Five to Watch: Chiefs vs. Raiders

Last week the Kansas City Chiefs showed surprising resiliency on the road in a 14-point loss at Baltimore. Todd Haley's bunch played hard, showed emotion and made enough plays to make a game of it late into the fourth quarter. In Week 2, KC's archrival is in town and, quite possibly, Matt Cassel will be on the field for the first time this season. But will that be enough for a win?

Let's hope so, because writing about a losing team again would be tragic. It's bad enough that two of the Chiefs six wins in the last two seasons have come over the Raiders. That's pitiful.

Can the Chiefs continue that trend against a Raiders team that blew a fourth-quarter opportunity last Monday night in their season opener against the San Diego Chargers?

What we learned about the Raiders is that they can run the ball and the addition of defensive end Richard Seymour upgraded their defense. Will we see the same things in Kansas City? My bet is that both Oakland's running game and Seymour will be tough for the Chiefs to stop, but not impossible.

Though those are key issues, nothing will compare with the fact that quarterback Matt Cassel is likely to make his debut Sunday. After a disappointing preseason that ended in injury, nobody has a gauge on what type of player Cassel will be this year.

Right now the future of the franchise is squarely on Cassel's shoulders. And if you asked him about carrying that burden, he'd probably welcome it. It's not been easy for him to sit on the sidelines. This week he got a vote of confidence from his friend Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to a come-from-behind victory Monday against the Buffalo Bills.

The Chiefs are hoping they have the man that can lead them to the promised land. I'll reserve judgment on that issue until I see Cassel play (health provided) the next five weeks. I'll settle for a win on Sunday and a 2-2 mark against the NFC East in the following weeks before I'll jump on his train.

That's what's at stake for the Chiefs Sunday. If they lose, they'll be 0-2 on the season and in the conference and 0-1 in the AFC West.

Todd Haley understands the importance of this game. He had to be pleasantly surprised with the way his team competed last weekend and right now he has a chance to get a leg up on the AFC West. A win, and both the Chargers and Chiefs would stand 1-0 in the division. That might not seem like much but it's huge for this organization and football team.

So Sunday, if you're one of the fans at Arrowhead, root on your Chiefs until the bitter end. It might take 59 minutes to secure a victory, but my guess is Haley's Bunch gives maximum effort, and the head coach might actually realize his football team has come farther than he thought they could at such an early point in the year.

Five to Watch:

1. WR Bobby Wade - If the Chiefs are going to improve offensively they need a third wide receiver to make some plays. The addition of Wade should accomplish that. He has over 50 catches the last two years and also return abilities, which should help the field-position issues that are killing the Chiefs. Wade was a huge pickup for the Chiefs and he could pay immediate dividends.

2. LB Derrick Johnson - He's been on this list twice now, and still sits third on the depth chart, but awakened from his slumber last game with a big interception that led to a touchdown. Bottom line is that it's all on him right now. The Chiefs have lit the fire and if Johnson does not have a big game this weekend he could sit on the bottom of the depth chart for some time. This is his chance to put two solid games together.

3. CB Brandon Carr - He won't get much of a challenge this week but needs to play better. He wasn't strong last week against the Ravens and he struggled in run support. He must do a better job against Oakland's run-first offense. If not, the Chiefs' entire defense will struggle. It's already weakened by the absence of Brandon Flowers.

4. TE Sean Ryan - It's critical that the Chiefs develop offense from the tight end position. Though Ryan caught his first career touchdown last Sunday the Raiders' defense is vulnerable over the middle of the field. Cassel needs to find Ryan or his backup, Brad Cottam.

5. Demorrio Williams - If he's going to keep his starting gig, I want to see more plays. His strength is running down backs and sliding to the action. He was so-so last weekend and this defense needs him to be aggressive playing in the 3-4 scheme, as he was at his peak in Atlanta. He has talent, instincts and though he's not as gifted as Derrick Johnson, he's in the starting lineup because some feel he has more upside. I'd like to see it.

Prediction:

Oakland Raiders 16 @ Kansas City Chiefs 23

The Rest of the AFC West:

Cleveland Browns 5 @ Denver Broncos 6

Baltimore Ravens 43 @ San Diego Chargers 19


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