Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday03)
The Raiders head to Kansas City for an AFC West battle on Thursday, and this could be one for the ages. Not only is it a rivalry game, but this game could quite possibly decide who will win the division, and get a first-round bye. Not to mention if the Patriots were to stumble in the coming weeks, the winner could end up with a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Raiders are 10-2, and have done it with their offense. While the Chiefs are 9-3, and have done with their defense and special teams. These teams are two polar opposites, and this will be a battle of your best versus my best. The Raiders are fifth in total offense, fourth in passing and seventh in rushing. The Chiefs on the other hand can fool you with their defensive stats. They reside in the bottom third of every major defensive statistic, but lead the league in takeaways and they don’t give it away either. They’ve forced 25 turnovers, and have only turned it over 14 times which is the best differential in the league. Not only that, but even with all the yards they give up between the 20’s, once you get in the red zone good luck scoring a touchdown. The Chiefs are sixth in red zone defense allowing touchdowns on only 48% of opponents red zone trips. In the last three games they’re only allowing a 35% conversion rate; that includes the Falcons going 3-7 last Sunday.
Outside of their skill positions the Raiders offensive line is probably their greatest strength, and their chemistry along the line is evident. They are easily one of the three best offensive lines in football, but in their last matchup against the Chiefs in Oakland they got whipped. That was week five, and they’ve been miles better since then. They’ve even taken a page out of the Chiefs playbook by going with heavy packages in the run game, bringing in extra lineman to basically outnumber the defense in the trenches. One thing they do really well in that package is utilize their backs in the passing game. Usually when you want throw out of that formation it’s only two and three man routes, but they can create mismatches with their backs because linebackers who don’t usually cover people have to cover backs coming out of the backfield.
Derrick Johnson is one of the best linebackers in all of football, and he will be tasked with not only aligning the defense when the Raiders go to a heavy set, but covering the Raiders running backs. This defense has had Derek Carr’s number throughout his career though. In his five career starts against the Chiefs he’s 1-4 with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s also been sacked 17 times including last year in Arrowhead when he was sacked a whopping six times. One thing to note for Derek Carr; he’s only played three games in which the temperature was below 50 degrees. In those games he’s only averages 162.3 passing yards with 4.96 yards per attempt. It’s supposed to be in the teens with possibly a negative wind chill on Thursday.
The Chiefs on the other hand are built for this kind of game. They play a complementary style of football. Don’t take any unnecessary chances, and let our defense do what they do best. The Chiefs offensive line while not as good as the Raiders is fairly underrated. They’ve even gone back to their heavy sets as well. They used to be the masters of 13 personnel (one back, three tight ends), but now they bring in lineman Jah Reid who is a fantastic run blocker as their third “tight end” along with Demetrius Harris and Travis Kelce. Speaking of Travis Kelce, he’s been spectacular in Jeremy Maclin’s absence. In the last six games (Maclin has missed basically 4 of them) Kelce has 55 targets and 539 yards, which I still think isn’t enough for a top three tight end.
Kelce has been on a tear lately, but the real game changer for the Chiefs is speedster Tyreek Hill who basically single handedly beat the Broncos two weeks ago. In that game he had a kick return for a touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown; and since week eight he is the second most targeted receiver with 45 and is catching 80% of his targets. Hill can hurt the Raiders in a variety of ways, and the Raiders don’t have anyone that can contain him.
The Raiders have to outscore people to win, because let’s face it, their defense is atrocious. The Chiefs are going to try and win this game like they do every other game. Take the ball away, and don’t give it back. This will probably be the biggest game we’ll see all year with so much on the line. It’s going to be freezing cold, and those make for the best games so find your favorite spot in front of the TV, and be prepared for a 60 minute fist fight.