By Dave Thomas
For the Oakland Raiders, life atop the AFC West feels oh so good. At least, that is, for now.
With Denver (4-2) losing on the road in San Diego Thursday evening (21-13), the Raiders (4-1) have sole possession of first place in the AFC West heading into Sunday’s home game with the rival Kansas City Chiefs (2-2).
After coming back to score a 34-31 home victory last Sunday over the previously mentioned Chargers, the Raiders can extend that lead in the division to a full game with a win against an old AFL rival in the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, Kansas City is trying to put the bloodshed that occurred in Pittsburgh behind it following a bye week. The Chiefs went into the Steel City a week ago this past Sunday and laid a major egg, falling to the Steelers in a game that was literally over at halftime. With a week off to regroup, the Chiefs hope better moments await in the Bay Area.
Oakland Clicking On Most Cylinders
For the Raiders, their 4-1 record is not a fluke.
Despite trailing in both games (to several teams through five contests) and overall stats on the season (to opponents) in a number of categories, Oakland has managed a way to come back and win all but one game.
The Raiders have also managed to get a grip on the AFC West lead despite missing running back Latavius Murray (toe injury). Murray, who did not play against San Diego last weekend, is listed as out for this Sunday’s game after missing three days of practice due to the injury. To date, Murray has rushed for 172 yards (40 carries) and three TDs. With Murray out of the lineup, Jalen Richard leads the team in overall rushing with 175 yards, while DeAndre Washington has chipped in with 170.
Most of Oakland’s success on the offensive side of the ball is coming from quarterback Derek Carr. Through five games, Carr has amassed 1,383 yards passing, 11 touchdowns, with only a pair of interceptions against his record.
On the receiving end, Michael Crabtree (355 yards, five TD’s) and Amari Cooper (456 yards, one TD) form a nice one-two punch.
On the defensive side of the ball, Reggie Nelson has had a solid season to date, tallying 37 tackles (29 solo), while Stacy McGee has recorded 2.5 sacks.
To go along with Murray’s absence, Oakland will be without guard/tackle Vadal Alexander (ankle) and tackle Menelik Watson (calf).
Expect Chiefs To Be Competitive
Despite their 43-14 blowout loss in Pittsburgh the other week, Kansas City is still certainly in the hunt for a division title.
Running back Spencer Ware has rushed for 284 yards through four games, while quarterback Alex Smith has 1,073 yards passing and five TD’s.
On defense, linebacker Derrick Johnson leads the way with 31 total tackles.
The Chiefs come into Sunday’s tilt with a couple of injury question marks of their own.
Veteran linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) did not practice on either Wednesday or Friday, seeing limited practice time in between. Meanwhile, running back Knile Davis (concussion) did practice all three days, so he could be expected to go come this Sunday.
Kansas City, which owns a modest three-game winning streak in the series, leads the overall series with Oakland by a 60-52-2 count.
- Vadal Alexander, G/T (Ankle)
- Latavius Murray, RB (Toe)
- Menelik Watson, T (Calf)
- Nate Allen, S (Quad)
- John Feliciano, OL (Calf)
- Taiwan Jones, RB (Knee)
- Matt McCants, OL (Knee)
- Malcolm Smith, LB (Quad)
- Clive Walford, TE (Knee)