The Kansas City Chiefs are back in action Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Oakland Raiders to Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are looking to pull the Raiders into last place with them while Oakland has their eyes set on possibly jumping into first place.
For the home team, all eyes will be on new starting QB Brady Quinn. He made his first start since 2009 last week in a lackluster performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but is now officially the Chiefs starting quarterback, even with Matt Cassel healthy.
Quinn and the rest of the offense will get a boost by the return of RB Peyton Hillis, who has missed the last three games (all losses) with an ankle injury. Hillis gives offensive coordinator Brian Daboll an experienced option behind starter Jamaal Charles, so he doesn’t have to lean on Shaun Draughn or Cyrus Gray.
Even if the Chiefs can get their offense back on track with a new quarterback, they’ll have to hope they found some defensive answers during the bye week. Take away their impressive performance against the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City defense has surrendered an average of 30.6 points in their other five games.
Things have looked just as bleak this season in Oakland this season, but they were able to come out on top in the “Battle Of Who Could Care Less” bowl against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. That game was one of the ugliest the league has seen all year and it took overtime for the Raiders to pick up the victory at home.
Will the Chiefs have company in the basement or will they continue their path to the No. 1 pick in April’s draft? Here are the three players to keep your eyes on as Sunday’s action unfolds.
Offense: Brady Quinn
The Brady Quinn era is now officially here!
Filling in for the injured Cassel last week, Quinn did his best impression of Matt, throwing two interceptions while picking up just 180 yards on 22 completions. Now that Quinn knows the job is his without having to look over his shoulder, will that help his performance?
Oakland’s defense held the Jaguars to just 155 yards passing last week, but for the season opposing teams are averaging an impressive 254.7 yards per game in the air.
If Quinn struggles against the Raiders, the next banner flying over Arrowhead will be calling for third string QB Ricky Stanzi to line up under center.
Defense: Tamba Hali
Even with the emergence of Justin Houston, Hali has yet to turn in the type of monster game we have seen so many times from him over the years. He has, however, started to hit his stride following a Week 1 suspension with four sacks over the last three games.
The stage is set for Hali to rack up a three or four sack dominating performance. The Jaguars defense had only recorded three sacks over their first five games, but got to Raiders QB Carson Palmer twice last week.
Special Teams: Javier Arenas
Sooner or later the Chiefs are going to turn in a game-changing return touchdown. Conventional wisdom would tell you it wouldn’t come against one of the best punters in the league in Shane Lechler, but what about this year’s Kansas City team has gone along with conventional wisdom?
Jacksonville’s Michael Spurlock had a 28-yard punt return against Lechler last Sunday, the longest given up by the Raiders this season. That’s good news for Arenas, who is still looking for his first big return of 2012 after turning in just 11 yards on two returns last week.