For the first time in years, the Chiefs and Raiders will meet for a game that has significant implications within the division on Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
The Chiefs are trying to push their division lead to 3 games in the loss column while the Raiders are trying to prove they belong in the discussion as contenders for a playoff spot.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
Fresh off his game against the Buffalo Bills in which he went off for 238 yard from scrimmage, Charles will be expected to turn in a similar type effort against the Raiders. Oakland owns the league’s 26th ranked rush defense, something that the Chiefs will look to expose early and often. With Charles taking over as the feature back, Kansas City will lean on him heavily once again.
The Raiders own a top 5 passing defense, something that lead to a 50 carry day for the Chiefs, a number that would easily be a season high.
Defense: Glenn Dorsey
Like the Chiefs, Oakland try to do most of their work Sunday on the ground. That means Kansas City’s 7th ranked rush defense will be faced with one of their biggest challenges of the season. Dorsey and the front line will need to get a solid, consistent push to slow down Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
Dorsey is averaging nearly 5 tackles a game the last month and has found himself spending plenty of time in the backfield since the Chiefs bye week. Dorsey will need to step up to that next level in order to slow down what has turned into one of the best rushing attacks in the league.
Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt
It’s not often you have to worry about your punter trying to outduel the guy on the other side of the field, but that’s exactly what the Chiefs are dealing with this week. Todd Haley said that he made sure to tell Colquitt not to try and match the league’s best punter — Oakland’s Shane Lechler — kick for kick.
At the same time, Colquitt needs to get himself back on track, Lechler or no Lechler. Last week he put two punts in the end zone, something he has been a problem for him of late. Obviously part of the responsibility belongs to his coverage team, but Colquitt needs to do a better job of putting the ball in the coffin corner.
Offense: Darren McFadden
The Chiefs aren’t the only team in the AFC West with a game breaker in the backfield.
It might not be the 6.5 yards per carry that Charles is averaging, but McFadden’s 5.5 is still impressive. He is averaging a league-best 147.5 yards per game from scrimmage, proving to be a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches the ball.
Don’t think that he doesn’t earn his yards either. Last week against a top 10 rushing defense, McFadden had 21 carries for 111 yards including a nifty 56 yarder.
Defense: Tyvon Branch
The last few years the Raiders have been a mess, but they have had plenty of fire power on defense, including Branch. The third year safety will not only deliver over the middle, but he is an effective blitzer that will likely see plenty of time up near the line of scrimmage as Oakland tries to slow down Charles and Jones.
Over the past three games Branch is averaging 7 tackles a game and came up with his first interception of the season last week. He’s definitely got the hot hand on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders.
Special Teams: Shane Lechler
Ho-hum, all Lechler did last week was average 52.8 yards per punt last week including a 60 yarder. Just another day at the office for the best in the league.
Remember those 2 touchbacks that Colquitt had last week? That’s how many Lechler has had all season. He has punted the ball 36 times with only 2 of them reaching the end zone for an amazing 5.6 touchback percentage.
He can, however let his talent get the best of him at times. When you have a leg as strong as Lechler, it doesn’t take much to out kick your coverage, leaving room for a big-time return like the one Seattle’s Leon Washington delivered last week.