TSX: Chiefs-Raiders Game Scout
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The top two rushing offenses in the NFL will lock horns in a very physical divisional battle. The Chiefs also stop the run very well (96.4 yards per game) and have a plus-five turnover margin on the season.
Kansas City ranks last in the league at 164.4 passing yards per game, but will take a few deep shots per game and the Raiders likely will be without top CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle). Raiders QB Jason Campbell is expected to start his third straight game, and Oakland has amassed 92 points the past two weeks. But the offense runs through RB Darren McFadden and his ability to buy Campbell time behind an offensive line that isn't great in pass protection.
The Chiefs have a seven-game winning streak at Oakland.
The Raiders have 1,053 yards in total offense the past two games.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Those ugly days, when the Chiefs defense could barely get into double digits over an entire season with quarterback sacks, are gone. Compared to the NFL-record low of 10 sacks they had over 16 games in 2008, having 15 in seven games seems quite a bounty. But this is still not a defense that gets to the passer nearly enough. Almost half of those sacks have come from one man -- linebacker Tamba Hali, who has seven. He's tied for fourth in the league. In total, there are only five defensive players with sacks this season, only two have more than two sacks -- Hali and defensive end Wallace Gilberry.
"Overall I think our pressure on the passer has been good," said Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. "There's always more to it than just the sacks. The idea is to make the quarterback uncomfortable. I think we've done enough of that."
The Chiefs are No. 16 in yards allowed, right in the middle of the league. For a bend-but-don't-break defensive team like they've been this season, that's not a bad ranking. But with 15 sacks they trail all but four of those teams in that group of 16. The defense that has allowed the fewest yards in the league so far has been San Diego, and the Chargers have 25 sacks. The New York Giants are No. 2, and they have 24 sacks.
Those 15 sacks have come on 286 passing plays, or one sack every 19 times the opponent goes back to pass. That ranks them No. 20 in sacks per passing plays among NFL defenses and it's not good enough. As Haley said, sacks do not always tell the whole story when it comes to pressure. The lack of a consistent pass rush shows up in the takeaways as well. The Chiefs have just nine takeaways in seven games (six interceptions and three fumble recoveries.)
Pressure on the quarterback leads to poorly thrown passes that are inaccurate and/or badly placed and it also leads to the pass rush hat trick ever defensive player loves -- the sack, strip and fumble recovery. The Chiefs do not have a sack, strip and fumble recovery this year. That they are plus-5 as a team in the turnover ratio is due almost entirely to the offense, which has turned the ball over just four times in seven games.
"We are working constantly on creating more turnovers," said Haley. "It's something we address every day."
Getting more hands on the quarterback would help.
When all the love is flowing in the direction of Darren McFadden, the gaudy rushing stats and the passer rating of Jason Campbell, Langston Walker has been around long enough to know what that means. It means he and his teammates on the offensive line are doing their job, and doing it well.
"If you're an offensive lineman and you've been one for a while, you're sort of used to not being mentioned when it comes to success," Walker said. "At the same time, you're the first person to get pointed out when things go badly. That's just the nature of being an offensive lineman. That's nothing new. I've been doing it for most of my life."
Walker was a rookie on the Raiders' last winning team, the 2002 Western Division and AFC champions. He eventually became a starter at right tackle, leaving the Raiders for the Buffalo Bills in free agency following the 2006 season. Walker was released by the Bills last season, returned to the Raiders to play some tackle and guard, and established himself as the starter on the right side in the offseason.
It helped that with the arrival of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the Raiders began to integrate some power-blocking schemes to go along with the zone blocking that typically calls for linemen who weigh less than Walker's reported 360 pounds. Over the last two games, the first time the Raiders have won back to back games since the end of the 2008 season, Oakland has 567 yards rushing and now is ranked No. 2 in rushing to Kansas City. It's enough for Walker that teammates realize he's doing his job, even if there is little in the way of public recognition.
"The guys know where there bread is buttered, and I guess that's all that really matters," Walker said. "People that really know football realize that if your offensive line isn't very good, probably your offensive football team isn't going to be very good."
--WR Dexter McCluster and his sore ankle should be ready to attempt a return to the field after missing two games. McCluster suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs game with Jacksonville on Oct. 24. His absence has slowed down the offense a bit, especially in the passing game.
--RB Thomas Jones continues to make his run into NFL history. The 11-year veteran will soon become the 25th player in NFL history to run for 10,000 career rushing yards. Jones is currently on pace to have his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
--CB Brandon Flowers has elevated himself into the upper echelon of AFC cornerbacks and one of the reasons is not only his cover skills, but his willingness to provide run support. He's among the top five tacklers on the team and seldom misses when he has an open-field tackle.
--DE Tyson Jackson continues to have trouble getting any significant playing time now that he has returned from his left knee injury. Jackson was injured in the season opener, missed the next four games and finally got back on the active list. Yet, he's been unable to get only minimal playing time.
--RT Barry Richardson has been the surprise of the first half of the season for the Chiefs' offense. About halfway through training camp, Richardson seemed on the verge of seeing his career in Kansas City end. But when the starter at RT Ryan O'Callaghan suffered a groin injury on Aug. 24, Richardson was thrown into the starting lineup and he's not been out since then.
--QB Jason Campbell was named the starter for Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
--CB Nnamdi Asomugha did not practice with a sprained ankle and is unlikely to play although coach Tom Cable is calling it a game-time decision.
--TE Zach Miller missed practice with an arch injury and is questionable to play against Kansas City.
--QB Bruce Gradkowski was limited in practice and will not start, although he could be the backup quarterback.
--LB Travis Goethel, a rookie sixth-round pick from Arizona State, will be active for the first time, and will back up at weak-side linebacker, and play on special teams after being out the first eight games following back surgery.
--LB Thomas Howard will be active after missing four games with a knee injury, play on special teams and back up at strong-side linebacker.
--WR Chaz Schilens, out since the start of the season after what was first called minor surgery, is still rehabbing and now the club is calling the procedure "extensive."
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