Game Scout: Raiders at Chiefs

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Oakland Raiders (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-0)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
*Keys to the game: RB Darren McFadden, long the centerpiece of the Raiders' success against the Chiefs, isn't a sure thing this week because of a hamstring injury. It's Terrelle Pryor's show, and he's executing the read option and showing his athleticism, but has also fared well from the pocket. The Raiders would like to keep the ball in McFadden's hands, if he's available, to control the clock and protect their defense. The health of LOLB Justin Houston (neck/head) will be tracked all week in Oakland. The Raiders rolled back the blitz count and came up with three interceptions in straight coverage last week. Given Alex Smith's ability to get rid of the ball quickly, it could be more of the same against Kansas City. WR Dwayne Bowe has excelled in this matchup throughout his career, but Smith's risk-averse nature leads him to short- and intermediate-range receivers on critical downs.
*Matchup to watch - LOLB Justin Houston vs. Raiders RT Matt McCants or Tony Pashos -- Houston is second in the NFL in sacks with 8.5, behind only Robert Mathis of Indianapolis (9.5). The good news for the Raiders is Houston will mostly be in Pryor's view, so he can use his mobility and evade the rush. McCants has just one start and Pashos is coming off a groin injury.
*Player spotlight - Chiefs WR Donnie Avery: Avery (16 receptions for 304 yards, 19.0 yards per catch) is the man Smith looks for down the field. He'll get plenty of snaps against rookie D.J. Hayden, who has top-end speed but is being used mostly in nickel packages.
*Fast facts: The Raiders have won six consecutive games against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. ... The Chiefs are 11-21 in the past 32 games against AFC West opponents.
If running back Jamaal Charles can find lanes in the first half, the Chiefs should find plenty of weak spots in the Oakland defense. If he doesn't get enough help, Smith could be pressed into mistakes that keep the Raiders in the game.
*Our pick: Chiefs 24-16

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