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NFL Preview - Oakland (0-1) at Kansas City (0-1)
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The fans of the Kansas City Chiefs who take their seats at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday are ready to watch a winner.
The hope is that Todd Haley, who will make his formal home debut as the team's head coach when the Oakland Raiders come to town, is the man to lead that winner.
Haley's initial work as the team's sideline guide did not bring what has become an exceedingly rare victory for the franchise, but there were certainly silver linings to be found in the effort. Kansas City went toe-to-toe with a very good Baltimore Ravens team on the road in Week 1, leading for a portion of the third quarter and staring at a 24-24 score as the fourth-quarter ticked under three minutes.
Two late touchdowns by Baltimore made the final a misleading 38-24, but there was no doubt to anyone who witnessed the event that the days of the Chiefs being a punching bag were drawing to a close. What's more, the effort came without Kansas City starting quarterback Matt Cassel, still nursing a knee injury suffered in the third week of the preseason.
Cassel is considered questionable for Sunday, and if he can't go, Brodie Croyle will take a 10th career shot at his first NFL win, while simultaneously looking to get the Chiefs past their current stretch of 2-24 football.
Like the Chiefs, the visiting Raiders know a little something about moral victories, the kind that show no real progress in the won-loss column.
Oakland was game in its Monday night opener against the three-time defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers, taking a 20-17 lead when JaMarcus Russell threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to rookie Louis Murphy with 2:34 to play.
But a nine play, 89-yard drive executed by the Chargers in the final minutes, one finished off with a five-yard Darren Sproles touchdown run, saddled Tom Cable's club with a 24-20 defeat.
The inability to finish on the defensive end overshadowed what was a quality effort on that side of the ball, one highlighted by the first appearance of defensive end Richard Seymour in an Oakland uniform.
Seymour, acquired by the Raiders from New England in exchange for a first- round draft choice on the eve of the regular season, came up with six tackles and a pair of sacks just two days after reporting to Oakland.
Kansas City holds a 51-44-2 edge in its all-time regular season series with Oakland, including an unconventional split of last year's home-and-home. The Chiefs suffered a 23-8 home loss when the teams met in Week 2, but went to Oakland and emerged with a 20-13 victory in Week 13. That win was one of just two triumphs for the Chiefs in all of 2008. The Raiders have prevailed in each of their past two trips to Arrowhead Stadium, prior to which they lost in five consecutive trips (2002-06) to the facility.
The road team has won the last five installments of the Raiders/Chiefs series.
In addition to the regular season history, the teams have met three times in the playoffs, with Kansas City holding a 2-1 edge. The Raiders won a 1968 AFL Division Playoff, the Chiefs returned the favor with a 17-7 victory in the 1969 AFL Championship, and Kansas City also triumphed in a 1991 AFC First- Round Playoff.
Raiders head coach Tom Cable is 0-1 in his career against the Chiefs, while Kansas City's Haley will be meeting both Cable and the Raiders for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
The Raiders made a point of accentuating their strength in Week 1, as running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush combined for 32 touches in the loss to the Chargers. McFadden, who was burdened by injuries for much of 2008, had an adequate 17-carry, 68-yard night against a good Chargers front seven. He will be vying for a repeat of his career-best 164-yard effort at Kansas City last season. The burly Bush added 55 yards on 12 carries vs. San Diego, including a four-yard touchdown run to open the scoring and a 17-yard blast later in the game. Both backs could see their carries reduced this week, as Justin Fargas is expected to take the field after missing Week 1 with a hamstring problem. The Oakland passing game added some value in the opener, with tight end Zach Miller (6 receptions, 96 yards) and rookie wideout Murphy (4 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD) serving as the main downfield targets for Russell. Russell needs to display better accuracy after his 12-of-30 passing performance, and also must get rookie wideout and No. 7 overall draft choice Darrius Heyward-Bey involved. Heyward-Bey did not have a catch against the Chargers. The Oakland line did a decent job pass-blocking, allowing only one sack of Russell on the night.
As it was last season, the Chiefs defense was not a credit to the winning cause in Week 1. Kansas City allowed Baltimore to amass a franchise-record 501 yards of total offense last week, and had little answer for quarterback Joe Flacco (26-of-43, 307 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) or a running game that churned up nearly 200 yards on the ground. The Chiefs should have an easier time with Russell and the Raiders work-in-progress receiving corps, though the possible absence of starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, who is questionable with a shoulder problem, won't help matters. Tamba Hali, who had the team's only sack of Flacco, and veteran Mike Vrabel (7 tackles) will be among those applying pressure off the edges. Brandon Carr (4 tackles) and Maurice Leggett (8 tackles) will line up at corner if Flowers is unavailable, and safeties Mike Brown (12 tackles) and Jarrad Page (6 tackles) could be busy again in run support. At the point of attack, Glenn Dorsey (4 tackles) and rookie Tyson Jackson will be among those trying to slow the Raiders' bevy of backs, with inside linebackers Demorrio Williams (10 tackles) and Corey Mays (8 tackles) working behind them. Another LB, former first-round pick Derrick Johnson (3 tackles), had a 70-yard interception return of a Flacco pass to help set up a score last week.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
Though Cassel will grab the headlines if he is able to make his formal debut as a Chief, Croyle should be able to fill in capably if Cassel's injured knee keeps him out of the lineup again. Croyle was efficient against the top-notch defense of the Ravens, completing 16-of-24 passes for 177 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers while keeping Kansas City in the game. Top targets for Croyle included Dwayne Bowe (4 receptions, 40 yards), who put the Chiefs ahead with a touchdown catch in the third-quarter, and Mark Bradley (4 receptions, 73 yards), who had a 50-yard catch to set up a score among his highlights on the day. Tight end Sean Ryan, attempting to replace the departed Tony Gonzalez, also added his first career touchdown grab in the game. The passing performance was necessary thanks to the general absence of a running game. Larry Johnson (11 carries, 20 yards) and Jamaal Charles (4 carries, 8 yards) found little room to work behind a shaky Chiefs offensive line that also surrendered three sacks of Croyle. Johnson has five 100-yard games in nine career outings against the Raiders.
Though Oakland was hardly dominant in Week 1, there should be little doubt that the addition of Seymour in the trenches gave the team instant credibility on that side of the ball. As mentioned, Seymour had six tackles and a pair of sacks in his Raiders debut, as a team that had previously ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing defense for a number of years limited the Chargers to 77 yards on the ground. Linebackers Thomas Howard (9 tackles) and Ricky Brown (7 tackles) were part of the run-stopping effort as well. In addition to Seymour, another new Raider, end Greg Ellis, came up with a sack in his first game with the team. Oakland gave up 252 yards through the air versus the Chargers, though embattled safety Michael Huff recorded an interception, fellow safety Tyvon Branch notched a team-high nine stops, and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (2 tackles) continued to provide a lock-down presence at one of the corners. Asomugha figures to be lined up frequently against Bowe on Sunday.
The Raiders ran the football reasonably well against the Chargers on Monday, but the way Cable balances the carries among his backs is problematic for fantasy owners. McFadden is probably the preferable option since he clearly has home-run ability and played well against the Chiefs last year. In the passing game, Murphy was a waiver claim in a bunch of leagues after his performance on Monday, but Russell's scatter-arm makes Murphy something less than a consistent downfield threat. The tight end Miller remains a worthwhile play.
On the Kansas City side, no one had a huge game against a good Baltimore defense, though Bowe looks like he'll continue to get his catches. Larry Johnson did nothing against the Ravens, but the Oakland front seven is weaker than Baltimore's and he is almost guaranteed to post better numbers this week.
Both the Chiefs and Raiders played surprisingly well in losing efforts last week, and one of these teams is going to be able to boast continued progress after a win in Week 2. Count on that team being Kansas City, which will come in desperate to put a win in the left column before the home faithful. The Chiefs should be able to move the ball on the Raiders, and will benefit from some more JaMarcus Russell mistakes as well. It won't be easy, but Kansas City will put a disturbing home losing streak behind it and notch the first victory of the Haley era.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chiefs 17, Raiders 12
09/17 14:44:59 ET
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