By Sam McPherson
As the 4-9 Oakland Raiders prepare to host the 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at the O.co Coliseum, both teams have injury concerns despite the fact the two squads are headed in very opposite directions.
With the Denver Broncos loss to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night in Denver, the Chiefs know they can gain some ground in the AFC West on the Broncos with a win Sunday over the struggling Raiders, and no amount of injuries is going to stand in Kansas City’s way, in all likelihood.
For the Raiders, it’s all about 2014 now, so protecting some injured players probably helps the Chiefs cause as well.
Nominal starting running back Darren McFadden is out again with his ankle injury, and with free agency on his horizon, he may not see the field again in 2013. The good news is Oakland gets recently-starting Rashad Jennings back from his concussion problems this week, and even after Marcel Reece ran for 161 yards last week against the New York Jets, he’ll go back to his fullback role this week.
Some more good news is that starting wide receiver Denarius Moore may return against the Chiefs on Sunday, as his shoulder problems are getting better. The team’s No. 1 wideout has practiced this week enough to be upgraded to “Questionable” for the game against Kansas City; that would be good news for starting quarterback Matt McGloin and the rest of the Raiders offense.
The only other concerns for the Oakland offense is that two offensive linemen are banged up. Right tackle Tony Pashos and left guard Khalif Barnes both are listed as probable for the game Sunday, but players never know how those nagging, lingering injuries will hold up during the game.
The good news, in that sense, is that Kansas City could be fielding a slightly watered-down version of its defense still, with the lingering injury to linebacker Justin Houston. He’s missed the last two games with an elbow injury, but he is still sixth in the NFL with 11 sacks. He was a limited participant in practice this week.
Otherwise, the Chiefs defense looks healthy and strong, and they certainly stuck it to the Washington Redskins last week in a 45-10 win.
On offense, Kansas City has few injury concerns. Tight end Anthony Fasano may not clear concussion protocol in time to play in this game, but otherwise the Chiefs only major concern is the ankle of kick returner/wideout Dexter McCluster (ankle), who is listed as questionable. He had a big game against the Redskins, and he certainly gives quarterback Alex Smith another target on most passing plays—and his return skills are considerable, as well.
Defensively, the Raiders may have some issues regardless of McCluster’s availability. Two starters are listed as questionable for the game, defensive tackle Vance Walker (concussion) and linebacker Sio Moore (concussion). Walker’s concussion could keep him out the rest of the season, while Moore has been battling these challenges all season after a car accident in September.
If Walker can’t go, Jack Crawford would get the start in his place. The 25-year-old reserve from Penn State has one sack this season in limited action.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.