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Chiefs-Raiders what to watch for: New Alex Smith, running back by committee, o-line shuffling

Here are a few things we'll be watching this week when the Chiefs travel to Oakland.

1) Keeping the intensity up

Big Red may not cry like Marty but there are plenty of reasons for KC to be excited for this week's game vs Oakland. Not only is it a hated division rival but they are actually getting to be a competitive team. With playoff positioning on the line, the Chiefs have to find a way to continue the high intensity level we've seen over the five game win streak. They can't let up against this year's Raiders, who are featuring good young players at some of the most important positions (QB, WR and OLB). No room for a "let down" like last season when Oakland ended the Chiefs win streak in 2014, ultimately costing them a playoff spot.

2) More offensive line shuffling

As with every week, the big guys up front will be a key on offense. Last week, they managed to do enough to keep Alex Smith clean, and allowed him to throw downfield. Can they do it again this week vs. an Oakland team that is always aggressive and tough up front? This week, the Chiefs will take the field without Mitch Morse, who has played very well as a rookie. Ben Grubbs is on IR. Jeff Allen and Eric Fisher are banged up. The makeshift OL is even makeshiftier this week.  This game could be decided by QB pressure, whichever team can protect better will be able to run a balanced offense,  and make plays downfield.

3) Dee Ford's welcome to the NFL

Losing Justin Houston hurts ... just like losing Jamaal Charles did. At running back the Chiefs had two two young players who have been able to step up and carry the offense. Can Ford do the same for the defense? He'll have help from my team MVP Tamba Hali on the other side. I'd assume Bob Sutton will have Ford line up in Hali's spot, where he can primarily focus on rushing the passer while Hali takes on Houston's responsibilities on the left side (offense's right side) Bob Sutton, the Chiefs mad scientist, likes to use multiple fronts with these guys switching sides and overloading at times, so keep an eye out for No. 55 ... hopefully he'll be able to make an impact.

4) Running back by committee

Speaking of the young running backs stepping up ... West and Ware have been fantastic in relief of Jamaal Charles. Each has put together a 100 yard game this season and showed relentless effort and big play ability. Their styles can be complementary: Smash and Dash or whatever we decide to call them (someone please suggest ideas in the comments section) could be a fantastic 1-2 punch this weekend.

I'm guessing that Ware will get the early down and short yardage work, with West being involved more in the passing game. The only concern I have is for my fantasy team and knowing whom to start. Other than that, this RBBC should be a positive for the Chiefs this weekend.

5) The new Alex Smith?

The oft-criticized Chiefs QB took noticeably more shots downfield versus Buffalo with some spectacular results. When playcalling and execution line up, big things happen for the Chiefs offense. If the offensive line is able to give Smith time like they did last week, and he's able to connect with Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin deep again (and maybe more Albert Wilson and Chris Conley), MAYBE we can all agree that Smith is a guy that can take this offense to the playoffs and win a game (or more). A few well-executed deep passes can really open up the running game and the underneath passing that Andy Reid relies upon.

For once,  there's a lot riding on the Chiefs vs Raiders.  What will you be watching for?

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