The Kansas City Chiefs are the AFC West Champions and will close out the regular season against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday as they try to avenge a 23-20 loss in Week 9.
Oakland finds themselves on the outside of the playoff picture, but are undefeated within the division, a stat they take a lot of pride in. The Raiders are going to try and finish strong to carry momentum into the offseason while the Chiefs will hope to stay healthy for next week’s home playoff game.
Last week the Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans 34-14, while the Raiders suffered a tough 31-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Jackie Battle
The amount of snaps Battle has on Sunday will tell the story of just how badly Todd Haley will try to win the game.
If the third stringer carries the ball once or twice, then likely you know Kansas City went all out to try and finish 8-0 at home without resting Thomas Jones or Jamaal Charles much. But if the head coach decides to let his two headed running attack take it easy in preparation for the playoffs, that means a heavy dose of Battle.
His career high in carries is 13, though that was way back in 2007 during his rookie season. Battle did the ball consistently in the preseason, averaging just over 10 carries the last three games.
Defense: Andy Studebaker
No matter how long the Kansas City starters play, Studebaker should play a big role in trying to stop the Raiders offense. When he does get out on the field, he seems to find a way to find the football making Studebaker more than your typical backup linebacker.
Last week against the Titans, Studebaker registered his second full sack of the season and has found his way onto the stat sheet in every game this season with the exception of three. Look for the young linebacker to get his most extended time this season on defense.
Special Teams: Verran Tucker
Already a star on the coverage units, Tucker should get another chance to show what he can do in the return game.
If there were ever two players that deserve time off to get their bodies ready for the postseason, it’s rookies Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster. It’s one thing to adjust to the speed and length of the NFL season, but it’s even tougher when you are dealing with dings something both returners are dealing with.
Tucker showed some promise in returns against the Chargers a few weeks ago, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get another look Sunday against the Raiders.
Offense: Jacoby Ford
There were plenty of reasons why the Raiders took down the Chiefs the first time these two teams met, but none were bigger than Ford. Not only did he have 158 yards in the return game — including a 94-yard touchdown — but he also burned the secondary for 148 yards on six catches.
Since his breakout game against Kansas City, Ford has averaged nearly 15.5 yards per reception as a favorite target of the Raiders quarterbacks.
Defense: Michael Huff
Some guys just love playing against certain teams. For Huff, it seems that it’s the Chiefs.
Earlier this season Huff had one of his best games this year with 8 tackles. Though that’s nothing compared to what he has done throughout his career against Kansas City. During his first four seasons in the NFL, twice he posted his highest tackle totals in a season against the Chiefs. Huff has also turned in a two interception performance early last season to help seal a 13-10 victory.
Special Teams: Shane Lechler
In the middle of the battle for field position every time you face the Raiders is the league’s best punter, Lechler. He is averaging 47 yards per punt and even better has only had four touchbacks, an amazing number considering how often he has kicked the ball. To put it in perspective, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, with 10 more punts on the season, has registered 10 touchdbacks.
The one way you can attack Lechler is when he is kicking from deep in his own territory. At times he will out kick his coverage, allowing room for a return. It’s not much, but it’s something for the Kansas City special teams to attack.