What we’re watching for as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 14.
The Chiefs secondary vs Derek Carr
Marcus Peters’s suspension came on the heels of one of the worst performances of the season for the Chiefs secondary. Not ideal. If the Chiefs are going to get back on track this week, they’ll need a passable performance from cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell, Steven Nelson and Phillip Gaines. That might be a tall order against Derek Carr and the Oakland offense that put up over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns in their October victory over the Chiefs. Kansas City’s secondary doesn’t need to lock down the Raiders receivers, just slow them down enough to have a chance (without bear-hugging them). Watch to see how this group responds without their best player this week.
Prediction: Carr throws for 350 yards and multiple touchdowns
Can the Chiefs clean up the mental mistakes?
Many of the Chiefs struggles in recent weeks have been a result of penalties, miscommunication and boneheaded execution errors. We’ve seen WRs run into each other on a screen pass, CBs run into each other in coverage, WRs drop passes, and trick plays that end in laughable ways. It used to be the Raiders that you could count on to beat themselves. Chiefs teams would just play within themselves and wait for Oakland to deliver the game on a platter. Watch this week to see if the Andy Reid can get his team back to playing disciplined, fundamental football.
Prediction: The Chiefs clean up most of the foolishness at least for this week.
Who will disappoint us more, the offense or defense?
It’s completely reasonable for Chiefs fans to feel snakebitten at this point. They’ve watch the best offense in the NFL over the first five weeks fade into the worst. Meanwhile the defense had it’s challenges, but generally kept them in games. Last week, the explosive offense returned, but the pass defense made the Jets offense look like the greatest show on turf. During the losing streak, the Chiefs have found many ways to disappoint fans. It’s reasonable to expect either the offense or defense to let us down this week.
Prediction: The offense rolls again, and the defense disappoints.
Can the return game finally make a play?
The third phase of the game has perhaps been the most disappointing as a whole this season. Dave Toub’s group hasn’t really lost any games for the Chiefs this season, but they sure haven’t won any either. Anyone remember the days of Tyreek Hill terrorizing opponents as a punt returner? Or when the blocking was so good on kick returns that it didn’t matter who was back there, they had a shot to go the distance? It seems like a long time ago at this point. Maybe we were spoiled watching elite return units win games where the offense and defense couldn’t do it on their own. But there’s little that can spark a team like a return touchdown. Let’s see if they can get one this week.
Prediction: Tyreek Hill gets a big punt return, but the kick return game is still anemic
The Chiefs mental state with their backs against the wall
Teams and players have two options when they let a big division lead evaporate and face the two other division contenders in consecutive weeks. They can come out fighting, taking out the frustration on their opponents and prove us all wrong for doubting them. OR they can lay down and confirm their season is over. Watch the body language and response from the Chiefs this week, especially when things don’t go their way. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, football is 90 percent mental, the other half physical. How the Chiefs approach this game from a mental and emotional standpoint will make all the difference this week.
Prediction: We see the Chiefs fight to save their season.
Can the Chiefs control the line of scrimmage?
On both sides of the ball, the Chiefs need to assert themselves up front. The offensive line HAS to find ways to get a little bit of push, and keep Kareem Hunt from getting pummeled at or behind the line. On defense, the front seven will face a tough task against
a dominant Oakland interior line. Bennie Logan, Allen Bailey and Chris Jones HAVE to be strong up front to keep the Raiders from bullying them, especially in the running game. All the Chiefs linemen have to be focused on technique and teamwork, and they have to win their individual battles. It’s on the big guys to keep the playmakers clean.
Prediction: The offensive line takes a step forward this week, but the defensive line continues to struggle to win up front.
Can the Chiefs defense get off the field on third down?
Assuming the offense can keep rolling this week, this game may again come down to the Chiefs defense and their ability to end drives. Last week, they allowed an astounding 13/20 third downs to be converted by a Jets offense that sustained long drives and controlled the clock all day long. You can bet that third down was a focus during practice this week. It’s going to take improvements from the pass rush and the secondary to get stops when it counts this week. Watch Justin Houston, Kpass and Mitchell against the Raiders, they have the physical ability to be playmakers on the Chiefs defense, and to get them off the field.
Prediction: Small improvements this week, as the Raiders end up closer to 50 percent on third down, instead of the 65 percent the Jets put up. Tanoh Kpassagnon gets his first sack, and the Chiefs have a glimmer of hope going forward.