Chiefs vs. Raiders: Five Things to Watch

Here are a few things to watch for in the Chiefs game on Thursday night

Here are five things to watch for on Thursday:

1. Chiefs controlling line of scrimmage

The Chiefs currently rank fourth in the NFL by averaging 141 yards rushing per game.

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Last week against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who possess a top 10 defense against the run, the Chiefs ran for 190 yards and didn't allow a single hit on quarterback Alex Smith.

The Raiders defense hasn't had much success getting after the quarterback this season. They rank last in the NFL with just 10 quarterback sacks and rank 27th in the NFL against the run, giving up 130 yards per game on the ground.

Jamaal Charles ranks second in the NFL among running backs with an average of 5.2 yards per carry, and his eight rushing touchdowns also ranks second.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained how they're still finding success with Charles despite defenses keying in on the star running back.

"They do throw a couple of things at him and put a few people in the box," Reid said. "He's a pretty elusive guy. I think [offensive line coach] Andy Heck, [running backs coach] Eric Bieniemy and [assistant offensive line coach] Eugene Chung do a good job of putting packages together for him that give him an opportunity to use his strengths."

It's important for the Chiefs offensive line to carry that success from last week to Thursday night, when they can insert their will against a Raiders team still searching for their first win of the season.

2. DAT speed

When rookie De'Anthony Thomas touches the football for the Chiefs, good things happen.

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Offensively, Thomas has seven rushes for 73 yards (10.4 yards per carry) and eight receptions for 50 yards (6.3 yards per reception).

In the return game, Thomas is averaging 36.8 yards per kick return and 10.9 yards per punt return.

Reid spoke this week about bringing Thomas along.

"Every week we give him a little bit more," Reid said. "So, where he was playing about 20 percent [earlier in the season, against the Seahawks] he was at 33 percent. You just keep adding into the package and he's able to handle it and do well."

Even when Thomas isn't touching the football, his presence on the field catches the defense's attention. The Chiefs have used Thomas on jet sweep action and ghost action plays, which give the defense even more to think about when timing to react on a given play is already critical.

"It's a good diversion, we've given it to him a couple of times on the sweep," offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. "But again, it helps us in the run game if it removes bodies within the box to open up those run lanes and you continue to find ways to do that.

"With a guy like De'Anthony, being able to give him the football with his speed and quickness and let him use his punt return ability out in space and on the edge, it's important. We have to keep continuing to find ways offensively to give him the football that way."

Thomas, who missed the Monday Night Football game against the Patriots back in Week 4, will play his first nationally televised game on Thursday night. 

3. Clean football on short weeks

In the 10 Thursday Night Football games so far this season, the average point differential has been 20.5 points per game.

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Six of the 10 games have been 20-plus point blowouts and part of the reason is the shortened preparation time.

One of the biggest reasons has been turnovers, and that's why it's important for the Chiefs to take care of the football on this short week and play clean football.

During games on Sundays and Mondays this season, the average number of turnovers per team is 1.47. But on Thursday's that number rises to 1.91.

Through 10 games, the Chiefs have turned the ball over just 10 times, which is tied for sixth fewest in the NFL, while the Raiders have turned it over 20 times, which ties them for 26th in the NFL.

Clean football also means not being penalized, which the Chiefs have been good at this season.

The Chiefs are the second-best team in the NFL in regards to fewest penalties per game, averaging just 4.5 per game, while the Raiders rank 17th in the NFL at 6.8 penalties per game on average.

During games on Sundays and Mondays, the average number of penalties for teams has been 6.65 per game, but on Thursday, that number rises to 6.77 per game.

It's not a huge jump, but it's still higher, and whether or not that's offensive linemen reaching and grabbing because they're a bit more tired, or some other form of lack of discipline on a short week, the Chiefs' ability to continue playing clean football will be important on Thursday night.

4. Corralling Derek Carr's top two targets

The Raiders' top two receiving threats are wide receiver James Jones, who leads the team with 49 receptions on 76 targets and 498 yards receiving, and tight end Mychal Rivera, who is second on the team with 58 targets and 37 receptions.

The big-play threats for the Raiders are receivers Andre Holmes and Brice Butler, who have combined for just 40 receptions, but average more than 15 yards per catch to lead the team.

Because the Raiders have really struggled to run the ball this season, averaging just 63 yards per game on the ground, which ranks last in the NFL, the Chiefs might see more of Latavius Murray, the second-year player out of Central Florida. 

According to head coach Tony Sparano, via CSNBayArea.com, the Raiders like what they have seen from Murray.

"He played a little bit more [last week against the Chargers] and he's going to continue to do that," Sparano said. "I like what I've seen out of [Murray] so far. So in a roundabout way, I'm saying yeah, you're going to see more of him."

Murray has just 10 carries so far this season for 54 yards, but ran four times for 43 yards in the Raiders' 13-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers last week.

For the Chiefs, it's all about stopping the run first, like normal, but considering the struggles the Raiders have had running the ball, finding and controlling Jones and Rivera, the top two receiving targets, will still be key for the defense.

The more they can make Carr, a rookie quarterback, and the Raiders offense one dimensional, the better chance they'll have at making game-changing plays and winning the field position battle.

Photos of the 2014 Oakland Raiders starting lineup.

5. Red zone efficiency

One area the Raiders have been successful this season is inside the red zone on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Raiders are scoring touchdowns on 75 percent of their drives that get inside the opponent's 20-yard line, which ranks second in the NFL, one spot above the Chiefs (69.7 percent).

Defensively, the Raiders are allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of drives that get inside the 20-yard line, which ties them for seventh best in the NFL. The Chiefs rank second in the NFL at 41.9 percent.

This is a strength-on-strength matchup because the Chiefs have also been very good inside the red zone on both sides of the ball.

Whenever coach Reid is asked about ways to determine success on offense or defense, he'll often point to third-down conversions and red zone efficiency.

On the road on national television against a team that has really struggled this season, the Chiefs need to walk away with touchdowns when they get deep in Raiders territory and put the pressure back on the home team, who will do everything in their power to get their first win of their season against their rival.

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