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Take Five: Oakland

Posted Jan 1, 2011

Five to watch in Week 17

This wasn’t the Week 17 scenario that most of us were expecting. Just a week ago, it looked like a Chiefs/Raiders finale would determine Kansas City’s playoff fate. What better way to end the regular season?

Instead, the West was won a week early and the circumstances have changed this Sunday at Arrowhead. Nobody is complaining.

Just because the Chiefs have already punched their ticket to the playoffs doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty to watch. The AFC’s third seed can be clinched with a win and the Chiefs can deliver another gift to their fans by sending the Raiders to an eighth-straight losing season by chalking up another “W” at Arrowhead.

Let’s Take Five…

1)   The Starters

The starters are going to start, but will they finish?

Todd Haley declared his intent to go for the win earlier this week and said that the Chiefs will approach Sunday’s Week 17 matchup just the same as any other. Kansas City has thrived off a single-game mentality this season, so why start looking ahead now?

“We’ve gone through the whole year and we’ve had some games where we’ve had the game in hand and there have been games where we have got guys in there but it won’t change,” Haley said.

Haley could have some interesting second half personnel decisions ahead of him depending on the score. Only time will tell.

2)   The Flags

All of a sudden, the penalty game becomes an area of interest as the Chiefs head into the postseason. Oakland draws more opponent penalty yardage than any team in the NFL, seeing their foes march 1,122 yards backward throughout the course of 2010. Opponents of the Titans come in second at 1,014 penalty yards.

Kansas City struggled with flags against both the Titans and the Raiders this season. In fact, flags were a primary factor in the Chiefs uncharacteristic, flag-happy loss in Oakland earlier this year.

Can teams dictate the Chiefs penalty totals with a certain style of play? Both Tennessee and Oakland play a similar brand of physical football and the usually lightly flagged Chiefs have struggled to keep the yellows in the officials’ polyesters against those types of teams.

With the Jets potentially coming into town next weekend, it’s something to watch this Sunday.

3)   56 and Counting

The Chiefs haven’t seen a running back claim the NFL’s rushing title since Priest Holmes did so in 2001 (1,555 yards). There’s a chance that the crown can come back to Arrowhead this weekend.

Jamaal Charles trails Houston’s Arian Foster by just 56 yards heading into Week 17. Though Foster has had a breakout year, Charles is the player who’s been most impressive and has carried the football far less than any other rusher in the NFL’s Top 10. His 216 attempts are 90 fewer than Foster’s 2010 workload.

The Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw (8th) has the least attempts of any Top-10 runner outside of Charles, but has still rushed 45 more times. Regardless, Charles has a chance to make history this weekend.

Can he do it? Will he have an opportunity to do so?

“I know that some of those things are real, real important to guys,” Haley said. “But the number one thing is winning the game. We never set our goals any differently than to win a game, but at the same time when you are within a game I’ve been in situations where you’re made aware of a situation where somebody needs this or that and if it can work with what you’re trying to get done, which is win the game, then I think it’s great if you’re able to get guys certain honors or certain milestones that are very, very important to these players and to the coaches at times.”

4)   8-0?

The Chiefs haven’t gone 8-0 at Arrowhead since 2003. Of course, that was the year of Kansas City’s last division title as well.

Enough can’t be said about the impact of a perfect home slate. The Arrowhead mystique is back and almost carries a feeling of invisibility. This is what the Arrowhead advantage is supposed to be about and an 8-0 finish will only make the Chiefs tougher to beat next weekend.

5)   Health is the Word

It’s amazing that the Chiefs only had one player (Donald Washington) on the injury report in this week. Haley credits the team’s impressive attendance in the offseason strength and conditioning program as one of the main reasons for chucking the injury bug. Winning helps those bumps and bruises heal a little quicker as well.

It’s extremely rare for a team to be this healthy at a point so late in the season. For comparisons sake, Oakland listed 10 players on their injury report this week. Other teams had more.

Entering the postseason at full health is a real possibility for the Chiefs. Lets see how the team comes out of Sunday.

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