Five To Watch: Chiefs Vs. Raiders

The only player we'll be focusing on this Sunday will be quarterback Trent Green. I know one man doesn't make a team, but as the Chiefs stand 5-4 on the season, they'll face their arch-rivals the Oakland Raiders, who will do whatever it takes to win this AFC West showdown.

For the most part, these two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Raiders are the worst offensive football team since the AFL-NFL merger. It doesn't matter if Andrew Walters, Aaron Brooks or Kenny Stabler lines up behind center on Sunday. Oakland has a terrible offensive line that has as many injuries as the Chiefs' starting line, a bad running attack and the most unimaginative play calling I've seen this year.

Did I forget they have two of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL in Randy Moss and Jerry Porter? Enough said.

But all eyes will be on Green. He'll have the full attention of the Arrowhead fans, the players – from both sides – and his coaching staff, who'll be holding their collective breath after the Raiders hit him for the first time.

And if you think for a moment that the Raiders defense isn't going to come after Green with everything in their Silver and Black handbag, you better think again. They're going to do whatever it takes to roughly welcome him back to the NFL after his eight-game layoff.

Green just has to get back into the swing of things and not try to do more than he's capable. That might be easier said then done, because Green is a gamer. He's been practicing for three weeks now and he's itching to get back into the game.

He's also very prepared. In his weekly chat with the local media, not many asked him anything about the Raiders except yours truly. The forgotten part of this quarterback drama is the fact the Chiefs are in the midst of a playoff war. They have to start winning games again and start putting some distance between themselves and the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals.

That has to be the primary goal more than anything else. The San Diego Chargers, in my opinion, are the class of the AFC West right now. What they did in Cincy last weekend was shocking. They have the best overall team in the AFC and they're playing like they can do something in the postseason, despite the fact Marty Schottenheimer is their head coach.

The Chiefs really can't worry about trying to win the division considering at the moment they're the third-best team in the AFC West. At the moment they have seven AFC games ahead of them and there isn't a better quarterback to lead them down the stretch than Green.

You can forget all that talk about Green not being ready or the fact head coach Herm Edwards played with the media. Deep down, he knew once the franchise quarterback was ready there was no other choice to be made.

To Edwards credit, he played it the right way. Last weekend he gave Damon Huard the opportunity to keep the job, but it became clear he wasn't the man to get it done down the stretch. Don't get me wrong, if Huard hadn't played so brilliantly we'd all be talking about draft picks instead of playoff possibilities right now.

Green has a daunting task in facing the Raiders and Broncos all within five days. Regardless of the fact he hasn't won a game all season long, he knows he has to win the next two if Kansas City is going to be a player down the stretch.

It's fitting that the playoff push coincides with Green's return to the lineup. The Chiefs have been up and down the last nine games, and as I told you in the early weeks of the season, the playoff talk won't be contingent on Green and the offense. It'll boil down to the defense. If they do their part, then Green will do his, and that's the perfect recipe for a post-season berth in January.

Five to Watch:
1. WR Rod Gardner - I think this has to be the game that Gardner steps up and starts to show the coaching staff what he can do. They need his size in the offense, especially with Tony Gonzalez on the bench. Dante Hall is ineffective in the passing game, so Gardner has a golden opportunity to take charge. With Samie Parker struggling with consistency, this offense might not reach its potential until another wide receiver can make plays opposite Eddie Kennison.

2. TE Jason Dunn - ‘Diesel' has the hands to catch passes. He can also run precise routes. Somewhere along the line he became the best blocking tight end in the history of the game. Now they need him to keep Oakland's defense honest by running down the middle of the seams and catching a pass or two like he did last year in Miami.

3. TE Kris Wilson - Are you starting to see a theme here? Wilson was grossly underused last weekend in Miami. The Chiefs are wise not to mess with him this week by moving him ahead of Dunn. Wilson has exceeded expectations as our version of slash. He's done an outstanding job at fullback and when he's been used in the passing game has shown the ability to get first downs and touchdowns.

4. S Jarrad Page - Outside of defensive end Jared Allen, there wasn't a better defensive player on the field against the Dolphins than the Chiefs seventh-round draft pick from UCLA. He has the speed to play safety, but he's still lacking some experience. He won't get much of a test this weekend against the Raiders, but it should serve as a tune-up for the Broncos game. Page and fellow safety Bernard Pollard are the future and it's been the lower-round draft pick that's received the bulk of the playing time between the two. Page is a player and someone to watch whenever he's on the field.

5. RT Kyle Turley - This is a huge game for Turley. He was outstanding in his return to the starting lineup in St. Louis but not so hot last weekend in Miami. The Chiefs are going to need the Turley, who dominated the Rams, if they're going to matriculate the ball down the field. But more importantly, Green has to feel comfortable in the pocket and know that Turley can keep pass rushers out of his grill. For now he's the Chiefs best option at right tackle and he'll have his hands full on Sunday.

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