Today, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs both lost games that most of us expected they would win. The Bills couldn’t stave off Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, and a botched field goal helped the Tennessee Titans upset Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. As of this writing, the Raiders are still the projected seventh seed in the AFC, and half a game back in the AFC West. But based on today’s events, plus everyone’s remaining schedules, my take has jumped from “oh yeah, the Raiders should probably make the playoffs” to “Hey wait… I think the Raiders are going to win the division.” Let me justify this crazy hot take.
Blazing Hot Takes: The Oakland Raiders Will Win the AFC West
First thing’s first, I have to address two elephants in this very crowded room. Firstly, I have, at several points this season, emphasized that the Raiders were not a playoff team, that they couldn’t beat teams with good quarterbacks, and that the AFC West was out of their reach. No shame there, I’m glad to be wrong.
Secondly, by the very nature of today’s events, I’m counting my chickens before they hatch. The Raiders can win the AFC West, but it’ll only happen if they can beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. We’re only having this conversation because of Kansas City’s inability to beat a team they absolutely should’ve. If Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes can’t stay focused, it’s understandable to doubt that Jon Gruden and Derek Carr can.
But that’s not going to stop me from putting my hot take on paper (post?).
The Raiders still have to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Denver Broncos.
Assuming the Raiders beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, we’re talking about nine or ten wins. That’s not counting the Chargers, the Chiefs, and the Titans. The Raiders have already beaten the Chargers once, but the second game will be in Los Angeles, the Titans are unpredictable, and the Chiefs… It’ll be hard to beat the Chiefs, especially in Arrowhead, but it’s entirely possible if they just remember to feed Josh Jacobs the rock at all times.
Kansas City’s Schedule
After today’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs have the Los Angeles Chargers, their bye, the Oakland Raiders, the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, the Chicago Bears, and the Los Angeles Chargers again.
The Chargers are better than people think, and if all you have to do is run the ball to beat Kansas City? Then expect a healthy dose of Melvin Gordon in both games. The Patriots consistently beat the Chiefs like a drum, and it’ll be bizarre, but Raider Nation will be rooting for Tom Brady in a few weeks. The Bears have a good enough defense to give the Chiefs problems, but not necessarily the offense to compete.
The Chiefs could end up running the table, and this whole conversation will be for not, but I just don’t see it. The Chiefs have to travel to Foxboro to play the Patriots, it’s hard to completely sweep your division, and who knows what the Bears are capable of?
The Turning Point
The turning point will obviously be the week 13 showdown between the two teams. I honestly don’t expect the Raiders to travel to Arrowhead an come out with a win, because if we’re being honest, the Raiders just haven’t proved that they can. They haven’t won a game in Arrowhead since 2012, and Derek Carr has been absolutely dreadful against the Chiefs in that building.
The defense played well against the Chargers, but it was a little deceptive. Philip Rivers had an atrocious game, but the Chargers were still in position to take the lead on their final drive. Patrick Mahomes isn’t going to throw straight at Oakland’s safeties the way that Rivers did, and it’s far more likely that he’d have another performance like he had against the team in Oakland in week two.
That’s not to say the Raiders are hopeless. They’re good enough to compete against Kansas City, but they have to play their best game of football to date. Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell need to get pressure, the DBs can’t give up monster gains, and they need to pound the rock aggressively without turning the ball over.
Kansas City gives up almost 140 rushing yards per game, and the Raiders are rushing for nearly 130 yards a game. This is the opposite of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. This is a speeding car skidding on black ice. This is a rapid stream that leads into a waterfall. This is Josh Jacobs’ game to win, and Derek Carr’s game to not-lose, it’s that simple.
If the Raiders win this game, you can almost print the AFC West Championship hats. If they don’t? Then we all have to become Patriots fans for a week. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I know which option I prefer.