Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were the worst team in football. Now? The Chiefs are 5-0 and rolling into Arrowhead Stadium to start a three-game homestand against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
Oakland comes into this old-school rivalry game at 2-3 after beating the San Diego Chargers last week. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was excellent, confounding the Chargers with his arm and legs throughout the evening. Defensively, the Raiders forced five turnovers. Oakland was thought to be a brutal team coming into the season, but it has proven to be dangerous.
Kansas City topped Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, despite trailing 17-13 on the road in the fourth quarter. Alex Smith and co. were able to score 13 points in the final 15 minutes, buoyed by two interceptions courtesy of Quintin Demps and Marcus Cooper. Already 3-0 on the road, the Chiefs have a chance to get fat at home before the cold weather sets in.
Meet the Raiders
Oakland thought that Matt Flynn was going to be the future quarterback coming into the preseason, but that plan has been completely overhauled. Flynn was released this week because of his downright awful play, while Pryor took the reins during the exhibition games and has not looked back.
The Ohio State product has been terrific throughout the campaign, leading the Raiders in both rushing and passing yardage. Pryor has been accurate with a 68.3 completion percentage while throwing for 845 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, Pryor has ran for 229 yards, 14 more than Darren McFadden.
Defensively, Lamarr Houston is the star of the show. Houston leads the team with three sacks and, according to Pro Football Focus, is rated as the best defensive player on the squad with a 7.1 rating, four points higher than anybody else.
Meet the Chiefs
Kansas City is unquestionably a smash-mouth team led by its defense. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has his side of the ball playing dominant football, leading the league in points allowed per game at 11.6. On Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs' defense has a 83.6 rating, more than 30 points better than the second-best Seattle Seahawks.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston has been a force off the edge with 8.5 sacks. Tamba Hali has four sacks, and leads the league in quarterback pressures with 31. Nobody else in football has more than 17. In front of them is nose tackle Dontari Poe, who has 4.5 sacks and could be the best at his position. Add Eric Berry, Sean Smith, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers, and it is easy to understand why this defense is getting it done.
On offense, it has been a struggle at times. Jamaal Charles is the best player on this side of the ball by a wide margin. Charles is fifth in the league with 397 rushing yards, along with 250 receiving yards. Alex Smith needs to improve his play, completing only 58.4 percent of his attempts.
Local take: Oakland
Marcus Allen Krause of Silver And Black Pride is pumped for his favorite rivalry in sports:
Another reason this rivalry always means a little bit more is how intense the games always are. The records never mean anything in this game, it is always hotly contested. These teams love to hate each other and it shows up time and time again with rough and tumble performances by both teams. They punch each other in the mouth the way that football is suppose to be played.
Local take: Kansas City
Nick Jacobs of Arrowhead Pride discusses the Raiders' defensive line:
I used to marvel at the Raiders ability to collapse a pocket in three seconds with their line. This season looks like the 2003 Chiefs -- no defense. QBs have all day back there if they have a respectable o-line.
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Kansas City has the best defense in the league by a wide margin at this point of the campaign. The Chiefs fans are also trying to set a world record for the loudest outdoor stadium on Sunday. Pryor is going to cause some problems and keep the Raiders in the game, but scoring into the 20's will be tough. If they do it, they would be the first team this year to accomplish the feat against Kansas City. Don't expect a blowout, but the Chiefs should find a way at home rather comfortably.
Pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 10
The Chiefs are favored by 9.5 points at home over the Raiders at home, according to Odds Shark.
Kansas City hosts the Houston Texans, and Oakland gets a bye.