alternates Trent Green, Priest Holmes and Dante Hall are eligible to join them later.