The Matchups - Chiefs vs Raiders

Chiefs vs. Raiders - Sunday, 12 PM CDT, Arrowhead Stadium.

WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS

Will Matt Cassel play? It's uncertain, but just because the Raiders are in town does not mean life will be easy. Oakland's secondary is athletic and aggressive, their pass rush definitely improved with the addition of Richard Seymour, and they will give the Chiefs problems. The Raiders will use Seymour at every spot on the defensive line – both tackle spots and both end spots. On early downs he will line up at end, and in passing situations he'll play both defensive tackle spots as a three-technique. The simplest way to say it – Seymour will literally challenge every offensive lineman the Chiefs put on the field at some point.

Seymour is not an outside pass rusher with a burst. But his bull rush is highly effective. After a lackluster game against the Ravens last week, Chiefs fans should be concerned over Branden Albert. With his lighter 305-pound frame, can Albert handle Seymour's strength? When Seymour lines up inside the Raiders bring backup defensive end Trevor Scott off the bench to take his place.

The Raiders' pass rush is really more about strength than speed. Left end Greg Ellis isn't exactly Dwight Freeney off the edge, either. He gave San Diego right tackle Jeromey Clary all he could handle in Week 1, however. The Raiders likely will not blitz much, preferring only to rush four.

In the secondary, as always, the Raiders will bring man-to-man coverage on most snaps. Nnamdi Asomugha is more than capable of handling Dwayne Bowe alone, and this will be a big test for KC's third-year receiver. It should be noted that despite his reputation, Asomugha is not invincible. San Diego's Vincent Jackson burned him for a touchdown in Week 1

At the other corner spot, former Chief Chris Johnson isn't a big name, but had a terrific game against the Chargers in Week 1, batting down several passes in man coverage. Johnson has the size and speed to cover any of KC's receivers, but his lack of experience may prompt Todd Haley to go after him.

EDGE: Raiders


WHEN THE RAIDERS PASS

On paper, Oakland's passing game looks terrible. To be honest, it's terrible no matter what, but there is certainly potential there. If JaMarcus Russell could simply throw accurate passes instead of terrible throws that are way off the mark – we're talking completely uncatchable balls – the Raiders might be really dangerous on offense. Their receivers have few issues getting open.

It's not all Russell's fault, however. With two rookie receivers – Darius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy – mistakes are to be expected. Both Heyward-Bey and Murphy dropped passes in Week 1, and Oakland's receivers combined to drop four, counting Murphy's controversial play in the end zone. On Russell's first interception, Murphy failed to cut off Quentin Jammer, who undercut the route for the turnover.

At times Oakland's passing game really flourishes, however. Mostly, when they use play-action and feature tight end Zach Miller. The Raiders' line gives Russell plenty of time to throw and Miller will be a challenge for KC's linebackers, especially after they were victimized in Week 1 by the Ravens and Todd Heap.

Russell himself, besides his inaccuracy, has made some strides as a quarterback. He doesn't appear flustered by what defenses show him and doesn't have issues with holding onto the ball or checking off his receivers (although he will still stare down receivers at times, and cannot yet manipulate safeties). The Raiders cut the field in half for him at times, which clearly makes life a little easier for him.

From a protection standpoint, it will be interesting to see if Tamba Hali can beat Oakland's left tackle, Mario Henderson. A year ago Henderson came off the bench and made his first NFL start against Hali, and made him practically disappear. Last week, Henderson turned in a credible performance against San Diego's Shawne Merriman. Although he did not completely shut him down, Henderson did not allow a sack to Merriman. The Raiders are sound across the board in their protection. There is no one player that stands out as a huge weakness. You can see the effect that continuity has had on their line, as they return four of five starters from a year ago.

The Chiefs may get cornerback Brandon Flowers back in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the Raiders' Javon Walker will return to the playing field, although probably not as a starter. Oakland's best receiver, Chaz Schilens, will miss his second straight game.

EDGE: Chiefs


WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN

The Raiders have taken steps to improve their previously awful run defense, and it shows. Ellis and Seymour are big, stout ends who can control the edges in the run game. Michael Huff, a liability in run defense last year, now only plays in passing situations. Tyvon Branch is Oakland's new starter at safety.

The Chargers struggled immensely to block the Raiders in the running game, although the game-winning touchdown came on a run right up the middle by Darren Sproles. But there's no question Oakland is stout at the point of attack (Mike Goff may struggle some against defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who gave San Diego issues), and with the return of their super athletic linebackers – Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard – the Chiefs will have a difficult matchup on their hands again.

More than anything, however, the Raiders appear to be a more fundamentally sound football team. Last year they lacked discipline. When training camp began this season, Oakland head coach Tom Cable took the whole team back to basics, and it's paid off so far.

Edge: Raiders


WHEN THE RAIDERS RUN

This by far is Oakland's greatest team strength. Their line works wonderfully together, they have three talented backs in Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas (who didn't even play in Week 1), and they run the ball with great variety, using different formations and attacking different areas of the field.

At times Oakland will utilize a dual backfield with Bush and McFadden. It's actually difficult to say who the better back is at this point. Everyone knows about McFadden's blinding speed, but to this point he's been something of a disappointment in his NFL career. Bush is a load for any defender and though he's 245 pounds, has the speed to take it the distance, as exemplified by his 67-yard touchdown a year ago. With Bush's power and McFadden's quicks, the Raiders will test KC's tackling, which wasn't great last week against Baltimore's Ray Rice and LeRon McLain.

Oakland had little difficulty neutralizing San Diego's stout nose tackle, Jamal Williams, a week ago, leading to 148 rushing yards. The Raiders have a new, large center in the form of Chris Morris, a former guard, who handled Williams well last week. Can Kansas City's Tank Tyler win the battle this week in the same role? That will be the key for the Chiefs, who couldn't stop the run a year ago and haven't stopped it yet this year, giving up over 200 yards to the Ravens last week.

Edge: Raiders


SPECIAL TEAMS

The Chiefs may be able to uncork Jamaal Charles in their return game Sunday if last week's Chargers/Raiders matchup is any indication. San Diego's Darren Sproles ripped off two huge returns against the Raiders. Oakland returns their ever-reliable kicker/punter tandem this year with Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler, but have a new kickoff return man in Louis Rankin. Punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins is a bigger threat, however.

EDGE: Raiders


INTANGIBLES

The Chiefs will get a huge emotional boost in the first home game for the new regime, and an even bigger boost if Matt Cassel starts. The Raiders, meanwhile, may have a slight hangover from their disappointing loss a week ago, and are coming off a short week. The Raiders really have no idea what to expect from the Chiefs, who have established little continuity on either side of the ball. Of course, that didn't matter to the Ravens.

EDGE: Chiefs


PREDICTION

The Chiefs won't turn in a 23-8 stinker as they did a year ago in Week 2 against Oakland, but the Raiders are simply a more talented football team with more continuity on both sides of the ball. JaMarcus Russell's comically bad passing will keep it close.

Raiders 20, Chiefs 17.

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