The Oakland Raiders take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football in a key battle for the top of the AFC West.
The Raiders are coming off their sixth-straight win in which quarterback Derek Carr led his team to 29-unanswered points to beat the Buffalo Bills 38-to-24.
The Raiders haven't lost since Week 6, when they last took on the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders currently hold a one-game lead over the Chiefs atop the division, making Thursday night's game even more important.
The Raiders will have a key piece back for their second matchup with their division rivals as starting running back Latavius Murray was out for their first matchup with a foot injury. Getting Murray back is key for the Raiders offense as getting the running game going will set up the Raiders passing game. The Chiefs are allowing almost 122 rushing yards per game, 27th in the NFL.
Carr and the Raiders offense will need to protect the ball going against a Chiefs defense that thrives on turnovers as they have a +14 ratio thus far. Oakland-native and Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters leads the NFL with eight interceptions this season while the defense has a total of 25 takeaways.
Carr also needs to keep an eye on All-Pro safety Eric Berry who single handedly won the game for the Chiefs last week, returning an interception for a touchdown and then scoring the game-winning points on an interception for two points on a two-point conversion. Berry has returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns this season.
The Raiders offensive line has done a stellar job keeping Carr off his back this season and will get another tough test Thursday. The Chiefs present one of the toughest front sevens in the league and now have Justin Houston back, who had three sacks in his first game back last week. Opposite of Houston is Dee Ford, who has 10 sacks this season which is tied for third most in the NFL.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and his offense had his way with the Raiders defense in their Week 6 matchup. Quarterback Alex Smith has quietly put together another good season, throwing for 2,567 yards and 11 touchdowns with only four interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes.
The Raiders have struggled to cover the tight end again this year and one of Smith's favorite targets is one of the best tight ends in the league, Travis Kelce. Kelce leads the team in receptions (65) and receiving yards (815).
The Chiefs have found another weapon since the two teams' last matchup. Rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill has become a favorite weapon, catching five touchdowns, rushing for a touchdown and returning a kickoff for another score. Hill will arguably be the fastest guy on the field and the Raiders defense will need to keep an eye on him. The Chiefs look like they may also get receiver Jeremy Maclin back, adding to their weapons they can use with their misdirection.
The Chiefs elected to shut down running back Jamaal Charles after he came back from ACL surgery, and Spencer Ware has led the team with 734 rushing yards with three touchdowns. Ware is a big back that it tough to tackle, but hasn't had a 100-plus rushing game since he did it against the Raiders in their last matchup. The Raiders need to make sure they use the proper tackling technique to bring down the big back.
The key to the Raiders defensive success against the Chiefs is to stay disciplined against all the misdirection the Chiefs use on offense. The Raiders defenders will need to make sure they set the edge and wrap up the Chiefs speedy playmakers.
The Raiders will take on another AFC West rival next week, heading to San Diego to take on the Chargers on Dec. 18.