The Oakland Raiders square off with the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time this year on Sunday, this time at O.Co Coliseum.
In their last meeting, the Chiefs defense was able to thoroughly take advantage of an injury-riddled Raiders’ offensive line; racking up 9 sacks on the way to a 24-7 victory.
Injuries to key players have begun to pile up for Kansas City, however, which obviously plays heavily in the Raiders favor as they try to end a three-game losing skid.
Here I will highlight a few key matchups to watch during the game.
Jared Veldheer vs. Tamba Hali
Raiders standout left tackle Jared Veldheer’s absence loomed large when these two teams last faced off.
Tamba Hali was able to notch 2.5 sacks against the Raiders’ reserve offensive linemen, but I would not expect that level of production against Veldheer.
Another strike against Hali is the loss of the Justin Houston, the Chiefs other star pass-rusher, sidelined with an elbow injury.
Houston’s absence will allow the Raiders to focus on shutting down Hali.
Lamarr Houston vs. Donald Stephenson
It seems to be only fair that the Chiefs will be without their standout left tackle Branden Albert, and Donald Stephenson will be starting in his place.
The loss is significant.
For comparison: Branden Albert boasts a +14.4 pass blocking rating according to ProFootballFocus.com, while Stephenson brings to the table a -6 grade.
It’s fair to expect that the Raiders leading pass-rusher Lamarr Houston should be able to seize the opportunity and get to the quarterback a few times, and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will certainly dial up some extra pressure, you know, just in case.
Matt McGloin vs. Kansas City Defense
Even if Jared Veldheer is able to neutralize Tamba Hali, the Chiefs defense still has teeth.
The star pass-rushers steal most of the spotlight, but Kansas City has playmakers at every level.
The key for the Raiders rookie QB Matt McGloin will be to identify the weak links in the Chiefs defense and attack them there.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers has a good reputation, but has failed to live up to it this year.
Rookie corner Marcus Cooper came out of nowhere and launched himself into the DROY conversation early on, but his play has tailed off massively as teams have figured out how to attack him.
The Raiders wide receivers have come on strong over the past few weeks, and the Kansas City defensive backs haven’t shown any indication that they’ll be able to slow them down.
Many have written off the Raiders for the final three weeks of the season, but I like the way they match up against Kansas City.
The Week 7 meeting got out of hand because the Chiefs’ pass-rushers were in the backfield every single snap, but that won’t be the case this time.
The Raiders offense is healthy, and I don’t think Kansas City has the firepower to take advantage of a sagging Oakland defense.
For these reasons, I think the Raiders play the spoiler this week and come away with the win.