"In Oakland the games you always really wanted to come see were the Niners and the Chiefs," Morrison said. "You grew up hating red. It goes deep. It's not just the teams, it's the organizations. You know, like which organization is better? They've been AFC West rivals for a very, very long time. It's always been a must-win game."
For the Raiders, beating the Chiefs would be a big step toward confirming themselves as legitimate challengers in the AFC West. Kansas City was the only team from the division to win its season-opener last week and would put Oakland in a two-game hole with a win Sunday night.
SBI and Warpaint, the internet site devoted to covering the Chiefs, sat down for a point-counterpoint session outlining the five most important topics heading into the game:
Question 1: What does Kerry Collins have to do against the Chiefs secondary that allowed over 300 yards in passing last week?
SBI: For Collins and the Raiders to have success through the air, it comes down to one thing: protection. Oakland's offensive line did not hold up well against New England's pass rush last week, which forced Collins to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted. Where Collins failed was in locking in on Moss the entire game, The Raiders have plenty of play-makers elsewhere, like Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and tight end Courtney Anderson, who scored two touchdowns against the Pats. Though the temptation to go deep to Moss is great, Collins has to take a patient approach against Kansas City and wait for the slow opening routes over the middle. If he can get that going early, it should open things up downfield for Moss and others, who can take advantage of Kansas City's dinged-up secondary.
WARPAINT: Collins is one of those quarterbacks capable of throwing five touchdowns or four interceptions in a single game. If he studies last weeks game film, he'll know that the Chiefs had a weakness covering tight ends and wide receivers in the middle of the field. Granted they struggled when Surtain left the game in defending the pass but they are vulnerable. Rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson struggled in passing situations last week and if Collins was smart; he'd be wise to use his tight ends and running back first in the passing game. If he continues that downfield aerial display and focuses on Randy Moss, then the Chiefs defense has a much better shot at stopping the Raiders offense.
Question 2: Can the Raiders defense stop Holmes and Johnson?
SBI: No defense will be able to fully stop Holmes and Johnson, so the Raiders aren't pinning their hopes there. Instead Oakland wants to limit the effectiveness of Kansas City's ground game and try to put the game in QB Trent Green's hands. Oakland did a good job of swarming and containing New England RB Corey Dillon last week despite playing most of the second half in its dime defense. The Raiders were most effective against the run when DE Bobby Hamilton and LB Kirk Morrison were on the field, but they'll need more than that against a powerful tandem like Holmes and Johnson. The Raiders need to be more active up front on the defensive line; otherwise it's up to the linebackers and a questionable secondary to make the tackles, and that's not a winning proposition as far as Oakland's concerned. The key remains in trying to take Kansas City out of the running game and forcing the Chiefs to throw. An early lead from the offense will go a long way toward making that happen.
WARPAINT: No way. If you had a lock-of-the-week, this would be it if you were a Chiefs fan. Even without All-Pro left tackle Willie Roaf and All-Pro fullback Tony Richardson, the Chiefs have enough horses on the offensive line to pave the way for 200 plus yards rushing. Holmes and Johnson are the NFL's best running back duo. The Raiders defense has to be shivering with fear at what these two running backs could accomplish Sunday night. Holmes has the darting and cutback ability that can cause the Raiders fits. Johnson is so fast and powerful that one small seam and he's off to the races. With the Raiders using seven or eight men in the box to stop the run, Kansas City could have numerous long runs. If Holmes and especially Johnson manage to get into the Raiders secondary, Kansas City could run for over 300 yards.
Question 3: Where's The Beef?
SBI: Oakland's offensive line had a terrible night against New England and has to rebound against a Chiefs defense that was very impressive against the Jets last week. That won't be easy. The Raiders have the beef up the middle to run effectively but they essentially abandoned the ground game in the second half against the Pats after falling behind by two scores. Norv Turner has to be patient and allow his line to get into a groove; against Kansas City, it might not come until the third quarter. Turner wrote off the pressure on Collins by New England, saying the Patriots do that to every team. If it happens against the Chiefs, Turner and the Raiders will have no excuse.
WARPAINT: Kansas City Chiefs have the best offensive line in football. Even with the aforementioned injuries that Kansas City faces this week on the line, the Chiefs have the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. For the Raiders though they're young on the offensive line; didn't bring their best foot forward against the Patriots. After the initial drive, the line had no answers for the Patriots relentless pass rush. In the second half they didn't do a strong job or blocking well for Lamont Jordan. The Raiders line has the talent to dominate but has yet to show that ability in a game situation. If they want to win this game, the Raiders have to be more consistent blocking for Jordan and protecting Kerry Collins who needs time for those long passes to be successful.
Question 4: Is This a Must Win for the Chiefs or Raiders?
SBI: It's tough to make a Week Two game critical, but for the Raiders it's more than that. A loss would put Oakland in a deep hole with a trip to Philadelphia on tap the following week, and it would bring even more heat from the faithful who expected big things from their team this season. Conversely, a win can put the Raiders back on track and right in the thick of things. More than just a notch in the victory column, a win over Kansas City would be a big emotional boost for a team that was lost four straight and five of the last six games overall against the Chiefs.
WARPAINT: For the Chiefs they sit a top the AFC West. After defeating the Jets a week ago, the rest of their division rivals all lost. With two straight AFC West games on their slate, the Chiefs can distance themselves from the rest of the division with a win against the Raiders on Sunday and the Broncos a week later. Even further a win would put the Chiefs up two games plus the tie-breaker on not only the Raiders but the loser of Sunday afternoon's AFC West contest between Denver and San Diego.
Question 5: Who will win?
SBI: It may be cliche, but games involving teams from the AFC West have a life of their own no matter when or where it is or what the records are going in. That's the case again this year. Kansas City was very impressive in its win over the Jets but let's face it, New York isn't exactly a world-beater this year. Oakland has won its last seven straight home openers, the last loss coming to the Chiefs in 1997 when Andre Rison caught a last-second touchdown on Monday Night Football. To get it to eight, the Raiders need to build off progress made by the defense last week and get a better effort from QB Kerry Collins and the offense. Both teams can score in bunches so there won't be a lot of time for napping. Raiders win 31-27.
WARPAINT: This to me is a trap game. There is no doubt that the Chiefs are clearly the better all around team. But this team has struggled on the road in the Dick Vermeil era and even though they've won their last two meetings in Oakland, they spent so much time preparing for the New York Jets that if they're not focused the Raiders will win this game. Kansas City is fortunate that they have some depth along the defensive and offensive line. They'll need every bit of that if they want to win this game Sunday. For the Chiefs their offensive performance against the Jets was not stellar. Yes they ran for nearly 200 yards and passed for more than that but they struggled at times to find a rhythm. If they find it, especially early in this game, the Raiders could be in for a long evening. On defense, Kansas City will blitz Kerry Collins using both their linebackers and safeties to put pressure on the Raiders quarterback. Randy Moss will likely get his yardage but the Chiefs have more than enough talent to shut down the rest of their offensive firepower to win this game. Chiefs win 34 -23.