Oakland Take Five

Posted Dec 23, 2011

Five things to watch in the Chiefs rematch with the Raiders

Just as Oakland has been a home away from home for the Chiefs in recent years, the Raiders have found a stretch of success playing in Kansas City.

Oakland travels to Kansas City Saturday afternoon for what is, in essence, an elimination game for both teams. Arrowhead Stadium is a place where Oakland has won four-straight games dating back to a 20-17 win on November 27, 2007.

Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have a posted a longer winning streak at Arrowhead, winning seven consecutive games from 1974-1996.

Here are five things to watch as the Chiefs look to keep their playoff hopes alive and end Oakland’s four-year run of victories at Arrowhead. Let’s Take Five…

1) Michael Bush Show

Darren McFadden entered Oakland’s Week 7 game against Kansas City as the NFL’s leading rusher. He rushed just two times for four yards against the Chiefs before leaving the game with a foot injury in the first quarter.

McFadden hasn’t played in the two months since the injury occurred and he won’t play this weekend either. Michael Bush is once again expected to shoulder Oakland’s rushing load in McFadden’s absence.

Bush was one of the lone bright spots for Oakland in its 28-0 loss to the Chiefs earlier this season. He rushed for 99 yards on 17 carries after McFadden exited the mid-October matchup with Kansas City.

In fact, Bush has posted near identical numbers to McFadden in his 10 starts dating back to last season.

Both runners have averaged 89 rushing yards per start since 2010 with Bush has averaging two more yards from scrimmage per game (124). McFadden’s injuries have left the door open for Bush to lead the Raiders in rushing two of the last three seasons.

Shutting down Oakland’s run game means limiting the big play. The Raiders own more rushes of 20+ yards than any NFL team this season.

2) Redemption QBs

Both Oakland and Kansas City are on their third starting quarterback of the season and neither of Saturday’s starters started the season on their respective teams.

Raiders QB Carson Palmer is looking for redemption from a three interception performance against Kansas City in Oakland debut. Palmer began the season property of the Bengals and had been part of the Raiders for only a few days prior playing against the Chiefs.

In Kansas City, Kyle Orton will make his second start after leading the Chiefs to an upset victory over Green Bay in his starting debut with the Red and Gold. Orton began the year as Denver’s starting quarterback and a win over Oakland could potentially set up an AFC West championship game against his former team next weekend in Denver.

Kansas City and Oakland are two of five teams to have started three different quarterbacks this season. The others include Indianapolis, St. Louis and Houston.

3) Palmer Airs It Out

Since Carson Palmer made his initial start with the Raiders in Week 9, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is the only quarterback to have thrown for more pass plays of 20+ yards. Rodgers has connected on 33 long-balls while Palmer has tossed 32.

Palmer also owns the second-most passing yards (1,983) of any AFC quarterback since Week 9, trailing only New England’s Tom Brady (2,232).

Thanks to a consistent pass rush and a clock-controlling offense, the Chiefs didn’t allow Rodgers to connect on a pass play of more than 20 yards until midway through the third quarter of last week’s win.

With Oakland’s potent rushing attack (138.3 yards per game) and speedy wide receivers, the Chiefs defense has another big job in front of it on Saturday.

4) Can It Keep Going?

The Chiefs pass rush has taken new life over the past five games, sacking opposing quarterbacks a combined 18.0 times over that stretch. It’s a total the ties Baltimore for the second-most in the NFL during that period.

Tamba Hali has been the leader of the pass rush resurgence as he aims to win the AFC sack crown in back-to-back seasons. Hali’s 12.0 sacks currently trail Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs (13.0) for the conference lead.

No Chiefs defender has led the AFC in sacks two seasons in a row.

Hali’s 26.5 sacks dating back to the beginning of 2010 are the team’s fifth-most combined sacks in back-to-back seasons. Derrick Thomas owns the franchise record with 33.5 sacks from 1990-91.

5) No More Field Goals

Nothing against Ryan Succop, who’s made 21 consecutive field goals and is just one make away from tying Pete Stoyanovich’s team-record 22 straight makes, but the Chiefs need more touchdowns.

Kansas City got into the end zone in just one of its five red zone trips last week against Green Bay and it kept the game much closer than it should have been.

Overall, Succop owns 43.8% (84/192) of the Chiefs points this season, which is the highest percentage of any player in the NFL.

Eventually, the Chiefs need to start counting in sixes. There isn’t much time left to do so.

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