Pre-Snap Read: Chiefs and Raiders

After dropping a divisional game one week ago to the San Diego Chargers the Kansas City Chiefs now find themselves in a must win situation. It may only be mid-season but if the Chiefs happen to fall to 4-4 it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for them to keep pace with the division leading 6-2 Broncos.

If Oakland is victorious they can conceivably climb back in to the hunt for a wildcard spot and temporarily create a three way tie for second place in the AFC West with themselves, the Chiefs, and Chargers each lingering around 500. With the stakes so high, and the history of the rivalry, Sunday's game will have a playoff atmosphere.

Chiefs Offense vs. Raiders Defense
To no ones surprise the Chiefs primary objective against the Raiders defense will be running the ball and controlling the clock. If you go by the numbers this match-up favors Kansas City as the Raiders will pit their 19th ranked rushing defense against the Chiefs 6th ranked rushing offense.

In the Chiefs and Raiders first meeting of the year back in week two, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson combined for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. This time however the majority of carries will likely belong to Larry Johnson as Holmes is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game with a concussion. Even if Holmes is unable to suit up this week there shouldn't be great cause for concern for Chiefs fans. Historically Johnson has had his biggest games against the Raiders and despite sharing carries with Holmes he has still managed to average 112.3 yards of total offense per game.

Over the past three seasons Kansas City has boasted the NFL's most productive red zone offense but lately it has been a mere shadow of itself. The majority of the blame can go towards the offensive line and to this point in the season the o-line has been a startling disappointment. To further the setbacks there is a strong possibility that Willie Roaf will miss this weekend's with the same bothersome hamstring that sidelined him for the majority of the first four games. Roaf began the week as questionable but by the time practices concluded on Friday coach Vermeil referred to Roaf as "very doubtful". In all probability Roaf is going to miss this game once again shuffles the starting lineup and creates a further setback for an already struggling unit.

With Roaf likely watching from the sideline Jordan Black will once again be moved to left tackle and John Welbourn will take over Blacks duties at right tackle. This leaves the Chiefs with the difficult challenge of containing Oakland's sack master Derrick Burgess. Burgess has had two sacks in each of his last three games and is tied for fourth in the NFL with seven on the season. Although the Raiders use Burgess on either side of the line they will likely line him up on the left side for most of the day in order to exploit the mismatch between he and Black. With this match-up so heavily in Oakland's favor the Chiefs will attempt to assist Black in protecting Trent Greens blind side by utilizing more two tight end formations and two back sets. This will limit Kansas City's ability to spread the slower Oakland defense and as in previous weeks could diminish the role of Tony Gonzalez as a pass catcher.

Kansas City's best avenue for neutralizing Oakland's pass rush is to establish some semblance of their once powerful running game. This is means Will Shields, Casey Wiegmann, and Brian Waters will have to put the offense on their shoulders and find a way to get s push against one of the largest defensive front sevens in football. Defensive tackles Ted Washington, Warren Sapp, and the 280lb linebacker Tyler Brayton will be tough to run against but if the Chiefs can control the game between the tackles they can keep the Oakland defense on their heels. This is the surest way to give Trent Green the time he needs to exploit a decimated Oakland secondary.

Raiders' safety Derrick Gibson and corner Charles Woodson are both out of this Sunday's game due to injuries. This gives the Raiders a starting secondary of Fabian Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha at the corners with Jarrod Cooper and Stuart Schweigert at the safeties. Against this banged up unit the Chiefs receivers should find themselves wide open on a frequent basis. If the offensive line can keep Trent Green upright more than one of the Chiefs receivers will have a very big day.

When it comes to big receiving days the Raiders lack an answer for tight end Tony Gonzalez. Linebackers Tyler Brayton and Danny Clark lack the ability to run downfield with him while safety Jarrod Cooper is five inches shorter and lacks the size to compete for the jump ball. The Raiders may also try to bracket Gonzalez by using their athletic rookie linebacker Kirk Morrison to cover him underneath in conjunction with Cooper covering over the top but Gonzalez has shown the ability to beat this kind of double coverage in the past.

Bottom Line - Kansas City needs a balanced attack on offense in order to keep pace in what will likely turn out being a track meet. Trent Green needs his offensive line to pick it up a notch as he can shred the Raiders secondary provided they give him the time.

Chiefs Defense vs. Raiders Offense
After a dismal 0-3 start the Raiders have been able to 'right their ship' and sail the autumn winds to a 3-1 record in their last four games. Through that four game stretch Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins has thrown for10 touchdowns and two interceptions while his receiving trio of Doug Gabriel, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter have combined for 716 yards collectively. Tailback Lamont Jordan has also played a major role in the offense over the same four week period averaging 4.08 yards per carry and scoring 6 rushing touchdowns. After a months worth of offensive explosion it is obvious that this is not the same Raiders team that lost to the Chiefs in the second week of the season.

The theme of the week is pressure, pressure, and more pressure as a beat up Chiefs secondary will need to depend on their front seven for the brunt of the pass defense. With the Raiders bringing the leagues 4th rated passing offense in to Arrowhead Stadium this weekend Gunther Cunningham has to devise a way to get Kerry Collins to move his feet and feel uncomfortable. Regardless of the risk of being beaten by screens or draws the Chiefs will have to get their linebackers more involved in pressuring the quarterback. Against an aerial assault like the Raiders blitzing the linebackers will be a necessity seeing that the Chiefs top three pass rushers on the defensive line have only combined for a mere eight sacks this season.

Like the Chiefs the Raiders will take the field on Sunday with a make shift offensive line. Oakland will be without the services of starting left guard Langston Walker and they could also be missing starting Center Jake Grove who is listed questionable with a knee injury. Veteran Brad Badger will be playing at left guard in place of Walker while Adam Treu would take over Grove's duties at center should Grove be unavailable. The Chiefs will need to test this portion of the Raider line to see if the break in continuity will result in assignment breakdowns. Twists, stunts, and linebacker blitzes on left side might reveal a chink in the Raiders offensive armor.

In the last game between Kansas City and Oakland the Chiefs played an extraordinary amount of deep zone coverage in an attempt to avoid being victimized by the big play. For the most part it worked as Kansas City only surrendered 263 passing yards and one receiving touchdown. I would expect to see some of the same kind of coverages again this week especially when you consider the injuries to Patrick Surtain and Dexter McCleon. When Eric Warfield, Dewayne Washington, and Bennie Sapp are matched up against Doug Gabriel, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter man-to-man coverage isn't even an option.

Bottom Line - The Chiefs front seven has to play downhill this week and maintain some deceptiveness in their approach. This is an occasion that calls for a heavy dose of zone blitzing from the 3-4 alignment.

2005 Stats and NFL Rankings

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Total Offense: 362.1 (6)
Rush Offense: 131.0 (6)
Pass Offense: 231.1 (11)
Total Defense: 368.4 (29)
Rush Defense: 93.7 (8)
Pass Defense: 274.7 (31)
Turnover Ratio: +5 (8)
Pts./Game: 24.1 (10)
Opp. Pts./Game: 22.9 (23)


OAKLAND RAIDERS
Total Offense: 344.7 (12)
Rush Offense: 86.7 (26)
Pass Offense: 258.0 (4)
Total Defense: 338.0 (22)
Rush Defense: 115.9 (19)
Pass Defense: 222.1 (22)
Turnover Ratio: +1 (14)
Pts./Game: 23.1 (13)
Opp. Pts./Game: 22.6 (22)

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