The stretch run is upon us and a key AFC West battle between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs is part of the Week 14 slate.
However, it’s not the anticipated battle we all expected. This was supposed to be a highlight game of the week. But it is not. The two teams are not worthy.
Yes, they are part of a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West – with the hot Los Angeles Chargers – but we expected so much more from the Raiders and the Chiefs in the division. And we didn’t expect a 6-6 record to be good enough for a piece of first place in the division, especially after both the Chiefs and Raiders went 12-4 last season. But here we are.
The Chiefs have imploded since starting 5-0 and looking like the class of the NFL. Frankly, Kansas City looks incapable of winning a game at the moment. The Raiders have won three of four games, but they’ve hardly looked impressive. They barely survived back-to-back home games against the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants (they of a combined 5-19 record who started Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith at quarterback, respectively) in the past two weeks.
Yet, when the Raiders and the Chiefs met in Oakland in October, the two teams gave us perhaps the best game of the season, a wild, 31-30 Oakland win. Let’s see if they can duplicate it. Here are five keys for the Raiders in the Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium:
5. Harass Alex Smith
The Raiders have had a better pass-rush in the two games that John Pagano took over for Ken Norton Jr. as defensive coordinator. Star Khalil Mack and his sidekick Bruce Irvin, have been particularly good. The Raiders’ usually get pressure against bad offensive lines. The Chiefs’ line can be had. Alex Smith has been struggling of late, although he did play week in Week 13 against the Jets. Making Smith uncomfortable is a huge must for Oakland and it tires to keep the Chiefs’ from exploding. The Chiefs’ offense a bad matchup for the Raiders. So, getting to Smith is paramount.
4. Keep Marshawn Lynch going
Lynch had his first 100-yard rushing game as a Raider against the Giants who have the worst run defense in the NFL. The Chiefs’ run defense is awful, too. They are 30th against the run, allowing 129.4 yards a game. If the Raiders can establish Lynch, they will help keep Kansas City’s offense off the field. Lynch was ejected in the first half in the first meeting between these two teams for helping his close family friend, Chiefs’ cornerback Marcus Peters, in a fight. If Lynch can stay on the field, the Raiders may be in business.
3. Score, at least, 31 points again
The Raiders need to hit the same point total, at least, in the second go-round against the Chiefs. The Raiders have surpassed that total just once this season (they scored 45 points against the Jets in Week 2) and have averaged 18.8 points a game in the five games since playing Kansas City. Still, the Chiefs can score even though they are in a major slump. Kansas City had six plays of 30 yards or more against the Jets. So, the Raiders are going to need to score.
2. Somehow stop Kelce and Hill
One of the reasons why Oakland is going to have to light up the scoreboard is Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill. They are terrible matchups for the Raiders. Oakland’s defense is infamous for giving up big plays, especially to tight ends and speedy receivers. Both players scored a touchdown against Oakland in October with Hill accounting for 125 receiving yards.
1. Continue to get turnovers
The Raiders have been improving in the turnover area. They got two fumble recoveries against he Giants. Yet, Oakland was unable to intercept Smith and it has just one interception in 12 games. If the Raiders are going to win on the road, they must get multiple turnovers to thwart Kansas City drives.