The matchup of the Oakland Raiders offense against the Kansas City Chiefs defense is Exhibit A in terms of why you cannot go by the numbers.
Then again, don’t expect lightening to strike twice when the two teams meet Saturday at Network Associates Coliseum. Kansas City won the first meeting, 20-10, in Week 8. Oakland amassed 417 yards of total offense but turnovers and the inability to convert third downs plagued the Raiders. Oakland turned the ball over twice and went just 3-of-9 on third down.
On paper, this matchup looks like a mismatch. Kansas City is ranked dead last in the NFL in total defense while the Raiders have the top-ranked passing attack. The Chiefs, however, are second in the NFL, and first in the AFC, in takeaway margin at plus-16.
“We did not do well inside the red zone,” Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for (Kansas City defensive coordinator) Greg Robinson. They play with a lot of pride on defense.”
That pride is very evident in creating turnovers, something Oakland can ill-afford.
“I think we are a better defensive team now than we were then,” Kansas City head coach Dick Vermeil said. “Since that game we have played five games at home and have given up an average of 11.8 points a game. Where we haven’t played well is on the road, so we need to bring our home defense with us on the road.”
There is one problem, however, Chiefs running back Priest Holmes is out of action with a hip injury. His absence will hurt Kansas City’s ability to control the pace of the game against a Raider defense that has improved markedly in the second half of the season.
Plus, it is possible but not probable that a defense will slow down Oakland’s offense twice in the same season. Keep in mind, the Chiefs defense will not have the benefit of the often raucous Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org