On Sunday afternoon, the unthinkable happened. After over half a decade of defending Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Las Vegas Raiders. Derek Carr got the monkey off his back, and heading into the bye, the Raiders are 3-2. How much does this win mean for the Silver and Black?
Revenge of the Autumn Wind: The Statement Win in Kansas City
In his first six trips to Arrowhead, Derek Carr was 0-6 and had thrown for 1,151 (192 yards a game), four touchdowns, seven interceptions, and he’d lost two fumbles. The Raiders had lost every game in Arrowhead dating back to 2012, and it was almost always by double digits. People in Raider Nation were talking, and they were saying that Derek Carr simply couldn’t win in Kansas City’s monstrous stadium.
Sunday? Derek Carr could not have cared less. He went 22 for 31 for 347 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He was slinging it all over a Chiefs defense that was being vaunted as one of the league’s best all week. When it mattered, he made the big plays, and kept the Raiders in the lead, even as Patrick Mahomes marched back late.
Josh Jacobs had some big runs, and the defense actually played pretty well, but if there’s one man you could attribute this win to, he wears number four, and he’s tired of losing. As someone that has been vocally critical of Derek Carr over the last three seasons, this was such a huge win. He’s earned my praise and silence for the foreseeable future.
AFC West Dominance
Okay, okay, let’s pump the brakes. I love this win more than I love any of my children (I have no children), and I’m gonna smile for the next two weeks, but… this is still Kansas City’s division. The Chiefs are still probably the AFC’s best team, and will likely bring home the AFC West crown.
Having said that… winning in Arrowhead does make the future so much brighter for these Raiders. They’ll have to face Kansas City again, but it’ll be at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. I can’t overstate how important that is. In Derek’s career, he’s played the Chiefs so much better when he’s at home, and he won’t be exposed to the brutal Kansas City winters.
And securing one win against Kansas City makes every other game on the schedule that much better. Here’s why.
The Second Half
After the murderer’s row of a chainsaw factory that the Raiders have had to run through in the first half of the season, they should be heating up as the weather cools down. After the Raiders face the 4-1 Cleveland Browns in week eight, their remaining eight opponents have a combined record of 11-16 to this point, with nearly half of those wins coming from the very same Chiefs team the Raiders just beat.
They play the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos (a combined 2-6) twice, the 2-3 Miami Dolphins, the 3-2 Indianapolis Colts, those Chiefs again, and the winless Atlanta Falcons.
The five teams the Raiders have played so far have a record of 15-5, for what it’s worth. If you take Kansas City out of the equation, the Raiders have played teams with an 11-4 record (with half of those losses being to the Raiders), and after Cleveland, they only have to face teams with a 7-15 record.
Beating Kansas City, a game I personally wrote up as a loss in August, is massive for the Raiders. Even if they lose to Tampa Bay and Cleveland, if they can beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, they have a real shot at making the playoffs.
A Personal Note
The mixed bag of new-bandwagoners and fans that have grown accustomed to winning in Kansas City have been petulant on social media since, and this isn’t an exaggeration, Derek Carr went to Arrowhead and outplayed Patrick Mahomes. If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard some variation of “this was your Super Bowl” from someone wearing McDonalds colors, hiding tears behind a sneer, I’d have as much money as Mahomes.
And to an extent, they’re probably right. This Raider defense isn’t championship caliber, and the Chiefs aren’t going to give up 11 point leads every time the two teams play. It’s not pessimistic of me to say I bet the Chiefs season will run a little bit longer than the Raiders this season.
But last year, there’s no question the Raiders lose that game. The year before that? Same deal. The fact that the Raiders are beating the Chiefs, let alone beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead, is a sign of growth and improvement.
This is a young, hungry team. They might not be contenders yet… but it certainly looks like they’re trending in the right direction.