WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
The Chiefs didn't protect the quarterback all that well last week, but they face an Oakland pass rush this week that has been a huge disappointment. After combining for 21 sacks a year ago, Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess have zero through six games in 2007. Burgess has been nicked up, but who knows what Sapp's problem is. He dropped down to 285 this year but it doesn't appear to have added much to his game.
The one player the Chiefs do have to worry about is defensive end Tommy Kelly, easily Oakland's most talented lineman. He's quick enough around the edges and yet powerful enough at 300 pounds to give Kyle Turley and Chris Terry fits – it's anyone's guess who starts at right tackle for the Chiefs right now. Otherwise, KC's offensive line should be able to handle the rush, although the Raiders mix and match their defensive linemen quite a bit – Burgess will swap sides and backup Tyler Brayton will line up at defensive tackle from time to time.
In the secondary, Damon Huard will have to be wary of second-year safety Michael Huff, who freelances a bit like Troy Polamalu from time to time (thought he's not nearly as good as Polamalu against the run). With Huff and Nnamdi Asomugha patrolling, don't expect Dwayne Bowe to do much. It'll be interesting to see what Tony Gonzalez does tomorrow, also, as the Raiders have a linebacker in Thomas Howard who can easily match up with the All-Pro tight end. Howard has four interceptions this year, and middle linebacker Kirk Morrison has three, so this is a week to avoid risky short passes if you're Huard.
WHEN THE RAIDERS PASS
I know he was a locker-room cancer, but the Raiders could really have used Randy Moss this season with Daunte Culpepper returning to action. Right now, Oakland has no deep threat, and despite his huge arm, Culpepper rarely looks to go deep or even intermediate. This is a plodding passing game, with Ronald Curry (22 catches) doing most of the work.
Culpepper really isn't playing well at the moment, and there's a lot of talk that rookie JaMarcus Russell may find his way into the lineup sooner than later. The veteran quarterback has been wildly inaccurate in limited playing time, and isn't putting much touch on his passes, either. Culpepper has only been with the team for six weeks, so his problems aren't surprising, but you'd expect him to get rid of the football at the least. Instead, he's holding it, and has fumbled a few times, a problem for him throughout his career.
The good news for Raiders fans is that Robert Gallery has been moved to left guard, and Barry Sims is providing much better pass protection at the left tackle spot. Oakland's offensive line as a whole is much improved, but they aren't dominant. Look for Lane Kiffin's gameplan to feature a whole lot of tight end and back help on Jared Allen – which means opportunities for Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali will be there. With no deep threat on the Raiders, the Chiefs will be sending the blitzes hot and heavy in all likelihood.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
The Chiefs had marginal success against the Bengals a week ago (119 yards for Larry Johnson), and this week they face the league's worst run defense in terms of yards per carry allowed – Oakland is giving up 5.6 per rush, to rank 32nd, and only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns. Here's why – Terdell Sands, thought to be a prolific run stopper, has gotten lazy after signing a big contract, and has already been benched in favor of Gerard Warren.
But there are more problems. The Raiders are soft all along the defensive line. They've been pushed around in every game. Compounding this issue is the fact that Stuart Schweigert and Michael Huff, the starting safeties, are horrible in run support. Neither of them is going to lay a lick on anyone, and they simply aren't a force in the box. Oakland was stuffing eight and even nine defenders near the line of scrimmage last week against San Diego, with little effect.
Oakland does, at times, flash an interesting 5-man defensive line look (they did this last year), but scheme can't make up for the lack of talent here. The Chiefs have likely seen all of this on film and are salivating to get on the field with Jason Dunn and Brian Waters – they know their struggling run game can easily get healthy this week. With Warren and Sapp missing several days of practice this week, things aren't likely to improve for Oakland. Bottom line – this should be Larry Johnson's best game of 2007 so far.
WHEN THE RAIDERS RUN
Give Lane Kiffin credit, because he's successfully installed a terrific running game in Oakland in just one offseason. The Raiders utilize the zone-blocking scheme popularized by the Denver Broncos, and they have the right linemen to execute it to perfection. What's even better is the fact that LaMont Jordan and Justin Fargas are running harder than ever, especially Fargas, who appears to be well-suited for the scheme (he's been a disappointment since coming into the league).
Jordan is nicked up with a sore back, but should play this weekend. The Chiefs know how to stop this scheme – they stuffed the Broncos to the tune of 38 yards rushing last November – but haven't been great against the run this season. The Raiders are pretty conservative on offense – they love to pound the ball over and over again – so look for the Chiefs to get tested big time. Oakland knows they can't win in the passing game, so this is the game where KC's defensive tackles, Napoleon Harris and Bernard Pollard must show up.
Sebastian Janikowski hasn't missed under 50 yards this year and is booming his kickoffs. Shane Lechler is his normal Pro-Bowl self. Give the edge in kickers to the Raiders, but the Chiefs do have a slight edge in coverage teams. Oakland is struggling to return kicks this year, but kick returner Chris Carr is a big-time threat and will pull double duty this weekend as he replaces struggling rookie punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins.
The Raiders believe in Lane Kiffin, and the grey cloud that hung over the organization a year ago is gone. First place in the division is there for the taking, and though the Chiefs may be the more talented team, Oakland is surely tired of hearing how long their divisional losing streak has extended. Kansas City has beaten Oakland eight straight times.
Raiders play-by-play announcer Jim Poppa guaranteed a win for the hometown team this weekend. Oakland won't go quietly, but the Chiefs simply have too large of an edge on defense and in the running game (and at quarterback) for the Raiders to pull this one out. The streak continues – and if you've been following Film Review for the last seven weeks, another one ends.
Chiefs 27, Raiders 13
Film Review: Chiefs vs Raiders
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