The short week will be a challenge for the Kansas City Chiefs after two physical battles against the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks. There is little time to recover and massive amounts of preparation to squeeze into three days.
The Thursday Night Football games typically illustrates who has the better coaching staff given the short time to prepare. Alex Smith touched on the advantage with Andy Reid saying, "He's just so consistent every single day. It's an emotional game, long years, a lot of ups and downs and to have a head coach that every single day you come in, he does such a great job of balancing us, steadying us from the top down and he's just really a good football coach. I think it comes down to that. He's a really good teacher. He leads the locker room well; knows the body language of the guys. He knows when to spell guys, when to push guys."
With Reid's steady hand the Chiefs should be in good shape on Thursday night in Oakland but here are some of the things to watch for.
When The Raiders Are On Offense
1. Derek Carr is a unique rookie quarterback. He can make a majority of the throws on the field with good spin on the ball. Unlike most rookies the second rounder has a calm demeanor in the pocket. He doesn't get rattled like most rookies do after the pocket collapses. Rookies like to take their eyes off their progression and get out of the pocket or just run for their life. Carr typically does a good job of mentally resetting himself after most plays. The best way to rattle him is sending a free rusher. He will typically be a little off in his accuracy due to rushing his throw. Carr believes in his arm and will throw the ball into tight windows. The rookie quarterback has kept this team afloat in most games. His future is very bright and he is already the best quarterback they have had since Rich Gannon.
2. The Raiders lack of a run game is why they haven't won a game in the past year. The line struggles to create holes the backs can run through. When the line does succeed, Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew aren't quick enough to get through it. The hits over the years have gotten to McFadden and Jones-Drew, both of whom are a shell of their former selves. Oakland finally gave Latavius Murray a chance to run the ball and he got them two big gains against the Chargers. Murray provides the Raiders an explosion they lack in the backfield.
3. Andre Holmes and Brice Butler are two of the better play-makers in the wide receiving corp. Both are capable of getting yards after the catch if they are left with space to work. Butler is the better of the two in yards after the catch. James Jones typically sees a majority of the back shoulder throws and is Carr's safety blanket. Kenbrell Thompkins is starting to see an increase of reps in the system but the Raiders still aren't sure how to use him properly. The tight end Mychal Rivera can be a threat down the seam and on bootlegs but he typically doesn't provide much else. The Raiders also forgot they have Marcel Reece, an athletic fullback who can be a big receiving threat if he is really used correctly with his skill set. Collectively as a group they have a lot of dropped passes.
4. It is sad to see how far the offensive line has fallen since Tom Cable was pushed out the door. He built some tough, physical lines that were a problem for the rest of the NFL. The line gets overwhelmed with twists, stunts and overload blitzes. They have trouble passing off the players and identifying the correct assignments.
5. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson's play calling has no rhyme to it. He is like a pianist who is hitting random keys to see how it sounds. He doesn't properly utilize the talent the Raiders have. Oakland doesn't use plays to setup variations later on in the game. The running game has struggled all season. They continue to run it and use ineffective play action off of it. The Raiders don't use screens or short crosses to become their new run game. Oakland keeps hoping the opponent will make enough mistakes, get bored or disinterested in the game.
When The Raiders Are On Defense
1. The most glaring weakness of this football team is their lack of speed on the perimeter. Teams are able to exploit them once they get the edge. Screens, jet sweeps, stretch runs, tosses and pitches are easy pickings against this team. Attacking the edge is the way to score quickly against Oakland. And if you do it at an intense pace they won't have the answers to respond like the Chiefs did with a 4-play, 80-yard drive against the Seahawks.
2. Khalil Mack will be a shining star for the Raiders. He gives consistent effort. Mack is a really good pass rusher and a constant threat on the quarterback's blind side. He is a one man band since Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith don't have the same explosiveness as they have in the past. Justin Ellis does a good job eating up blocks and getting in the way on run downs but he doesn't provide much of a rush. The pass rush is also easy to get with the hard count. It can be a free five yards on four to five attempts a game.
3. The Raiders bite hard on play-action passes and give a great deal of space to work over the middle. The defense also goes haywire when they have multiple reads to diagnose. They lose their discipline and there are multiple hohles to attack with both the run and pass.
4. Charles Woodson is 38 years old and has been in the league since 1998. He is still one of the top two defenders on the field for Oakland. He gets physical with the tight end at the line and can stay in their hip pocket. Woodson still has solid athletic ability despite his age. He is a leader of the defense and someone you must be cautious of when throwing in his direction.
5. The Raiders are a team that hangs in games. They were in the Chargers last week until the final few seconds. Oakland was leading Denver until about 2:50 left in the second quarter. Then CJ Anderson hit the perimeter cut back and he was gone for a 51-yard touchdown. They were only down seven in Seattle until the early fourth quarter.
There have only been three games that have gotten out of hand quickly for the Raiders. They had a couple mistakes against the Dolphins in London and that game turned into a blowout. McFadden fumbled the ball against Cleveland and the Browns turned that into points quickly. Denver hopped on them after the Anderson touchdown and blew that game out.
The Raiders are a snowball effect team. You have to hit them quickly and constantly to force them to give up otherwise you might be fighting until the very end. Oakland has some promising pieces but they need a offensive coordinator who can take advantage of his talent, run blockers on the offensive line, a speed back and more speed on the defense.