By Sam McPherson
The Kansas City Chiefs come to Oakland on Thursday night, fresh off a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, and that isn’t good news for the 0-10 Raiders.
When the Chiefs were struggling earlier in the 2014 NFL regular season with a 2-3 record, this may have looked like a game that Oakland could perhaps pull out of a hat for a win, but now? Forget it.
The Raiders are no threat to beat Kansas City this week, as the Chiefs are humming along just fine with five straight wins—and they are tied with the Denver Broncos atop the AFC West Division.
Kansas City is 7-3 now, thanks to those five straight wins since their bye week. In order, the Chiefs have beaten the San Diego Chargers, the St. Louis Rams, the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks.
In the first five weeks of the season, K.C. lost to the Tennessee Titans, the Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers, while beating the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. That 41-14 win over Tom Brady and Bill Belichick looked to be the high point of the season for the Chiefs, but now, anything seems possible.
The Chiefs may have been a surprise playoff team last year, but this season, they look like they mean business. Head Coach Andy Reid has this team primed and rolling right now.
Chiefs on Offense
Former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith leads the Kansas City offense, and remember, this is a team that put 56 points on the board during its last trip to the Coliseum. Smith is the type of QB that won’t win a lot of games for you, but he’s not going to lose many for you, either. Remember, the 49ers would have been in the Super Bowl in 2011 with him at QB if their special-teams play had been merely average.
And of course, there’s running back Jamaal Charles. Remember how many TDs he scored in Oakland last year? Five, including four on passes from Smith. He’s very good, obviously.
Tight end Travis Kelce has emerged as a serious threat in the passing game as well, with four TD catches this season. That number leads the Chiefs.
Chiefs on Defense
Inside linebacker Josh Mauga leads the K.C. defense with 66 tackles, and outside LB Justin Houston has 12 sacks to pace the Chiefs’ pass rush. The team has three other defenders with at least four sacks, and while the secondary isn’t picking off passes, teams have not had a lot of success passing against the K.C. defense.
The Chiefs have given up just 201.6 yards passing per contest, best in the NFL right now. That pass rush is one of the reasons why.
Chiefs Players to Watch
This is pretty simple: Charles, Kelce and Houston.
If Charles is able to run wild—and catch passes out of the backfield from Smith—the Raiders are in trouble. If Kelce is able to run free through the injury-depleted Oakland secondary, the Raiders are in trouble.
And if Houston has his way and sacks Oakland quarterback Derek Carr a few times, the Raiders are in trouble.
Sense a theme here?
One team in this game has won five straight, while the other has lost 16 consecutive games. One team is atop the best division in the AFC, while the other team is slowly creeping towards historical humiliation. No one in their right mind would pick the Raiders to win this game, even at home.
The Oakland offense is coming off its worst game of the season, too, even if the defense played pretty well. But in a short week, the 35 minutes the defense spent on the field Sunday in San Diego is going to hurt them against Kansas City’s methodical offense.
Look for the Chiefs to be up by 28 points at halftime on Thursday night before cruising to an easy victory.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.