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NFL Preview - Kansas City (2-11) at Oakland (3-10)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - For Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, the goal for this weekend's meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs is simple.
"To get a win. This team desperately needs a win," he said.
The Raiders try to snap a six-game losing streak and sweep their season series with the visiting AFC West-rival Chiefs this Sunday.
Oakland is riding its longest skid since dropping six straight in 2007. The club is winless since a 26-16 road win over Kansas City back on Oct. 28 and has lost four in a row at home in that span.
The Raiders have been off since last Thursday's 26-13 setback to the visiting Denver Broncos, one in which the defense allowed 428 yards of offense and Palmer turned the ball over twice.
Palmer was intercepted once and also lost a fumble. He threw for 273 yards with two touchdown passes, one each to running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
McFadden was returning from a four-game absence caused by an ankle injury and ran for 52 yards on 11 carries. Thirty-six of those yards came on the first play of the second half.
Raiders head coach and former Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen returned to the sidelines Thursday following the death of his father, Grady Allen. The former NFL linebacker was originally hospitalized last week with heart problems and passed away at the age of 66 on Tuesday.
"I took my father off life support, and that's not easy to do," Allen said. "So was it hard? Yeah, it was hard. But I know my father would want me to be here with this football team, and I wanted to be here with this football team. So I'm sure you guys can imagine it wasn't an easy situation."
Kansas City's earlier loss to Oakland was part of a six-game slide of its own that the club snapped on Dec. 2 with a win at Carolina. That victory came one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide that involved his girlfriend.
Given more time to process the events, the Chiefs were routed 30-7 at the Cleveland Browns, not scoring again after running back Jamaal Charles broke off an 80-yard touchdown run 12 seconds into the game.
Charles ended with 165 yards on 18 carries, while quarterback Brady Quinn, who spent his first three NFL seasons in Cleveland after the Browns selected him with the 22nd overall pick in 2007, struggled against his former club. He threw for just 159 yards with an interception.
"It's disappointing to come back and lose the game," said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who spent four seasons as the Browns' head coach before coming to Kansas City in 2011. "We didn't play very well in the second half and basically that's what it comes down to."
Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe made two catches for 70 yards, but suffered a rib injury and won't play in this game.
Bowe led the Chiefs with 65 yards on three catches against the Raiders earlier this season, while Charles ran the ball just five times for four yards.
Oakland is sure to see more of Charles in this game.
"He's an explosive player on their offense, a guy that can go make plays for them," Allen said of Charles. "I would anticipate they would try to get him the ball."
McFadden ran for 114 yards on 29 carries for Oakland, while Palmer connected on scoring throws with Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. Oakland turned four Kansas City turnovers into 13 points.
The Chiefs, though, are 8-2 in their last 10 trips to Oakland, including a 28-0 shutout victory there last season behind a club-record six interceptions.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Chiefs own the fifth-ranked rushing offense in football thanks to Charles, who has shown the ability break off big runs at any time.
Charles owns the top two single-game rushing totals in team history, busting off 259 yards back in 2010 before nearly matching that total with a 233-yard effort at New Orleans on Sept. 23. That game featured a club-record 91-yard touchdown and his 80-yarder last weekend is tied for the fifth-longest in team history.
The 25-year-old leads the AFC with an average of 93.8 rushing yards and 109.2 yards from scrimmage per game and has rushed for 117.2 yards per game over his past five.
Charles may have to shoulder even more of the load with Bowe out. The wide out leads Chiefs' receivers with 59 receptions, 801 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City's next threat after Bowe is Dexter McCluster, who has 41 grabs for 358 yards, but no other Kansas City wide out has more than 20 receptions.
"I think we've got production from Bowe, and maybe we've given him the ball too much at the expense of the other guys," Crennel said of the production from his wide receivers. "But when you've got a guy who is making catches and the ball comes to him, he makes catches, he runs with it after the catch, so we've been going to him."
One of Kansas City's strength is its pass defense and it yields just 218.2 yards per game to rank ninth in the NFL. The Chiefs managed three sacks against the Browns, getting two from linebacker Tamba Hali.
Hali has eight sacks on the season and his 61 1/2 career quarterback takedowns rank third in team history. He is looking to combine with linebacker Justin Houston (10 sacks) to become the first Chiefs duo to notch 10 sacks in the same season since Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas in 1994.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Kendrick Lewis both returned interceptions for touchdowns last season in Oakland and Flowers had two picks on the day.
Palmer threw three of those interceptions a season ago, but has helped the Raiders this season post the seventh-best pass attack at 277.7 yards per game. He is 195 yards shy of joining Rich Gannon as the only quarterbacks in team history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
Oakland reinstated linebacker Rolando McClain following a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team and also released cornerback Ron Bartell on Monday. His departure means that Oakland will start its seventh different group of four defensive backs this season.
That will allow young cornerback Philip Adams, who has an interception in two straight games, to see more time on the field and the Raiders expect to give a lot of their greener players some additional time on the field.
"I think as we go along in these last three games, we really need to evaluate some of these young guys and see what we have going forward into next year," Allen said last Friday.
Some of the names Allen mentioned in addition to Adams were offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom and wide receivers Rod Streater and Juron Criner.
Streater, a rookie out of Temple, is coming off his first-career 100-yard receiving game on the strength of a 58-yard reception. It was his second- longest in as many games following a 64-yard touchdown catch on Dec. 2.
McClain, meanwhile, met with Allen on Wednesday and had his role laid out.
"Really where we were at before the suspension is that he was going to fill a backup role and work on special teams and that's we're at and we'll see what happens come game day," said the coach.
Something has to give this weekend seeing that the Chiefs and Raiders both have some of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league in addition to defenses that struggle to stop opponents from scoring.
As for the offenses, they find success in different ways. The Chiefs lean on Charles thanks to a pass game that ranks 31st in the NFL and their inability to throw the ball makes it tough for the ground game to find the end zone from in close.
In fact, all four of Charles' touchdowns this season are longer than 10 yards so the Chiefs will need their receivers to step up this weekend without Bowe.
"We've been able to make some plays as a result of teams (loading up against the run) against us, and Bowe has been a part of that," Crennel said. "So, that's why I say that these other receivers are going to have to step up, so if we need to throw the ball or we need to do something different to back them off the running game, that we can do that."
The Raiders rank just 30th on the ground and that number won't go up until McFadden gets healthy. He took some steps forward last week and the extra rest following a Thursday game could lead to him having a big game.
Kansas City usually plays well in Oakland, but the Raiders' slightly-more- talented offense and continued fallout from the Belcher tragedy should give the Silver and Black the edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Raiders 20, Chiefs 16
12/13 16:23:22 ET
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