Fossum: Raiders Facing Must-Win vs. Chiefs Tonight

Jim Fossum
Jack Del Rio Oakland Raiders Jim Fossum Las Vegas Raiders Report Kansas City Chiefs

“The end” could arrive sooner than later in Oakland if the Raiders don’t shake up the AFC West tonight with a victory over the NFL’s best team to date.

It wasn’t that long ago that the defense was outright offensive. Now, the offense has Raider faithful downright defensive. Who – or what, exactly – are the Raiders masquerading as?

The NFL’s most confounding and disappointing team . . . that’s the short answer.

Kansas City Chiefs Halloween Oakland Raiders Las Vegas Raiders Report

The Raiders hope the Chiefs don’t make Oakland a horror show.

With Halloween looming, the last-place Raiders (2-4) are a frightening 0-3 in October, losers of four straight, and on a collision course tonight with first-place Kansas City (5-1) in the AFC West. Following an unexpected divisional home defeat Sunday to the Chargers, and a road game at upstart Buffalo (3-2) to close out the month, the Raiders could easily finish a three-game home stand without a win and be 0-5 for the month — just in time to trick or treat as a corpse.

So, how did we get here?

If I had the answer, you’d see me on the sidelines Thursday evening in Oakland tugging at Coach Jack Del Rio’s shirt sleeves. Some question the play calling, but lack of execution is closer to the truth. While purely speculative, unfulfilled expectations often evolve into a diagnosis of unsettled team chemistry, or unity issues, worse yet. Of immediate concern is how the team reacts.

“You can’t let things not going your way affect who you are,” said Del Rio, whose team’s disappointing record is the worst in the AFC next to the Browns. “We’re defined by how we conduct ourselves and how we carry on in the face of adversity.”

Here are the unsettling facts:

The Raiders can’t get out of their own way on offense, where they stand 30th (278 yards per game) in the 32-team NFL just a season removed from possessing perhaps the league’s most feared quick-strike offense.

Since opening the season with two convincing wins, the Raiders have averaged just 13.25 points and haven’t scored more than two touchdowns. They rank 27th in passing yards, 24th in rushing, 21st in third-down conversions and 18th in scoring.

In short, there’s been no downfield passing game to speak of, with the finger most prominently being pointed at All-Pro wide receiver Amari Cooper (8.1 yards per catch on 18 receptions. There’s been little ground support to combat the big-strike deficiency. The NFL’s most intimidating runner, Marshawn Lynch, has gained just 257 yards on 70 attempts in six games, or 3.7 yards per carry.

Marquette King Oakland Raiders Las vegas Raiders Report

It’s not good when your punter (Marquette King) is your top offensive player.

Momentum-altering mistakes have been as much to blame as anything. The Raiders, who thrived on turnovers while going 12-4 a season ago, are minus-2 in turnover ratio and have diminished their own positive game flow with mental miscues, dropped passes, fumbles and third-down conversion failures. The team’s most prominent player has been punter Marquette King, who has averaged a league-leading 52.7 yards.

Defensive backs dominate the team’s tackle stats, which is never a good thing. And game-day urgency within and around the team has been listless, if not entirely lacking. Perhaps Monday’s $3 million investment in longtime 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman for the rest of the season will help remedy that. But both offense and defense share the blame. Both demand attention.

“We had our chances to put it away,” Del Rio said of Sunday’s 17-16 upset loss to the Chargers. “It could have been done in a lot of different ways. Either side could have stepped up and been big at the end.”

“The end” could arrive sooner than later in Oakland if the Raiders don’t shake up the AFC West tonight with a victory over the NFL’s best team to date.

The Chiefs, stinging from a 19-13 home loss Sunday to the Steelers, are second in the NFL in scoring (29.5 ppg) and offense (387 ypg), seventh in passing (252.2) and fourth in rushing (134.8). With the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium next week, Kansas City’s all too aware of what a victory tonight would mean the rest of the way. For the Raiders, the season likely rides on it.