The Oakland Raiders (6-5) head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on their fellow AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) in Week 13 NFL action. Here are my three keys to victory for the silver and black:
Embrace the Elements, Dominate the Trenches
The strength of the 2019 Oakland Raiders is their offensive line mauling the defenders in front of them at the point of attack, opening holes for rookie sensation Josh Jacobs in the process. It’s their identity. It’s their bread-and-butter.
They need to get back to it.
On the road, the Raiders are 0-3 when they rush for less than 100 yards. When Gruden’s offense is running the football consistently, it allows them to control the pace of the game, eat up clock, and wear down the opposing defense down the stretch. In a “the best defense is a good offense” type of way, you also want to keep Mahomes on the sideline and out of rhythm as much as possible.
So is it realistic to think Oakland can run against the Chiefs’ front?
The answer is yes. Unlike the Jets’ stingy run defense, the Chiefs enter the game ranked 31st in the NFL against the run, giving up an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The weather will also be cold and windy (maybe some snow?), so the elements favor that style of play as well. No need to overthink this one, Jon: run the football.
No Cheap Yards for Chiefs
It’s no secret, the Chiefs offense is explosive. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in the 2nd quarter against the Raiders in Week 2, so defensive coordinator Paul Guenther should have all the respect in the world for the opponent this week. The weather may slow Andy Reid’s offense down a bit, but don’t expect that to hinder them too much.
What the Raiders need to do is avoid 40-yard bubble screens, missed tackles that allow a 7-yard gain to be a 56-yard gain, short fields off turnovers, long special teams returns, anything and everything that would gift the Chiefs field position. It’s difficult enough to stop them, don’t make it any easier than it already is. Make them earn it.
Catch the Ball, Please
Last week against the Jets was a nightmare for the Raiders in more than one way, but one thing that really hurt them offensively (when the game was still competitive) was wide receiver drops. Tyrell Williams had one slip through his hands on third down that could have been a 25-plus yard gain, but instead it forced a punt. They cannot let those opportunities for yards and first downs slip away in Kansas City. The Chiefs are a lot better than the Jets, so the margin for error is even thinner as far as keeping the game within reach.
Also, quarterback Derek Carr has struggled at Arrowhead, so his weapons need to do all that they can to make life easier on him by catching the football when the throw is on the money.
If the run game is going, the pass protection is there and Carr’s receivers can hang onto the football, the Raiders could put themselves in position to pull off an upset.