In the first four games of the 2016 season, the Chiefs have played two games with flashes of offensive and defensive potential.
The first being the Alex Smith led historic comeback against San Diego and the second being the defense turning in an eight-turnover day.
However, in the other two games very little has gone the Chiefs’ way. Costly turnovers, shaky quarterback play, a non-existent pass rush and an inexperienced secondary all helped contribute to a slow start for the Chiefs’.
Looking ahead to a crucial game against Oakland, the Chiefs will need to put together a full 60 minutes of improved play on both sides of the ball if they want to keep pace in the AFC West race. Here are a few keys to victory:
Utilize Alex Smith in the run game
Alex Smith’s rushing ability was one of biggest reasons the offense improved in the second half of last season. He finished the year averaging 31 yards rushing per game.
Through four games this season he has only 16 total rushing yards.
While he only scored two touchdowns himself, it was his ability to extended drives with his legs that had the biggest impact.
One of every 10 Chief’s first downs came via a Smith rush and that opened more weapons in the middle of the field.
When Smith does find the end zone, the Chiefs have a perfect 9-0 record.
One of his two scores last year came in Oakland and KC will need Smith’s legs again if the passing attack continues to struggle.
Playmakers make big plays
An Andy Reid offense isn’t necessarily known for deep passes and big yardage plays but the Raiders are susceptible and the Chiefs must take advantage.
Oakland leads the NFL in allowing plays of 20-yards or more and they allow an average of seven yards per play.
While Reid calls the plays and Smith is the one firing away, the top offensive weapons must also do their part in testing the Raider defense.
Jamaal Charles has said that he is ‘110 percent healthy,’ Jeremy Maclin had two touchdowns in Oakland last year and Travis Kelce and Chris Conley both have the ability to burn the secondary.
This will be a good test to see how explosive the KC offense really is.
There is no excuse to not use these talented weapons, especially for big plays.
Keep Oakland off the field
If the plays aren’t coming in big chunks Kansas City at least needs to consistently give their defense a break. Establishing a running attack to keep the defense on their toes will help first down production but the key will be on third down.
In their two losses this year, the Chiefs are 3-14 and 8-17 on third down.
When Kansas City has the better third down conversion percentage, the Chiefs win 88 percent of the time under Reid.
Keeping drives alive also leads to more red zone opportunities, which the Chiefs capitalized on last year in Oakland scoring four touchdowns in four trips.
The defense might have a tough time stopping the high-powered Raiders attack so the Chiefs must get the most out of every drive.
Without star pass rusher Justin Houston, the ceiling isn’t very high for this Chiefs defense.
Through four weeks they have shown no signs of a capable pass rush, as Dee Ford continues to disappoint.
Don’t expect much of a pass rush this week either as the Raiders have allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL this season.
However, Derek Carr can be turnover prone and the Chiefs have stars in the secondary who can capitalize. Since Bob Sutton took over the defense, the Chiefs have won the turnover battle in 27 games, and emerged victorious 22 of those times.
Last year’s trip to Oakland is one of the best examples of what this defense can be, as Carr threw three interceptions in the second half en route to a 34-20 KC win.
If the pass rush is not there, the Chiefs will need turnovers to slow down the Raider’s offense.
Keep Peters calm
The biggest playmaker, as far as turnovers go, is reigning rookie of the year and current NFL interception leader, Marcus Peters.
He was able to keep his composure together for almost all of last year, except when KC traveled to his hometown of Oakland.
Peters’ inexperience showed after multiple exchanges with Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree, which led to a confrontation and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Later on the sidelines, Peters remained very upset and had to be calmed down by Ron Parker.
Even with the emotion of returning home and the rivalry with Crabtree Peters did turn in one of his better games with one interception and two pass deflections.
Peters has had some issues earlier this year, with a taunting penalty in Houston and overall bad play against San Diego, but he has made up for it with four interceptions.
He needs to continue to play at a high level to slow down Carr, but also must maintain composure to keep the team in check.
The Chiefs look to accomplish these keys on Sunday, with kickoff set for 3:25 on KCTV5.
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