The Kansas City Chiefs head to Oakland Sunday to take on the Raiders in the battle of two of the worst teams in the NFL. Both squads are in the running for the top pick in April’s NFL Draft and the winner will have a tough time catching the Jacksonville Jaguars for the right to choose first.
Draft picks aren’t the goal of the players and coaches of each team, instead Romeo Crennel and his crew will try to win their third game of the season against their hated rivals. Luckily for Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the three injured starting linemen are all active and ready to lead the way for Jamaal Charles.
To assure Brady Quinn doesn’t lose another game for the Chiefs, it will be Charles seeing plenty of action early and often for Kansas City. He only carried the ball 18 times in last week’s 30-7 embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns, but picked up 165 yards, his second highest total this season.
On defense, the Chiefs get to try and slow down a top 10 passing offense, though one that is more than happy to turn the ball over. Raiders QB Carson Palmer is about to go over 4,000 yards for the season, but he’s also thrown 14 interceptions and could lose some of his snaps to second-year QB Terrelle Pryor.
Which teams will get closer to locking up the No. 1 overall pick? Here are the three players to keep your eye on Sunday afternoon as the top of the draft starts to shake out.
Offense: Jon Baldwin
The Chiefs will need to pound the ball on the ground if they have any chance of taking out the Raiders and everyone in the stadium knows it. So at some point Kansas City will need to be able to move the ball through the air as Oakland loads up the box and dares Quinn to make a play.
Baldwin has followed up his disappointing rookie campaign that was marred by a locker room fight with Thomas Jones with another less than stellar effort. With Bowe out for the final three games, the second-year wide receiver has a chance to show he is ready to be the type of play makers GM Scott Pioli thought he was when he was selected in the first round in 2011.
Defense: Derrick Johnson
The last three seasons, few Chiefs players have enjoyed matching up against the Raiders as much as Johnson. In five games he has averaged nearly nine tackles against Oakland and will need to turn in another one of those efforts if Kansas City plans on keeping things close.
Johnson is just 27 tackles short of the career-high he set last season and should have no trouble setting that mark over these final three games.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
Last week the Chiefs opened with a touchdown and were set to take a 10 point lead when Succop missed a field goal and Kansas City never had a chance to score again. Obviously Succop’s miss wasn’t the reason Crennel’s defense surrendered 30 points, but this sort of poorly prepared team hasn’t been able to recover from any sort of let down this season.
In order to even sniff a victory, the Chiefs need everything to go their way and that will mean Succop can’t afford to miss the few attempts he’s likely to have.