This week's Thursday Night Football matchup features two AFC West rivals moving in opposite directions.
Even with a homefield advantage, the relative strengths and weaknesses for the two teams don't bode well for a Raiders upset. Here's what to watch for in Thursday's game:
- The Chiefs have an overwhelming advantage on the ground. Opponents are rushing 50.1 percent of the time against the Raiders, the highest percentage in NFL. The Chiefs lead the league with 16 rushing touchdowns. Jamaal Charles owns the highest career yards per carry average in NFL history (5.54) and the second-highest (5.20) this season. Since taking over as the starter in 2009, Charles has averaged 100 all-purpose yards and more than a touchdown per in seven games versus Oakland. He was best player on the field last week versus the Seahawks.
- The Raiders, on the other hand, are averaging just 63 rushing yards per game, the worst rate since the 1946 Detroit Lions. Darren McFadden is averaging 3.34 yards per on 443 carries since the start of the 2012 season. He and Maurice Jones-Drew have combined to average 1.86 yards per carry over the past three games. The Chiefs have not allowed a rushing touchdown since the playoff loss to the Colts last January. Mismatches don't get more colossal. Even if Latavius Murray runs too upright, the Raiders have nothing to lose by giving him a shot over two veterans lacking any semblance of playmaking ability.
- Oakland's aerial attack isn't faring much better. Although Derek Carr has shown flashes of promise, he is now the first rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger to start and lose the first 10 games of the season. His receivers are averaging just 9.42 yards per catch, the fourth-lowest mark since the merger. Carr has gone three-and-out on 35.6 percent of his drives, the highest percentage since Alex Smith's rookie season with the 49ers in 2005. For all of Carr's promise, he has regressed in a major way the past couple of weeks.
- If Carr is going to get off the schneid, he will have to pull it off against a surging Chiefs' defense that ranks second in points allowed per game (17.1) and first in passing yards allowed per game (201.6). Impending free agent outside linebacker Justin Houston is leading the league in sacks (12) and ranks with Von Miller as the most disruptive defenders not named J.J. Watt. Nose tackle Dontari Poe has been just as dominant over the past month. The Chiefs have also gotten a Pro Bowl season and breakout season from cornerbacks Shaun Smith and Ron Parker, respectively.
- Looking for a bright spot in Oakland? Linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack have emerged as the first real building blocks since Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager. Mack has been an impact rookie, ranking first in run-stop percentage among 3-4 linebackers, per Pro Football Focus. He's a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.