Another week, another classic AFC West showdown in Oakland. Both the Chiefs and the Raiders head into Sunday afternoonâ€™s game at 1-0, looking for the opportunity to capture an early-season divisional win and haul in some bragging rights while theyâ€™re at it. From a Raiders perspective, this week will be a challenge far greater than the one they faced last Monday. Letâ€™s look at three keys that can help not only keep this one competitive, but give Oakland a real shot at getting to 2-0 . . .
Defense: Bend, but donâ€™t break
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a bona fide star, thereâ€™s really no denying it. Heâ€™s young, sure, but he can scramble and throw the ball all over the field with ease. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and defensive line coach Brenston Buckner will surely come into the game with a plan to apply pressure on the QB, in hopes that they can bring him down a few times. But, heâ€™s going to get his yards and make some plays. The big question is - can the Raiders make open field tackles when they should and keep the play in front of them? KCâ€™s speed is L-E-T-H-A-L, as theyâ€™ll happily take full advantage of any mental error, communication breakdown, or poor angle you take as a defender trying to take down the ball carrier and turn what should be a 15-yard gain into a 75-yard house call. Another way Oaklandâ€™s defense can “bend, but donâ€™t break” is in the red zone. Can they tighten it up and hold KC to 3 a few times? Thatâ€™d go a loooong way in helping the Raiders to stay in this game.
Just last season, these two teams played in a pretty entertaining and high-scoring matchup, with the Chiefs prevailing 40-33. A big difference in that game was the turnover battle, as Kansas City was +2 on the day and that was a huge reason why the Raiders fell short. Itâ€™s worth noting that Mahomes does take some chances with his throws and also likes to hold onto the ball in the backfield and scramble around, so hopefully Guentherâ€™s unit can force him into some mistakes. Doing so would not only get them a stop, but maybe even give the Raiders offense a short field and a prime opportunity to make them pay with a trip to pay dirt (there hasnâ€™t been a whole lot of those opportunities in recent seasons). Plays like that could really swing the momentum and Oakland needs every one of those they can get this weekend.
This is definitely the low hanging fruit, but Iâ€™m going to rock with Carr here and say his ability to rifle some throws down the field is the biggest key to the Raiders beating the Chiefs on Sunday. Assuming the offensive line is giving #4 the protection to step up in the pocket (like they did last Monday night against Denver), itâ€™ll give DC the opportunity to put in some work and make Kansas Cityâ€™s secondary respect the deep ball. Doing so will give Josh Jacobs more room to get to work in the run game and also in the short pass game as a check-down receiver, as the DBâ€™s wonâ€™t be lurking as close to the LOS. Carr scorched the Chiefs defense in Oakland just last season, and didnâ€™t throw an interception in the process, so letâ€™s hope for a similar output for the Raiders gunslinger once again.