The Raiders welcome the hated Kansas City Chiefs to Oakland in what appears to be a lopsided matchup between one of the NFL’s best teams against one of its worst.
The Raiders return to the Oakland Coliseum this Sunday to face off against their biggest rivals in the Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s take a look at three things Raider Nation should be watching for in this matchup:
Can the Raiders Stop Pat Mahomes?
It’s a fair question to ask at this stage if any team can stop the Chiefs star quarterback, let alone a porous Raiders defense. Nonetheless, the Raiders are the next team up on the schedule and must find a way to contain Mahomes if they are going to keep it close on Sunday. The best way to limit Mahomes will be to play ‘smart’ football. That is getting off the field on third down, limit red zone opportunities to field goals rather than touchdowns, force a turnover or two, win the field position battle on special teams, and control the clock on offense with the running game. Yes, if it were that simple, other teams would have stopped the Chiefs with more regularity. It’s a tall task for the rebuilding Raiders but on any given Sunday the possibility of an upset.
What About the Rest of the Chiefs Offense?
The Chiefs are led by Mahomes but their offense is full of stars at every playmaking position. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is the most potent offensive weapon in the league and tight end Travis Kelce might be the best tight end too. Running back Kareem Hunt is able to get them going on the ground and is on track for over 1,200 yards rushing on the season. Trying to stop all of these guys is a near futile option. The best way for the Raiders to game plan to stop the Chiefs will be to force Mahomes into having a single option on passing plays. Given Hill’s electric speed, safety Reggie Nelson will see limited action in favor of the quicker Karl Joseph, who could provide deep support on double coverage of Hill. It’s also advisable they double-team Kelce and bump him at the line of scrimmage to redirect his route. When it comes to stopping Hunt, it will be a team effort that goes far greater than just stacking an extra man in the box and hoping for the best. As good as Hunt is, he is probably the least of the Chiefs threats and forcing the Chiefs to run the ball a bit more keeps the ball ultimately out of Mahomes hands.
By establishing the run game early on, not only does it keep the Chiefs off the field on offense, but it shortens the game.
Can the Raiders Establish the Run Game on Offense?
The Chiefs defense is giving up more yards per game than Oakland’s this season but they are forcing turnovers at opportune times. If the Raiders are able to prevent turning the ball over, they should have ample opportunities to score. The defense will need to stop the vaunted Chiefs offense. The most effective way to keep the Chiefs offense in check is by keeping them off the field. The Raiders running game must be effective if they are going to have a chance in this game. Furthermore, it must be effective early. If they go down multiple scores in the first quarter, the Raiders don’t have the firepower in the passing game on offense to catch up. By establishing the run game early on, not only does it keep the Chiefs off the field on offense, but it shortens the game. It further limits the number of possessions each team will get reducing the number of scoring opportunities. Running backs Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are going to be leaned on heavily. If the game style falls into the Raiders favor, it would be realistic to expect at least 35 to 40 carries between these three backs.