AFC West showdown: Key matchup

Thanks to a suggestion from a reader, Parker, we’re going to look at an individual matchup in Sunday’s pivotal AFC West showdown between visiting Kansas City and Oakland.

This is a big game. Kansas City is 5-2 and in first place in the division. Oakland is 4-4 and in second place. These are two fairly evenly matched teams. I caught up with the astute Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to look at one matchup that could play a major role in the outcome of the game.

Williamson thinks the key matchup will be Kansas City outside linebacker Tamba Hali against Oakland rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer.

Hali summary: The fifth-year player is flourishing as a 3-4 linebacker. He has seven sacks this season.

Veldheer summary: He is a third-round pick who is transitioning from tiny Hillsdale College in Michigan. He started the season at center, but has been moved to left tackle and has taken over. At 6-foot-8, Veldheeer was a poor fit at center, but he is playing well at left tackle and is a reason why Oakland is enjoying immense success on offense:

Matt Williamson’s breakdown: “I like what Veldheer has done, but this will be his biggest test. Hali is one of the best players at his position in the NFL. He doesn’t have great sack numbers, but he is always getting close to the quarterback. Veldheer can move well and he will need to against Hali. If Veldheer comes up big, Oakland will be able to pass the ball. But you have to give the edge to Hali. Veldheer is so tall and Hali can really play low well. I think he can get under Veldheer’s pads and move him around. If that’s the case, two of Oakland’s better receiving weapons, Darren McFadden and Zach Miller (who has a foot injury and may not play), will have to stay in and help. That would keep away a weapon … This is a real key to the game for both teams.”