Oakland Raiders (4-1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2)
SERIES HISTORY: 112th regular-season meeting between these original members of the American Football League. The Chiefs lead the series, 58-51-2. Last season the Chiefs swept the Raiders, winning 34-20 in Oakland and then 23-17 in Kansas City. Under Andy Reid, the Chiefs are 5-1 against the Raiders. In the last 16 seasons (2000-15), the Chiefs have an 18-14 edge, and they are 10-6 at Oakland since the 2000 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: With Latavius Murray still hobbling with a toe injury, the Raiders are likely a pass-first offense with Derek Carr spreading the ball to his wideouts and running backs, then hoping to set up DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard with surprise traps and draws that can be sprung for big yardage.
Carr's talents notwithstanding, the Raiders' rushing game has fallen off over the last two weeks. In their first three games, with a relatively healthy Murray, they averaged 148.3 yards on the ground (second in the league), and 5.86 yards per carry, the best mark in the NFL. In their last two games, the Raiders averaged only 75.5 rushing yards per game (25th in NFL) and 3.43 yards per carry (22nd). Additionally, they scored five rushing touchdowns in their first three games, compared to just one in the last two.
Defensively, the Raiders, beaten deep early and often by San Diego's Philip Rivers, have no such fear facing Alex Smith's mediocre arm. Even if he does launch one deep, Smith has WR Jeremy Maclin as a lone threat to take the top off a defense. So watch the Raiders crowd the box, stop the run and make quick tackles on Smith's short throws.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders WRs Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree vs. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters. An Oakland high school product, Peters is coming home as a rehabilitated star after personal issues ruined his college career. He became a draft steal, albeit No. 22 overall in 2016, and intercepted eight passes as a rookie -- one of those in Oakland in a 34-20 win over the Raiders. Derek Carr has a habit of going after the other team's top corner, and he will do it with both Cooper and Crabtree. Crabtree had a pair of touchdowns against the Chiefs last season and caught eight passes for 79 yards. Cooper had four catches for 69 yards in the first meeting and only two for 20 in the second when he was hobbling with a foot injury.
--Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Raiders SS Karl Joseph. Kelce is the guy that better-safe-than-sorry quarterback Alex Smith looks to when he wants a high percentage play with minimal risk. The middle of the Raiders defense has had its issues, including a 58-yard pass last week to San Diego rookie tight end Hunter Henry and a short touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. Joseph, a 5-foot-10, 207-pound rookie, is giving up considerable size to every tight end he faces but has a pit bull mentality,
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RT Vadal Alexander. A seventh-round draft pick from LSU may be the surprise answer to the question of who will assume the role of right tackle. Menelik Watson held the job coming out of training camp -- winning out over last season's starter, Austin Howard. But Watson has already been hurt twice and his injury history is problematic. Howard came in briefly when Alexander tweaked an ankle against San Diego and got pushed around until Alexander was asked to return.
INJURY REPORT: Kansas City -- None. Oakland -- Out: G Vadal Alexander (ankle), RB Latavius Murray (toe), T Menelik Watson (calf). Questionable: S Nate Allen (quadricep), G Jon Feliciano (calf), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), T Matt McCants (knee), LB Malcolm Smith (quadriceps), TE Clive Walford (knee).
FAST FACTS: The average score difference in the last 32 games between the Chiefs and Raiders (2000-15) is 1.5 points. Kansas City scored 672 points, while Oakland totaled 623. ... Raiders QB Derek Carr threw two TDs vs. San Diego, extending his streak of throwing at least one TD pass to 11 games. Only three Raiders had streaks of at least 11 games -- Daryle Lamonica (3 times, including a franchise-record 25 games between 1968 and 1970), Ken Stabler (twice) and Rich Gannon (19 games, 2001-2002).
PREDICTION: The Chiefs are historically heartbreakers for the Raiders in a series that goes back to the beginning of the old AFL. Oakland's frustrations are so old they still give nightmares to retired Hall of Fame coach John Madden. During one game at Kansas City, the Chiefs were scoring with such regularity that their horse mascot, Warpaint, was getting tired. After the game, Madden said, "We damned near killed Warpaint." But the Chiefs won't have Warpaint at Oakland Sunday.
OUR PICK: Raiders, 38-30.