Insight from the Real Experts: Raiders vs. KC

It is time again for our weekly conversation with the real experts of the Chiefs upcoming opponent, the fan who follows the team day in and day out. This week the Chiefs have a return match up against one of their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders.

In the second game of this season the Chiefs defeated the Raiders 23-17 on a Sunday night in Oakland. That was a game many Raiders fans felt the referees beat them rather than the Chiefs as two apparent touchdowns were wiped away by penalties.

The win over Oakland vaulted the Chiefs to a 2-0 record while sending the Raiders to an 0-2 record. The Raiders went on to lose their third straight game to start the season, but have seen a resurgence since that point. The Raiders are 3-1 in their last four games, including winning their last two. The explosive Raiders offense has scored 72 points in those two games. The Chiefs seek to avoid starting a losing streak by rebounding from last weeks 28-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

This week we revisit with fans of the Oakland Raiders. Our panel consists of the following:
• Robert Bledsoe, 39 year old office administrator, from Santa Rosa, CA; a Raiders fan for 31 years.
• Cesar Kisielewski, 29-year-old project manager, from Antioch, CA; a Raiders fan since 1983.

When we visited with these Raiders fans in week 2 they thought the Chiefs would struggle to cover the talented wide receiver corps of Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel. In essence they were right as Moss produced 127 yards receiving and one touchdown and Porter had 68 yards receiving on five catches. However, this time around our panel focuses on another facet of their offense, running back Lamont Jordan, and a newfound pass rush from their defense to secure their third consecutive win.

Question: After a 1-4 start the Raiders have put together a 2 game winning streak. What's been the biggest difference in the last 2 games?

Answer: "There are a few things that have taken place the last two games. First of all the Raiders have found a pass rush to go along with its run stopping. The Raiders sacked Steve McNair 6 times in Sunday's game. The one thing that I feel has jump started the Raiders is the fact that Lamont Jordan has stepped up and taken the team on his shoulders. Lamont has proved that he was a good choice to bring in over the off-season." – Robert Bledsoe

"I think the biggest difference the past two games aside from playing easier opponents has been two factors: Lamont Jordan and an increased pass rush by the front 4, particularly Warren Sapp. Aside from Turner making a better effort to run the ball, Kerry Collins appears to have taken Rich Gannon's advise a couple of weeks to ago to check down to Jordan instead of throwing the ball away when primary receivers haven't been open. This has put the team in much more manageable 3rd down situations and helped our offense establish a rhythm. Defensively, our pass rush has been getting to opposing QB's. Our sacks have been up, as have our QB pressures. Derrick Burgess brings a legitimate threat from the edge and Sapp is showing his old form in collapsing the pocket with occasional backfield penetration." – Cesar Kisielewski

Question: As you analyze the Chiefs and Raiders after 7 games, why will the Raiders go into Arrowhead and win?

Answer: "I have the confidence that the Raiders can win this game because the Raiders and Chiefs have been going in two different directions lately. The Chiefs started off the season strong but have since then tailed off. On the other hand the Raiders have improved. Finding the end zone more frequently and closing teams out was a problem for the Raiders. The Raiders have improved their red zone efficiency and the last two victories have come with the Raiders winning by two or more score margins. With the offense clicking this is taking pressure off of the defense, which has shown a big improvement. With Gibson and Woodson out on the defense our rookies have stepped it up as well has Nnamdi Asomugha. For the Raiders to win this game they will have to play mistake free football and stop the run like San Diego did this last Sunday." – Robert Bledsoe

"If the Raiders can establish the running the game and get Jordan 20+ carries we will have an excellent chance at winning this game. With the youth on our defense, it is imperative that we do everything possible to control time of possession and keep KC's offense off the field. That's not to say I wouldn't like to take the occasional shot downfield to test KC's shaky secondary, but I wouldn't go into the game banking on the big play as our only means of putting points up." – Cesar Kisielewski

Analysis: Given the performance of the Chiefs pass defense this year facing a diverse and explosive offense like the Raiders is not an ideal scenario. The Chiefs have shown an improved run defense and have not surrendered a 100-yard rushing performance to a running back in the last 14 games. However, the question is whether or not that is real or just that teams know they can pass for 300+ yards. Keep in mind that Lamont Jordan had a long touchdown run called back the last time these two teams met because of a holding penalty. While the call was a legitimate call, the player being held (Derrick Johnson) would not have stopped the run. The Chiefs will need to prove they can stop the run and also find a way to penetrate the line of scrimmage and rush the quarterback. The defense performs well when they've been able to pressure the quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, it all starts with the offensive line. The line did not perform well against the Chargers and Trent Green took a beating as a result. The Chiefs offensive line must find its identity and protect Green as well as open up running lanes for Holmes and Johnson if the Chiefs are to be successful in this game.

Question: The Raiders have been hammered with injuries in their secondary. How will they overcome and make a playoff run with 2 rookie cornerbacks?

Answer: "First off to make the playoffs would be one of the biggest comebacks in the history of football. The injury bug hasn't effected the Raiders as much as you would think it would the Raiders even though they have a lot of youth compared to years past have two rookies in the secondary (the Raiders 1st and 2nd overall picks) that have been learning more and more as the season has gone along. I believe it takes a player four years to develop into a true NFL player. The rookies have shown that they can learn on the fly. This is something Tory James and Phillip Buchannon had problems with.

The two DB rookies have actually been playing throughout the season so far and the only difference is when they are on the field and for how long. They both know how and have the talent to shadow their man. Jarrod Cooper isn't a rookie but has come in to take over Derrik Gibson's spot and this is a very special player who started for the Panthers in the Super Bowl. Another rookie our LB Morrison who was picked well after your LB who received all the accolades coming out of college has better numbers because he has the instincts to play at a high level." – Robert Bledsoe

"We do have Asomugha, who is in his 3rd year manning one of the starting CB spots, but Stanford Routt should see a lot of action in the Nickel. I've been very impressed with Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt's ability to pick up the pro game. They are definitely exceeding all of my expectations. That being said, they are still rookies and will need the supporting cast to step it up around them (on both sides of the ball). If we continue to improve our pass rush and with these youngsters improving every week, making a run at the playoffs is not impossible." - Cesar Kisielewski

Question: As you analyze the Chiefs and Raiders after 7 games, what concerns you as the Raiders head to Arrowhead?

Answer: Stopping the two headed monster of Holmes/Johnson will be key. But stopping those two consecutive weeks, is a tall order for any team. If the Raiders shut the run down the Chiefs will have to rely on the pass. This game will be a big test for the Raiders as the rookies will have to continue to step it up and keep the ball out of Gonzalez hands. The Raiders have been able to sustain long time-consuming drives. If the Raiders can't do this on Sunday the Chiefs will have more opportunities to score and this will put more pressure on the Raiders defense and pressure on Collins who struggles under pressure. Last week was a huge win for the Raiders. The Raiders lost the previous seven meetings in the music city. The win not only broke that losing streak but, it also gave the Raiders confidence that they can win on the road another problem the Raiders have been having problems with." – Robert Bledsoe

"Playing at Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. If the Chiefs get off to a quick start, the game can get away from us really easily, especially with the Chief running attack. Long 10+ play drives will take the crowd out of it and keep momentum with us." - Cesar Kisielewski

Analysis: Historically the Chiefs like to do what they do. However, there are times when it is best to take advantage of what the opposition struggles with. The San Diego game is a perfect example. The Chargers have the best running back in the game but recognized that the strength of the Chiefs defense was its run defense. They opted to take the ball out of Tomlinson's hands and put it in quarterback Drew Brees' hands. He threw over 40 passes and the Chargers jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead. The Chiefs on the other hand did not take the same approach. The Charges run defense is stellar but they have also struggled in pass defense. The Chiefs didn't attack them with downfield passing until the second half. That is when they had success.

The Raiders will be playing with a very young secondary. They have often opted to cover tight end Tony Gonzalez with cornerback Charles Woodson. With Woodson out with an injury, the Chiefs should seek to attack the Raiders defense down the field with Gonzalez, Kennison and Boerigter. Again, in order to do that, the offensive line must give them time to do so.

Conclusion: As the Chiefs and Raiders enter the eighth game of the season, this game takes on the meaning of a playoff game. Whichever team wins is likely still in the playoff hunt. The loser of this game is likely out. In each of the Chiefs three losses they have been blown out in one half of the game. In two of those games the Chiefs have "won" the other half, but have not been able to overcome their poor half of game. It is imperative that the Chiefs coaches recognize their advantages and exploit them as well as make the necessary adjustments during the game to counter what the Raiders are doing. The players must execute and play with a playoff intensity and focus. As we've stated in this article before, the key will be the offensive and defensive lines.

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