Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:
Running for first place: The race for first place in the AFC West starts on the ground. The best way to win in the NFL is with the running game and that is being proven in the AFC West. Division-leading Kansas City (5-2) is leading the NFL in rushing with 190.4 yards per game. No team has averaged that many yards on the ground for an entire season since New England in 1978. Second-place Oakland (4-4) is second in the league in rushing at 168.5 yards per game. Sunday’s game in Oakland could come down to which team's ground attack can be stopped. Kansas City is ranked seventh in the NFL in run defense, allowing 96.4 yards per game. Oakland is struggling to stop the run. It is ranked 26th against the run, allowing 127.4 yards per game. Here is a look at how Kansas City may be able to take advantage of Oakland’s running defense Sunday. And here is an ESPN video analysis of that matchup. The forecast for Sunday in Oakland calls for rain, which could benefit the ground game for both teams.
Can San Diego stop Houston? If they have a chance to improve to 4-5, the Chargers must stop the Texans' offense in Houston on Sunday. San Diego is ranked first in the NFL in total defense and No. 1 in pass defense. But it was ripped apart by Tennessee in the air last week. The Titans had 303 yards passing and five receivers caught passes of 24 yards or more. Houston has an explosive offense. If the Chargers' pass defense fails again, Houston will strike often.
Can the Chiefs continue their Oakland dominance? The Raiders have an advantage in their crucial game against the Chiefs because they are the home team. It’s a perfect opportunity to Oakland improve to 3-0 in the division this season. It already has defeated San Diego and Denver. However, Kansas City will enter the game with a lot of confidence. It has a long winning streak in Oakland. It has won seven straight games there -- the longest streak in Raiders' history.
Haley’s fourth-down guts: Second-year Chiefs coach Todd Haley has earned a reputation as a riverboat gambler. He loves to go for it on fourth down. He has done it 11 times this season, tied for the third-most in the NFL. The Chiefs have converted on fourth down six times. Haley is not apologizing for his risk-taking ways and it seems he won’t stop doing it. “It’s not a crazy-man mentality,” Haley told reporters this week. “It’s well thought out ... I don’t expect everybody to agree with me or understand always exactly the way I’m thinking. But we’re trying to develop a team here, and I want to be a great team. I want to be a great head coach because I know that for us to be a great team I probably have to be a great head coach.”
Can the Chargers win on the road? If the 3-5 Chargers, who ended a three-game losing streak Sunday against the Titans, are going to make a run, they have to finally win on the road. San Diego is 0-4 on the road. Playoff teams must win away from home. If the Chargers can finally fly home after a victory, perhaps they will climb back into the playoff conversation.