The Kansas City Chiefs will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive Saturday afternoon with a victory over the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
A huge 19-14 victory over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers is the only reason the Chiefs can still talk about the postseason. They were left for dead after being blown out by the New York Jets and head coach Todd Haley was fired, but rallied around interim coach Romeo Crennel for the shocking win.
It won’t be easy to keep their path to the playoffs open with a Raiders team that also needs a win. Oakland has lost three straight and sits one game behind the first place Denver Broncos. If they are going to turn things around the final two weeks of the season, they’ll have to do it without Darren McFadden. This will be the running back’s eighth straight missed game due to a foot injury suffered last time these two teams met.
The Raiders will also be without WR Jacoby Ford, DT John Henderson and S Michael Huff.
Crennel’s Chiefs are nearly at full strength, playing only without starting safety Jon McGraw.
It’s been the defense that has gotten the attention lately for Kansas City, especially after shutting down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but the offense should have a chance to shine Saturday against the Raiders. Oakland’s defense has been bad for most of the season, but during their three-game losing streak they are giving up 36 points per game.
With one of the league’s best rivalries set to help decide the outcome of the AFC West, here are the three players from each team to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Kyle Orton
It seems pretty simple, maybe too simple, but the Kansas City offense will go as far as the quarterback will take them. It’s been the case for this team since Jackie Battle and the Chiefs rushing attack disappeared. With Tyler Palko unable to function as even an average NFL quarterback, the Kansas City offense struggled and the season spun out of control.
Orton took the reigns last week and put together a masterful performance. He completed 23 of his 31 pass attempts for 299 yards and while he did find the end zone, more importantly he didn’t find a player in another jersey.
For the Chiefs to sweep the season series from the Raiders, Orton doesn’t need to be Superman. They just can’t have him turn into Tyler Palko.
Defense: Glenn Dorsey
There haven’t been many pass rushers better in the NFL this season than Tamba Hali. He’s fresh off a three sack game against the Packers and will be the main focus of the Raiders offensive line, but Oakland quarterbacks are among the toughest to bring down in the league.
We’re not saying Hali isn’t going to be a handful on Saturday, but this is a line built to contain a team’s main pass rusher. When teams have gotten to the Raiders quarterbacks, it’s usually from the defensive line, including seven of the last nine. The door should be wide open for someone like Dorsey to step up and have his name called early and often at Arrowhead Saturday.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
Just two field goals away from earning the Chiefs franchise record for most consecutive attempts made, Succop has been the most consistent source of points for the Kansas City offense. That includes last week’s upset over the Packers when he was 4-for-4.
If the Chiefs continue to have trouble getting into the end zone — and there’s no reason to think they won’t — Succop will need to work on taking the team record from Pete Stoyanovich.
Offense: Michael Bush
Even without McFadden, the Oakland rushing attack has been one of the best in the league, averaging over 138 yards a game. Bush has been good for 82 of those as the Raiders starter the last seven game and will get the bulk of the carries Saturday.
The last time these two teams met, Bush racked up 99 yards on just 17 carries (5.8 yard average) but was overshadowed by the six interceptions thrown by Carson Palmer and Kyle Boller.
Defense: Rolando McClain
Oakland’s defense has been struggling, but not because of McClain. During the Raiders three game losing streak the linebacker has averaged eight tackles and one sack, stepping his game up as the players around him have faltered.
The former Alabama star and cousin of Chiefs RB Le’Ron McClain only had two tackles in the Raiders 28-0 loss to Kansas City in Week 7 and isn’t likely to be held in check this time around.
Special Teams: Bryan McCann
He hasn’t taken a kick back more than 36 yards this season, but McCann has the potential. Last year with the Dallas Cowboys he showed off some of his playmaking skills with a 97-yard punt return touchdown and 101-yard pick six.
McCann isn’t at the same level as some of the elite returners Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Succop have had to deal with lately — Devin Hester, Randall Cobb — but the Chiefs special teams need to keep their guard up with the second year player from Southern Methodist.