Chiefs vs. Raiders: Five Things to Watch

Here are some things to keep an eye on during the game on Sunday

The Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) travel to take on the Oakland Raiders (4-1) on Sunday afternoon for the 115th matchup between these two storied franchises, dating back to the 1960s and days of the Dallas Texans. 

During that time, including postseason games, the Chiefs hold a 60-52-2 advantage over the Raiders, and over the course of all those close games, historic plays, frozen moments in time and pictures that remain burned in our memory, there's no doubting Chiefs-Raiders is one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the National Football League.

The Chiefs have won five of the last six matchups over the Raiders, including a sweep last year, but the Raiders come into Sunday's game with plenty of momentum after reeling off three straight wins, all of which came down to the wire and were by a total of just 11 points.

The Raiders have been tested late in games and have come through.

On the other hand, the Chiefs head into this game coming off their bye week, which has normally meant good things for Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has tallied a 15-2 record in his career coming out of the bye week.

The Chiefs are looking to pick up their first road win of the season, while the Raiders are looking to improve to 5-1 for the first time since 2001.

"This is a big game and we know this," veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson explained. "I love playing in Oakland. I've had a lot of success there over the years, but it's always been tough. That crowd, you love going to a hostile environment because it brings out the best in you.

"We have the opportunity to be 2-0 in our division, and what better way to go down to a confident Raiders group and try to get a win."

It's worth noting that as of Thursday afternoon, there's a 100 percent chance of rain on Sunday in Oakland, so that could definitely play a factor.

That said, here are five things to watch during the game on Sunday:

  1. Can Alex Smith continue his success against the Raiders?

When asked by reporters on Wednesday, quarterback Alex Smith said he understands the history and the rivalry between the two franchises.

"It's a big, big week," Smith explained. "They're all huge, but certainly this one is unique in that regard— just the history, the rivalry over the years— no question."

Since he arrived in Kansas City before the 2013 season, Smith owns a 5-1 record against the Raiders, completing 61 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in those games.


To take it a step further, Smith has played well on the road in this series, going 2-1 and completing 68 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

Smith admitted the Chiefs offense has yet to string "four quarters together" this year, but knows they're going up against a Raiders offense on Sunday that's averaging more than 28 points per game.

Smith knows the time is now to put it all together. 

"These are huge games and especially this week as a divisional game," Smith said. "It's not only a chance to get a 'W', but also an opportunity to give a division opponent a loss. These games mean so much and have a lot of implications."

If you're looking for one thing to watch on Sunday with Smith and the Chiefs offense, it's third-down efficiency.

Since 2013, the Chiefs are 21-3 in games in which they have a better third-down conversion percentage than their opponent. 

  1. Derek Carr and the Raiders passing offense

There are only three quarterbacks in the league who have attempted more passes this year than the Raiders third-year standout quarterback Derek Carr, who has completed 67 percent of the 193 passes he has attempted this season, which also ranks among the best in the league.

Carr has tossed 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions, which has been aided by the fact that he's only been sacked five times, the fewest of any quarterback in the league.

"They've got some talent," veteran safety Eric Berry explained. "[Carr] spreads the ball out pretty well, so it's just all about us coming out there competing—making sure we read our keys and let that fire burn. Just come out and play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion.

"They're going to make some plays, but we need to be right back in their face when they do and try to limit them."

On the outside, Carr has two exceptional receivers to target—starting with veteran Michael Crabtree, who is tied for the NFL lead with five touchdowns so far this season. Crabtree also leads the team with 29 receptions for 355 yards. 

The other target is second-year standout and the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Amari Cooper, who currently ranks sixth in the NFL with 456 yards receiving on 26 receptions.

  1. What kind of impact could Jamaal Charles have?

As he stated on Wednesday when he spoke with the media, Jamaal Charles, the franchise's all-time leading rusher and a guy who has proven to be one of the NFL's elite playmakers when healthy, is back and ready to have the "training wheels come off" on Sunday.

Charles played sparingly back in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is something he knew going into the game as it was his first action in almost a year.

"I knew I wasn't going to play like I would have liked to last week," Charles explained on Wednesday. "Knile [Davis] was second string and I was the backup if someone went down. I can't worry about last week, I'm just trying to focus on this week, my assignments and playing a good Raiders defense.

"It's time and it's here. There's no more hiding or peeking—I'll be out there."

It's a stat that's been out there before, but it still holds true right now that no player in the NFL has scored more touchdowns since 2013 than Charles, despite the fact that he's only played 36 games over that time.

Charles' 38 touchdowns statistic still ranks better than guys like Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (36 TDs, 53 games), New York Jet Brandon Marshall (36 TDs, 50 games) or Tennessee's DeMarco Murray (35 TDs, 50 games).

With just 10 snaps played against the Steelers, there's not a lot of tape out there for opposing teams to try and figure out how the Chiefs might use Charles this year.

"There's not enough there to sink your teeth into this year," Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress explained of opposing team's having to game plan against Charles, adding they'll have to go back to the games early last year and even before that. "We'll start to grow a little package for him and he'll probably get a little stronger in the run and pass game and factor in."

In 2013, Charles burned the Raiders defense with eight receptions for 195 yards and four touchdowns, including a 49-yard score on a screen pass on the very first play of the game.

It was an all-time-type of performance that came on the same field, as he'll step on for Sunday's game. 

"I love having [Charles] back," Smith added. "Not just as a player, but certainly the energy he brings to this team and this huddle."

It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact Charles can have, as Reid stated he imagines a bigger role for him as long as there are no setbacks.

  1. Marcus Peters returning home to Oakland

In a great piece recently from's Jeffri Chadiha, the story is told of Marcus Peters, whose foundation is his hometown of Oakland, California. He wears that pride on his sleeve like a badge of honor.

"Marcus Peters is an Oakland kind of guy," Johnson explained. "He's always representing his town. To play in front of his friends and his family, it means the world to him, and I know that. We don't give him too much during the week.

"He's an emotional player so we let him do his thing, but we know he's going to be fired up."

Peters finished the game last year with one of the three fourth-quarter interceptions off Carr, which proved to be the difference in the Chiefs 34-20 comeback victory.

After Peters intercepted the pass and returned it 58 yards against the team he grew up rooting for, he quickly ran over to where his mother was standing in the front row of the crowd and gave her the ball.

"He grew up a Raiders fan – the whole deal," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Peters on Wednesday. "So, I think it's exciting, but on the other hand, he's a Chief and he has to prepare himself for the game. That's how he does – he'll be good.

"Last year, he probably learned a couple things. He was fired up, but you learn a few things there."

Despite playing in just four games because of the bye week, Peters still leads the NFL with four interceptions this season.


As a second-year player who has already made a name for himself, Peters, who is as animated as a player as you'll find, has impressed those around him by his love for the game.

"The passion he plays with is the passion you see with kids in little league, and that's one of the great things about this game," Berry explained. "That's why you play it. That's what you're out here for. To have fun, let those emotions show, and just have a good time on the field and win games.

"It's great to have teammates like Marcus."

There's no doubt Peters will be fired up to play on Sunday.

  1. Which team can run the ball more effectively?

Coming into Sunday's game, neither the Chiefs nor the Raiders have been particularly dominant against the run.

Both teams are allowing more than 120 yards rushing per game this season, which have them ranked among the bottom six teams in the NFL in that category.

So in a game that's bound to have field condition and ball security issues with the rain that will most likely be falling in the days leading up to and perhaps even during the game, the focus becomes in the trenches, where the Raiders have earned the Chiefs respect. 

"Their running game is on right now," Johnson explained of the Raiders. "They're hitting on all cylinders. In past years, they've been pretty good and they've been spotty at times, but this year they're playing more consistent. This is a team that's playing with a lot of confidence."


The Raiders starting running back is Latavius Murray, who missed last week's game against the Chargers because of turf toe. It's an injury that's also forced him to miss some practice time earlier in the week.

In his place, the Raiders have turned to the rookie tandem of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who both stand at just 5 feet 8 inches tall and slightly more than 200 pounds. They have combined to rush for an impressive 345 yards on just 57 carries with four touchdowns, averaging more than 6 yards per carry.

The Chiefs defense will have their hands full trying to locate the short-statured Raiders rushers in the event that Murray isn't able to play for the second straight week.

Offensively for the Chiefs, the story is the return of Charles and the health of the offensive line.

For the first time since their Week 1 game against the Chargers, the Chiefs look to have their projected starting offensive line back for just the second time all season.

The Chiefs have had four different starting offensive line combinations in the first four games of the season, but there weren't any offensive linemen listed on the injury report for the Chiefs on Wednesday or Thursday.

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