clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chiefs vs. Raiders what to watch for: Just win, baby

New, comments

With the playoffs already clinched and the division still up for grabs, the Chiefs take on their old rivals at Arrowhead. Here are a few things we'll be watching for....

1) Just win, baby

The Al Davis quote applies here. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been clear all week that here's one thing the team is focused on: getting a win against Oakland. The obsession with playoff scenarios and matchups is for the media, fans and lowly bloggers. This Kansas City team has done a great job of preparation and motivation throughout this nine game win streak. There's no reason to let up now.

In fact, there are some strong reasons to NOT let up. Namely, momentum (if you believe in such a thing). We've seen Chiefs teams in recent years have early success (9-0 in 2013, five game win streak in 2014) only to stumble down the stretch (2-5 to finish 2013 with a playoff spot, 2-4 to finish 2014 and miss the playoffs). I'd contend it's not only important to make the playoffs but to do so in convincing fashion with some momentum. Backing into the playoffs is arguably a factor for the team's struggle in the postseason.

With these types of division-rival, late-season, cold-weather matchups, we can assume it's going to be tough, ugly, and close. The Raiders always seem to play the Chiefs tough and you know they'd like to be a spoiler with nothing else to play for (other than Charles Woodson's last game). So, don't worry if the Chiefs don't dominate statistically or if they have more penalties, sacks, turnovers than usual. Throw all that stuff out the window. Winning is all that really matters.

2) Get healthy, stay healthy

The Chiefs have done a tremendous job of overcoming injuries with a next man up approach all season. Particularly along the offensive line, running back and even outside linebacker. No team is fully healthy at this time of year but those that get and stay healthy are often the teams that win.

The home team will potentially have safety Husain Abdullah back this week, but it appears  Justin Houston may not play. Tamba Hali is recovering from thumb surgery and is questionable. Offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Jah Reid are recovering from their respective injuries but will hopefully play.

These guys are important for the Chiefs success, not only against Oakland but heading into the playoffs, too. Keep your fingers crossed that they can escape with no new injuries, and that key players including Hali and Houston are closer to 100 percent for the postseason run.

3) Which playmakers will emerge?

Losing De'Anthony Thomas for the season may not have a drastic impact on the Chiefs box score but he has an ability that at least keeps defenses on edge. Clearly, the team relies upon Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce and the pair of young backs to carry the load but the offense hasn't exactly been dominant over the last few weeks. Who else will step to the forefront as a playmaker?

Albert Wilson has flashed some big play ability, and appears to have the trust of Alex Smith. Even though he still only gets a handful of touches each game, he's an effective runner with the ball in his hands and can beat defenses over the top.

We're still waiting for Chris Conley to join the passing game party with one catch in his last seven games. The team seems to be high on his potential and he clearly has the athletic ability you'd want in a No. 2 receiver. So, why hasn't he been more productive? It's hard to say, but if there were ever a time for him to break out, it would be now.

4) A good test for the o-line

In the first meeting this season, Oakland's defensive front had four sacks, seven QB hits and four tackles for loss. Khalil Mack had a huge game with nearly half of that production (two sacks, two tackles for loss, three QB hits). However, this wasn't anything new. Every year, regardless of coach, scheme or players, it always seems the Raiders have a nasty, aggressive defense that gives the Chiefs offensive line fits.

Protecting Alex Smith and allowing the Chiefs offense to get in a rhythm won't be easy for the banged up KC offenisve line but it's key not only for success this week but for health and momentum going into the playoffs. Keep an eye on the trenches this week.