On paper, the Oakland Raiders shouldn’t have a chance against the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is the favorite to win MVP, and they’re one game away from the AFC’s number one seed while Derek Carr’s spot on the team is repeatedly being questioned by the mainstream media and the team is closer to the first overall pick than first place. The Chiefs are number one in total offense, while the Raiders are 25th in total defense. Derek Carr has never won a game in Arrowhead Stadium, and guess where this game is being played?
Having said that, I’m calling my shot. I’m saying this is the week that Derek Carr exorcises his demons, and the Raiders cost the Chiefs the AFC West. How? Here’s how.
Why the Raiders Can Beat the Chiefs in Week 17
The last time these two teams played, the Raiders nearly pulled off the win. The Chiefs won 40-33, fighting off a 17 point comeback from the Raiders to bring the game within three before ultimately pulling away. With the exception of Travis Kelce, the Chiefs offense was held in check, and Derek Carr had one of his best games this season.
There are a few reasons that I really think the Raiders can win this game. Firstly, the last time these two teams played, the Raiders were returning from a cross-country trip (a devastating loss to Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens), while the Chiefs were coming off of a bye. Reid is the best coach in NFL history after a bye (17-3), and he had two weeks to prepare for a bad, banged up, uninspired team.
A bad, banged up, uninspired team that fumbled three times, gave up three sacks, and still came an onside kick away from tying the game up. The Chiefs had a bye week to prepare, and even with everything going their way, they barely won. Since then, things have changed a little.
A Power in Belief
Last time, nobody really thought the Raiders could hang with Kansas City, and that may have included the team themselves. At the time, the Raiders were 2-10, only boasting wins over the Cleveland Browns (it was Baker Mayfield’s first start, and the game went to overtime), and the lifeless Arizona Cardinals (it took a last second field goal). Since hanging with the Chiefs, the Raiders have been playing some different football, and they’re not the only ones.
The Raiders are 2-1 in their last three games, only losing a pesky road game against the Cincinnati Bengals on the east coast, without more than half of their offensive line, and even then, it wasn’t a rout. Carr has thrown 325 passes without being intercepted (knock on wood), and while announcers still call him David, teams are taking notice. Even with few healthy weapons and a banged up offensive line being coached by Tom Cable, Carr is set to record career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards, and completions. And what’s wild about that completions stat? Is that he’s already tied his personal best… with 40 fewer attempts.
Meanwhile the Chiefs have lost two of their last three, only beating Baltimore by three points in Kansas City. Mahomes’ herculean statline has taken a bit of a dive as well, as he’s only broken 300 yards passing once in the last month, and while he’s still making crazy no-look passes on the run, he’s also missing with a lot of the simpler passes. His completion percentage in December is only 63.6%, which is 20th in the league, .2% higher than Jacksonville’s Cody Kessler.
You might think I’m reaching, but if you look at history, this is what Andy Reid does. If Super Bowls were played in September, he’d be the greatest of all time. As the weather gets colder, so do Andy Reid’s teams. He’s made the playoffs six times in the last decade, and he has one win to show for it.
Chiefs fans will scoff and make excuses, and it’s true that the Raiders have had some lucky breaks, the only numbers that matter are the ones on the scoreboard. The Chiefs have had their issues in December, and the Raiders look as good as they have all season long.
Kansas City’s Defense
Kansas City’s defense is bad, everyone knows that. But I don’t think people really appreciate just how bad. The Chiefs have given up 6,196 yards and 418 points in 15 games. That means their defense gives up an average of 413 yards and 28 points a game.
Momentum really kicks in here, because believe it or not, they’re getting worse. Maybe it’s the injuries, maybe people are watching film on whatever that scheme that Bob Sutton calls defense is, or maybe they’re just not good, but they’re getting worse. In the first half of the season, they were giving up 26 points a game. In the second half? 29 points a game. They haven’t held an opponent under 100 yards rushing since November, and that was against a Rams team that threw for nearly 400 yards.
Yeah, But the Raiders…
The Raiders? Also pretty bad. They’ve given up 5,693 yards and 432 points this year. That’s still 380 yards and even more points, 29, a game. But again, momentum shows up. The Raiders were giving up 32 points a game during the first half of the season. They had some really ugly games and were dead last in the NFL in point differential. Since then? They’ve shaved that number down to 26 points a game.
Another key stat? Turnovers. In the first half of the season, they only had six turnovers on defense, and four of them happened in one game against a team coached by Hue Jackson. Since then? They’ve had ten, including at least one in each of the last seven games.
Keys to Victory
You wanna know how the Raiders can (and will) win this game? By doing the following.
- Contain thing one (Tyreek Hill) and thing two (Travis Kelce).
- Keep Pat Mahomes in the pocket
- Commit to the run.
- 7’s not 3’s.
- Just Win, Baby
It’s pretty self-explanatory, but as dangerous as Mahomes is, his favorite targets are what makes this offense work. Mahomes extends the plays with his legs, and nobody on this planet can hang with Tyreek Hill for more than a couple of seconds. And if you commit a safety to putting a lid on Hill? Then you’ve freed up Kelce to make the big ugly catches over the middle.
You’ve gotta contain these two by being physical. Hill is a freak athlete, but he’s also a smaller receiver, and history has shown us that if you get physical with him early, he won’t be 100% later in the game. Containing Kelce is a bit harder, and the Raiders really struggle with tight ends anyway, but they have to try.
Keeping Mahomes in the pocket takes away those long-developing plays and forces him to settle for smaller passes. Mahomes honors his baseball background by chasing home runs, and if you force him to play Alex Smith style football, it’ll hurt him in the long run.
Though if we’re being honest, you’re not going to shut this offense down. The fewest points this offense has scored this season is 26, and it’s not like the Raiders are loaded on defense. If you want to beat the best big play offense of all time, you’ve gotta keep the ball out of their hands and you have to make each possession count.
The Chiefs struggle against the run. You can beat them on the ground by handing the ball off, and with a relatively healthy offensive line, the Raiders can do that. The Raiders had nearly 200 rushing yards the last time these two teams played, and if you can keep Mahomes off the field, your defense has to take fewer snaps against the likes of Hill and Kelce.
Meanwhile, you just have to play to win. You can’t settle for three in the redzone if you want to win. If you score, somehow manage a stop, and score again, you’ve got a 14 point cushion and every long drive you can manage gets you that much closer to the end, and that sweet, sweet W.
And finally, the ol’ catchphrase. Just win, baby. Otherwise, this article is going to the wrong kind of attention for the two weeks until the Chiefs implode against the Indianapolis Colts or Los Angeles Chargers.