The Raiders simply must win their next two games to have a chance at the playoffs. The Chiefs are playing for the playoffs themselves and will need to win the last two games. This is a late December trip to Arrowhead with playoff implications despite struggles along the way for both teams.
Reeling after an explicable defensive meltdown last week at home versus the Detroit Lions, the Raiders will attempt to pick their season off the scrap heap Sunday in Kansas City. Temperatures will be win the mid 40s and mild, not what one would expect for a late season trip to Arrowhead stadium. The mild temperatures mean the Raiders will have dodged their cold-weather games this season. It didn’t make any difference in their blowout loss to the Packers two weeks ago and the Raiders are hoping to avoid any repeats.
The last time the Raiders faced the Chiefs, Todd Haley was the Head Coach and Matt Cassel was the Quarterback for the Chiefs. Fast forward 11 weeks and Romeo Crennel and Kyle Orton are leading the Chiefs final leg of the season with a slim opportunity to make the playoffs by winning their final two games.
Crennel, a coach with a deep history with Bill Parcells, would be a candidate for several open defensive coordinator positions if he doesn’t retain the top job in Kansas City. It is believed Crennel’s performance over the final two weeks will make a difference and he’ll have his team ready to go.
The Raiders last faced Orton in week one sacking him five times and limiting him to 52.2% completion percentage despite allowing him to pass for over 300 yards. Orton has only been sacked four times since week one in 141 attempts.
Rewind to week 7
Darren McFadden goes down with what seemed like a minor foot injury and is still recovering. Lack of his presence in the Raiders offense is significant reason why the offense has sputtered down the stretch. Kyle Boller is back on the bench and Carson Palmer has had more than a few days to prepare for the Chiefs. The Chiefs blew out the Raiders in Oakland.
When the Raiders have the ball:
Not to short change the Chiefs defense, but it is really a three-man wrecking crew. Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers are all dangerous defenders at each level of the defense. In the passing game, the Raiders will avoid Brandon Flowers as much as possible and hope to keep Hali blocked long enough for Carson Palmer to get the ball to his other receivers. Johnson is excellent against the run and the Raiders offensive line will need to get to him in the running game to make sure he isn’t blowing up Michael Bush’s chance at big runs.
Jared Veldheer vs. Tamba Hali
Veldheer struggled with Hali in week 7. Hali was putting pressure on or hitting the Raiders quarterback on all of the Raiders six interceptions that day. Veldheer knows Hali and he will need to limit him and the bull rush move Hali had success with. The Raiders could try to roll a back to his side at risk of pressure coming up the middle. It’s a chess game the Raiders win if Veldheer can limit Hali.
Michael Bush and Offensive Line vs. Derrick Johnson
The offensive line can really help Bush versus the Chiefs linebacker. If the offensive line can seal off Johnson and Bush can get into the secondary he’ll have a big day. Bush hasn’t had a solid day running the ball since week 10 in San Diego. The good news is the Raiders had success running the ball against Kansas City in Oakland, but the interceptions put them in such a hole that the running game couldn’t be a focus. Johnson is a good run defending linebacker and the Raiders success on the ground depends on Bush slipping past Johnson and the Raiders getting a blocker on him.
Carson Palmer vs. Chiefs Secondary
Brandon Flowers is most dangerous, but the Chiefs secondary gobbled up all kinds of errant passes the last time these two teams played. Palmer, with a much better handle on the offense, needs to shred the Chiefs secondary. The Raiders will need to protect Palmer and if they can do that Palmer has the weapons to get payback. Expect the Raiders to setup the deep pass with the run and see if they can’t make a few big plays in the passing game. Expect Darrius Heyward-Bey to continue to be the possession receiver and the Raiders to run Denarius Moore deep.
Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Brandon Carr
The Raiders best matchup is with Brandon Carr on the outside. The Raiders want to exploit the Chiefs safeties and getting them to roll help to one side will equal opportunities in the passing game to the other. If Carr plays soft Palmer will take the short gains all day long, but if Carr starts playing close to the line the Raiders will try and get one deep behind the corner and deep outs and crosses in front of the safties. DHB has been the Raiders most consistent, healthy, and productive receiver. Expect that to continue.
When the Chiefs have the ball:
It starts with stopping the run and allowing the Raiders defensive line to get after Kyle Orton. Breaston and Bowe are very capable receivers and if given time Orton will find them open down the field against a week Raiders secondary. The Chiefs are using a running back by committee approach that is working. Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster are all getting snaps and present different challenges.
Rolando McClain vs. Chiefs Three-Headed Running Back
McCluster is a scat back type with a bunch of speed. McClain and the Raiders defense have to seal the edge and force McCluster to take his runs inside. Jones is a much more traditional back that the Raiders have had good success stopping in the past. He’s smart, but lacks the burst he once had. McClain needs only to fill the right running lanes to keep Jones from hurting the Raiders. Battle is the true weapon here. Battle is a little bit like Michael Bush, he’s big and fairly nimble for his size. He’s bruising because of his size and McClain will not be able to arm tackle Battle and have success. There is a lot of pressure on McClain as he must account for several different looks on offense.
Stanford Routt vs Dwayne Bowe
Routt need to put together one of his good games that is also penalty free. He’s capable and has a challenge with Bowe. Good news here is Bowe is good, but he is no Calvin Johnson.
Raiders DL vs. Chiefs OL
Things typically start in the trenches and that’s where the Raiders defense can do damage. The Chiefs are particular suspect on the right side of the line. Expect the Raiders to attack Barry Richardson and Jon Asamoah. Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston should have a nice day and if Tommy Kelly and Kamerion Wimbley can get into the mix the Raiders should be able to put pressure on Orton and force him into mistakes.