Oakland Raiders: Know Your Enemy - Kansas City Chiefs

David Wilson – Jul 27, 2012

Once again taking a look at the rivals in the AFC West, here is how the 2012 Raiders match up against the Kansas City Chiefs.

There has of course been changes since last year on both teams, who split the series in 2011. Will it be different this year?

 

Raiders Offense v Chiefs Defense

Oakland will have its two star players on offense, Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer on the field together for the first time this year. They have also upgraded the offensive line and moved to a zone blocking scheme.

The Chiefs once again drafted a defensive lineman with their first pick (three times in the last five years) with Dontari Poe and number 11. Poe at 350lbs is a physical freak in terms of height/weight/strength combination, but he has not translated that into football production in college. His contest with Raiders center Stefan Wisniewski will be particularly interesting, and will be a battle of athletic ability against technique.

Ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey have quietly developed into very solid run stoppers, although do not offer much in the way of ability to get to the quarterback.

With the Raiders being a run first team, they face a tough proposition against a strong Chiefs defensive line, boosted by their first round draft pick.

Number Fire

McFadden if healthy though, is a real difference maker though as we have so often seen.

Amongst the linebackers, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson had excellent years in 2011, and sophomore Justin Houston was also solid.

A great matchup to watch will Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer against Hali. Hali has had the edge in recent games, and is playing at all pro level, but Veldheer is coming into his own and big things are expected of him in Oakland. Possibly there is not a better young left tackle in the league.

Hali is the only real pass rushing threat that the Chiefs have, and considering Oaklands strength in depth at the receiver position, you would expect to see an offensive game plan that takes advantage of that.

I would be surprised if Carson Palmer doesn’t go after ex Raider cornerback Stanford Routt, who was signed by Kansas City in the off season.

Again and again, Routt showed himself to be a liability as a number one corner when in Oakland.

On the other side Brandon Flowers is solid, but struggles with the elite speed and was shown up badly by Jacoby Ford (now that is elite speed…) in 2010.

Kansas will benefit from the return of safety Eric Berry after a major knee injury, but players undergoing that kind of surgery are rarely the same their first season back.   

Even given their problems, my assessment is that the Chiefs have the best defense in the division. That will be interesting, as Oakland has the best offense.

 

Raiders Defense v Chiefs Offense.

I see the Chiefs as having clearly the worst quarterback in the division in Matt Cassell, and that limits what they can do offensively, leaving them as clearly a run first team.

Jamaal Charles has real speed and is a breakaway threat, but like Berry is coming off major knee surgery which is likely to limit his effectiveness. Peyton Hillis is a pounder and has played well at times, but he has both injury and character concerns that are worrying.

The Chiefs have a young and talented offensive line, with John Asamoah, Brandon Albert, and Rodney Hudson. Last years dreadful right tackle Barry Richardson has gone, and the Chiefs will look for a starter between rookies Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson. Allen very much looked the part in the college all star games, and must be favorite.

Opposite them, Oakland has one of the best defensive lines in the league, led by DT Richard Seymour.

Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaugnessy, Richard Seymour, and Lamarr Houston are all quality players, and how the Chiefs young linemen handle this group will be key to their offensive success. Look for Seymour to make it tough for second year center Rodney Hudson.

Oakland needs better play from its linebackers, Rolando McClain in particular. WLB Aaron Curry has the chance to have a breakout season under Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver’s new scheme,  and look for him to shine. If the Raiders ability to defend the run will be tested anywhere, it will be in Kansas against the Chiefs.

If getting pressure on Philip Rivers is the key to beating the Chargers, then stopping the run is the defensive key to beating Kansas City.

Shut the running game down and I do not believe that Matt Cassell can beat you with his arm.

Even given that, receiver Dwayne Bowe will continue to be a threat, especially given that Oakland’s defense has question marks at both corner spots. Two free agents and two unproven second year players aren’t the ideal way to start the season, and whilst I don’t say they won’t play well, they remain a question mark.

At tight end, Kansas has returning third player Tony Moeaki (again, returning from major knee surgery), and yet another of last year’s Raiders in Kevin Boss. Boss disappeared for long stretches last year, and had a single uninspiring season in the silver and black.

Raider safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff are both reliable players, who will also look to reach new heights in a more up to date defensive scheme.

Special Teams

Oakland has had the best punter/kicker combination in the league for some years now, and has a dangerous return man in Jacoby Ford, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Chiefs in 2010.

Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop remains a reliable if not outstanding kicker, and punter Dustin Colquitt is also solid, but nowhere near Shane Lechlers standard. In kicking, the advantage is clearly with the Raiders.

Kansas again has competent but not outstanding out and kick returners in Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster, and did not score on a return of any type in 2011. Once again, the edge to Oakland.

In an AFC West Division that looks to be close, the Chiefs solid defense will keep them in the hunt, but ultimately their lack of a good quality passing game will bring them up short.

For the Raiders, stop the run on defense has to be the big challenge here.

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