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Raiders – Chiefs: What to watch for

The Kansas City Chiefs are a very good football team. And while the Raiders have played leaps and bounds above where many analysts had them ranked, they’re still in the middle of the pack.

But when the Raiders travel to Arrowhead Stadium for their early game on Sunday, a large part of walking away with a win will rely on a solid game plan.

An even larger aspect for Oakland will be to not turn the ball over, something Kansas City thrives off of.

The Chiefs’ primary offense has been running back Jamaal Charles, along with whichever receiver gets open first. Alex Smith will not throw into coverage and would rather take a sack. This is something that Oakland should exploit.

Stopping the run

Charles already has six touchdowns and nearly 650 total yards, so stopping him should be priority number one. He often hits the flat or gets in position for the shallow dumpoff pass for Smith, and is a threat when in space.

Closing the “A” gap, or the two spaces next to center, shouldn’t be too tough a task with a fully healthy Raiders front seven. The “B” gaps, the spaces between the offensive guard and tackles, could be more vulnerable with Lamaar Houston and Jason Hunter rushing, so both Sio Moore and Kevin Burnett will need to stay on their toes.

If the Oakland defense can do that, they are well on their way to playing a solid defensive game.

Tender secondary needs to step up

Alex Smith is a wonder in the pocket and has a knack for finding receivers you’ve never heard of.

Dwayne Bowe leads the team in receptions after Charles with 17, but Donnie Avery is right there with him at 16. Tight end Sean McGrath has 15 catches and Dexter McCluster has 11. So clamping down on the passing game, while also defending against the run, is no simple task.

Cornerbacks D.J. Hayden, Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins will all have their work cut out, and playing the press well could be a significant game-changer.

They will need to bump their guys off their routes and give the defensive line about five seconds to get to Smith. The standard is four seconds, so this game could become an aerial one if Andy Reid loses faith in the run.

Kansas City enjoys getting the early lead, so the offensive side of the ball could be the most important.

Going very, very deep

Oakland’s offensive line is swiss cheese and Kansas City should hope to dominate at the line of scrimmage. The Catch-22 however, is No. 2, Terrelle Pryor. He has shown an inexplicable talent for escaping pressure and then making plays with his legs and with his arm.

Because of this, the Chiefs will most likely use defensive tackle Dontari Poe to implode the center. Andre Gurode is filling in for Stefen Wisniewski, who has been ruled out. Menelik Watson has also been ruled out.

The defensive ends will trap Pryor inside the pocket and allow their inside linebackers to drop back into coverage. Because of this, Pryor may need to rely heavily on the deep ball, but without and bona fide deep threat.

This will be a tricky task considering that Kansas City doesn’t allow the deep ball. Safety Eric Berry and cornerbacks Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers will be able to shut down the receiving corps relatively easily.

Oakland will need to spread them out using four receiver sets and tight end Mychal Rivera. The effectiveness of that group may decide the game for Oakland.

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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