Struggling Raiders to face first-place Chiefs

Kirk Kern
Kareem Hunt Kansas City Chiefs Oakland Raiders Las Vegas Raiders Report

The Oakland Raiders hosted the consensus worst team in the AFC West on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers, and lost. On Thursday night, they host the consensus best team in the division: the Kansas City Chiefs.

And while before the season started, most thought the Raiders and Chiefs would battle it out for the division title, the Chiefs (5-1) have lived up to the billing while the Raiders have faltered.

On Sunday, the Chargers knocked off the Raiders, 17-16, on a last-second field goal. It was the fourth straight loss for Oakland, and second straight at home. The loss dropped the Raiders record to 2-4, tied for last with the Chargers.

Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs Oakland Raiders Las Vegas Raiders Report

Chiefs QB Alex Smith is an early season candidate for MVP. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Derek Carr came back from his back injury to lead the Raiders, but it wasn’t quite a successful return. Carr threw for only 171 yards, connecting on 21 of 30 passes. He threw for one touchdown, but also allowed two interceptions.

“It was good to have him back,” coach Jack Del Rio said in his news conference after the game. “I thought for the most part he was fairly sharp”

The Raiders ran for 109 yards, but 47 came on one play: a 47-yard touchdown run by Cordarrelle Patterson.

Despite their 5-1 record, the Chiefs’ defense isn’t dominant. They rank 29th in total defense, 27th against the run and 24th against the pass. However, they are allowing only 21.7 points per game, 13th overall.

Active linebackers Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson lead the Chiefs’ defense. Le’Veon Bell ran for 179 yards last week against the Chiefs, but it would be hard to fathom the Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch coming anywhere close to that number.

Derek Carr may have a chance to duplicate Ben Roethlisberger’s 252 yards against the Chiefs defensive backfield, which is led by ballhawking Marcus Peters. Michael Crabtree continues to lead the receiving corps, which is still waiting for Amari Cooper to get hot.

NaVarro Bowman Oakland Raiders Las Vegas Raiders Report

LB NaVarro Bowman will help bolster the middle for Oakland.

The Raiders’ defense, on the other hand, will have it hands full trying to keep up with running back Kareem Hunt (leading the league with 630 rushing yards) and wideout Tyreek Hill (30 catches and two touchdowns). Alex Smith continues to be underrated at quarterback and he’s developed a great rapport with tight end Travis Kelcie (33 catches for 390 yards to lead the team).

Defensive backs Reggie Nelson and David Amerson along with defensive end Khalil Mack will be challenged trying to keep up the the Chiefs offense. The Raiders signed free agent linebacker NaVarro Bowman to help bolster the defense.

“Our team is a proud team,” Del Rio said. “We believe in each other. We just need to keep working.”

Game time is 5:25 p.m. Thursday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Kansas City opened as a 3-point road favorite and the total is 47 points.