The Chiefs have a tall task ahead of them. Traveling on a short week after a physical game battling through multiple injuries to play a division rival in prime time. How they bounce back will set the tone for the rest of this season. If they can get back on track, they will remain the best team in the NFL, and will continue to be a different Chiefs team than the ones we’ve seen in recent years. If they flounder, they could fall back to the pack, and it could be an up-and-down season.
Here are a few things we’ll be watching for tonight, as always, please let us know your thoughts int he comment section.
The Chiefs offensive line vs Khalil Mack and the Raiders front
The biggest issue in last week’s loss might have been the Chiefs inability to block the Steelers front seven effectively. Kareem Hunt found tough sledding on the ground, (his longest run was five yards) and was hit in the backfield far too often. Alex Smith was under consistent, quick pressure and couldn’t get into a rhythm early. This week, they face a top three pass rusher in Khalil Mack, who has been difficult for the Chiefs to block in the past.
For KC, Cam Erving has struggled as a fill-in at right guard and the line as a whole isn’t what we hoped it’d be at this point. Mitch Morse and LDT have already been ruled out for this week but Parker Ehinger could return (maybe?). We’ll see if he gets the call over Erving, and whether this group can find some success this week against Mack and company.
The Chiefs running back rotation
MVP candidate Kareem Hunt will have a big opportunity to dominate this week, especially in the passing game. The Raiders are vulnerable to screens and have been since Jamaal’s epic five TD game in 2013. Expect to see the big plays return for Hunt in Oakland.
After Hunt, it’s a little murky. Charcandrick West won’t play, so Akeem Hunt might get more action. He hasn’t been successful on limited carries yet, but he might also be working his way in to the offense slowly after being a late addition to the team.
The story this week could be the return of CJ Spiller. Spiller was re-signed for the fourth time this season in KC to help replace West. His style of play and knowledge of the offense could make him a candidate for a surprise performance against the Raiders.
The Chiefs pass rush against Oakland’s offensive line
Oakland invested heavy in a heavy offensive line, anchored in the middle by former Chiefs center Rodney Hudson, who is playing at a very high level along with Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse will miss this week, leaving Vadal Alexander to match up with Justin Houston.
Dee Ford got a sack early on against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, that was the only time the Chiefs pass rush would get home for the rest of the night. Justin Houston was held without a sack or even a pressure. This defense is only great when they can affect the QB. Experts and fans alike are frustrated, not only with the inconsistent pass rush, but with the fact that Houston has been in pass coverage far more often than we’d like.
Watch to see if Sutton lets Houston do what he does best, and get after the QB this week.
Can the Chiefs continue to own Derek Carr?
Derek Carr has good receivers, a good running back and a potentially great offensive line in front of him. He’s an up-and-coming quarterback in the NFL, but not against Bob Sutton and the Chiefs. KC has beaten Oakland five times in a row going into tonight’s game.
In those six games, Carr has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,215 yards, six touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 68.1. He’s been sacked 18 times — three times per game.
I’ve often argued that Derek Carr is the most overrated QB in the NFL. Admittedly, much of that opinion is based on how poorly he tends to play against the Chiefs. We’ll see if the trend continues this week.
Marcus Peters in Oakland
Conspiracy theories aside, Marcus Peters treats visits to Oakland with more passion and intensity than anyone else in the NFL. Peters has an interception in each game of his career there, and the Chiefs will need him to have a big game this week. Marcus has been an emotional player throughout, and has well-publicized blowups and sideline tears to prove it. He even needed an IV in the middle of last year’s game for dehydration. “Man, that’s all emotions,” Peters said. “All that extra energy and all that extra stuff that built up. I was doing too much.”
Arguably the second most important player on this defense, Peters needs to be at his best against the Raiders. When he channels his passion on the field, he changes games. At times this year he hasn’t looked like himself. He’s been beaten and played soft in coverage. He’s missed tackles, opting to try and strip the ball instead of getting guys to the ground. Watch to see if CB1 gets back on track in front of his family and friends under the Thursday night lights.
Who steps up at wide receiver?
The Chiefs are struggling to field a full complement of receivers. The loss of Chris Conley proved costly last week, as Alex Smith and Demarcus Robinson struggled to get on the same page. When Tyreek Hill went out with a head/neck injury, Robinson was joined by DAT and Marcus Kemp on the most important drive of the game. That’s not ideal, at this point in their careers. The result of the final drive wasn’t ideal either, it began on the 44-yard line and stalled with a turnover on downs, when they had a chance to pull out an improbable win.
Robinson took the bulk of the snaps, and showed some promise, so he likely gets plenty of opportunities to break out against the Raiders. Albert Wilson has been nursing a knee injury, and is questionable for this week. If he’s able to go, he’ll add some stability and blocking that is sorely needed. De’Anthony Thomas had the big play last week, but should go back to his more limited role. As usual, this offense will depend on big plays from Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt. The other receivers have important supporting roles, and need to assert themselves to beat the Raiders.
Will there be a dance off?
Oakland features a dynamic punter who likes to celebrate and dance on the field. The Chiefs have a tight end that meets the same description. Last season, Kelce trolled King when Tyreek Hill scored on a long punt return. Travis hilariously performed King’s signature dance right in front of him. King could be seen barking at Kelce, reportedly telling Travis that he “has no rhythm.” Kelce responded, “You and I both know that’s not true.” King previously promised “something special” for Kelce. Let’s hope No. 87 and the Chiefs have more reason to celebrate on Thursday night.