Oakland Raiders Keys to Success: Kansas City Chiefs

Andrew Flores – Dec 1, 2015

            The Raiders are on the turnaround and while it wasn’t impressive, the Raiders were able to hold off the Titans. The Raiders’ defensive game plan was masterful as they forced the Titans to put the game on rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota’s shoulders. Offensively Quarterback Derek Carr was surgical slicing through the Titans’ secondary. (Take notes broadcasters it is not David, and really it is not that difficult to remember is it?) This week the Raiders will face a familiar foe in the Kansas City Chiefs. Many analysts believed that this team was out of the playoff picture after they lost offensive centerpiece and star running back Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs’ slow start has been all but forgotten, and the focus has shifted to their recent success as the Chiefs have won 5 games in a row. The Chiefs are now in the playoff hunt.  The Raiders will need to conquer the Chiefs as they clash in a contest that could define this team’s season.

            In analyzing this Chief’s team the strength of this roster is the team’s dominant defense. The defense for the Chiefs has plenty of big names and they will definitely look to impose their will on the Raiders. The Chiefs have done an excellent job of harassing the quarterback as they have amassed 30 sacks this season. Yet it is the Chiefs ability to force turnovers (14 interceptions) that has this team red hot. The Chiefs’ secondary has suffocated opposing offenses. So the Raiders will face a defensive goliath on Sunday. But there is still hope as the Bill’s offense exploded last week against this Chief’s defense. While the Chiefs were able to rally late and close the game, the Bills proved that this goliath of a defense can fall.

        Offensively the highlights for this Chiefs’ team are Quarterback Alex Smith, running back Spencer Ware, receiver Jeremy Maclin and playmaking tight-end Travis Kelce.  Smith has often been viewed as a game manager, but he has excelled within Andy Reid’s offense. While Smith is not the type of quarterback that can carry a team, Smith allows the Chiefs to play opportunistic football.  While it is not flashy it is effective, and Reid has this Chiefs team averaging a 5th best 26.1 points per game.  Spencer Ware has been one of the biggest surprises of this season he is currently averaging an astounding 6.5 yards per carry. While many think Charcandrick West will seize the role as the featured back, I think Reid will ride the hot hand and stick with Ware. Ware while not the most explosive athlete is a powerful downhill runner. On tape you see Ware displaying great vision and anticipation. He does an excellent job of being patient with his runs.  Ware gouges defenses with his hard-nosed running style.

          The Chiefs’ aerial attack is led by Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. Let’s look at Maclin first; Maclin is a receiver that I view as a borderline elite player. Maclin’s stats support this as he currently leads the Chiefs with 57 receptions and 772 yards.  While he does not consistently dominate like an elite player, he has all the traits of an elite wide receiver. On film you see a player that can really do it all. Maclin is an explosive athlete, and an astute route-runner. In many ways his playing style reminds me of Antonio Brown’s.  Kelce on the other hand is an elite player, unlike Maclin, Kelce has consistently dominated. Last year when Kelce broke out many began to compare Kelce to the NFL’s best tight end Rob Gronkowski. This comparison is spot on as Kelce is a rare playmaker and a solid blocker. Kelce’s impact is undeniable as he currently has 54 receptions, 689 yards and leads the team with 4 touchdown receptions.  Kelce will be the biggest threat on Sunday as the Raiders have struggled with tight-ends all season, and Kelce has been exceptional all season. 

          Defensively the Chiefs are imposing. The defensive line for the Chiefs is led by the talented trio of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dontari Poe. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have been relentless this season as they have a combined 14 sacks. Yet Dontari Poe could have the biggest impact for the Chiefs as the disruptive nose tackle could capitalize on center Rodney Hudson’s injury. It is noteworthy that Dee Ford’s role has increased within this Chiefs’ defense and he has been solid in spurts. In the secondary Eric Berry’s play has improved as the season has progressed, and his leadership has been a clear factor in the Chief’s defensive success. The cornerback tandem of Sean Smith and Marcus Peters will challenge the Raiders’ receiving tandem of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Peters will likely be tasked with shutting down Amari Cooper. Marcus Peters does an excellent job of reading the quarterback’s eyes. Peters plays with the trademark confidence of a shutdown corner, which is a rare as he is still only a rookie.  Peters excels at making aggressive breaks on the ball and this trait has served him well as he currently leads the Chiefs with 4 interceptions. As a final thought look for the Chiefs’ defense to key in on running back Latavius Murray as he embarrassed them around this time last season.

            Defensively the Raiders will look to pressure Alex Smith as the Chiefs opponents have combined for 35 sacks this season. The Chiefs could be crippled by injuries come Sunday as left-tackle Eric Fisher sustained a neck sprain, and center Mitch Morse sustained a concussion. The Raiders could attack this Chiefs’ offensive line in a variety of ways and Ken Norton Jr.’s ability to put pressure on Smith will be a key factor within this game. Luckily for the Raiders Mack looks like he is no longer hampered by injury and he was downright dominant on Sunday with 2 sacks. Look for Dan Williams and Mario Edwards to dominate the line of scrimmage and stifle the Chiefs’ ground game. The Raiders will likely have David Amerson cover Jeremy Maclin as he impressed last week against the Titans. The Raiders will also need to figure out how to shutdown playmaking tight-end Travis Kelce. Ken Norton Jr. could look to have Taylor Mays cover the tight-end again as they did experiment with it on Sunday against the Titans.

            Offensively the Raiders will need to run the rock as this team’s lack of offensive balance has hurt them in recent weeks. Luckily Murray will be confident against the Chiefs, as his breakout performance came against them last season. Cooper came back strong last week with 7 receptions for 115 yards, but he has a tough match up this week as he will likely be covered by standout rookie corner Marcus Peters. That said while Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been the highlights of this offense, the performances of Seth Roberts and Clive Walford could decide this game. The Raiders could look to use Clive Walford in the end zone where he has been a mismatch.  Seth Roberts stepped up big last game, but this could be the biggest game of his season as Sean Smith and Marcus Peters could shut down the Raiders’ top 2 targets.  As a final thought it is time for Musgrave to hand Carr the reins to the offense. Carr has shown flashes of greatness throughout the season, and the time has come to give Carr the keys.

         If the Raiders can shut down the Chiefs’ run game they will have won half of the battle, but the Chiefs are playing like a playoff team. This game promises to be an all-out war as division rivals fight for a wild card spot. This game will be won by the toughest team.  If the Raiders can handle the Chiefs they will have clawed their way back into the playoff picture.

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