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Five things to watch as the Chiefs play the Raiders

Coming off of a much-needed bye week, the Chiefs will look to cement their position at the top of the AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There may not be a better way to come back from a 13-day period without Kansas City Chiefs football than the game that will be taking place on Sunday: the 7-4 Chiefs hosting the 6-5 Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium — where the Raiders have not won since 2012. Back in Week 2, the first matchup between these two teams was competitive in the first quarter, but four touchdowns in the second quarter ensured a 28-10 Chiefs victory.

It will be the biggest division game of the year — and here are five things to watch:

1. A Chiefs offensive explosion

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It’s time for a big day from the offense. The unit did put up a of of points three weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, but there were still plays left on the table. It feels like they haven’t been able to hit their ceiling since that second quarter in Oakland — but with everyone healthy and fresh, the offense should light up the scoreboard in Week 13.

The Raiders are surrendering 25.8 points per game — good for 24th in the NFL — and 371 total yards per game. That’s 25th in the league. It gets even worse on the road: the Raiders defense allows 32.2 points and 400 yards in each game. Teams are passing for 7.3 net yards per attempt against the Raiders — the league’s fifth-worst rate. According to Pro Football Reference, they also have the third-lowest percentage of opposing dropbacks pressured — and the lowest percentage of quarterback knockdowns.

They have also had some personnel turnover since the first matchup: third-year cornerback Gareon Conley was traded to the Houston Texans after Week 7. They will also not have safety Karl Joseph, who suffered a potential season-ending toe injury in Week 10. In addition, starting safety Lamarcus Joyner has been limited in practice with a hamstring issue.

The cold weather and potential precipitation on Sunday may factor into the game, but there should be an expectation for fireworks from the Chiefs offense.

2. A dominant Frank Clark

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The bye week has extended a Chiefs storyline: that defensive end Frank Clark is claiming to be healthy for the first time all season. Fans may be growing tired of talking about it; they’d rather watch it come to fruition on the field. There’s a great chance they will see it against the Raiders.

Clark has pummeled the Raiders before. In 2018 with the Seattle Seahawks, his best game of the season came against Oakland. He accumulated three sacks, three run stops and a forced fumble — all while playing fewest number of snaps he he had all year. His first chance to play them with the Chiefs in Week 2 didn’t go as well; it is the only game this season in which he did not register a pressure.

The other factor benefiting Clark is the Raiders injury report: starting right tackle Trent Brown did not practice on Friday and is officially listed as questionable. Clark has mostly been coming from the left side of the offensive line, but the Chiefs will move him around. Left tackle Kolton Miller was the main victim during Clark’s dominant game against Oakland in 2018. This season, Miller has given up four sacks, three quarterback hits and 17 hurries.

This is a great opportunity for Clark to get some love from Chiefs fans. His best games have come on the road. It’s time for him to energize the home crowd with big plays in crucial situations.

3. Continuing to force turnovers

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In the Week 11 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs defense won the game by forcing four turnovers from quarterback Philip Rivers — and capitalizing on those big plays. It was the most they have forced in a single game since Week 17 of 2018 — when the Chiefs hosted the Raiders.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been praised for taking what the defense gives him and not trying to do too much. His 70.9% completion percentage is third in the NFL, and he has the league’s ninth-highest passer rating. But in recent weeks, he hasn’t been as good. He has thrown an interception in each of the last two games — including last week, when he finished with a 52.5 passer rating and only 127 passing yards against the 4-7 New York Jets. He has also lost three fumbles this season.

Look for Carr to give the Chiefs opportunities to take the ball away — and to see if the Chiefs defense can take advantage. Over five games at Arrowhead in Carr’s career, he has two lost fumbles, and has a completion percentage of just 55.4% with 929 yards (186 per game), three touchdowns and five interceptions — which works out to a passer rating of only 61.9. And the Raiders have scored just 12.2 points per game.

4. Chiefs offensive line performance

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Now that all of the starters are healthy, it is imperative that the Chiefs offensive line starts to gel. While talent is obviously important, it may be even more significant for the unit to have snaps together and get back to being comfortable playing next to one another. The whole group hasn’t been on the field together for a full game since Week 1; against Oakland, it’s crucial that they get back to being familiar with each other.

That’s because right now, the Raiders’ pass rush may be the best part of their defense. Defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Benson Mayowa lead the team with 7.5 sacks and seven sacks respectively. Crosby is a fourth-round rookie who has started to tear it up in recent games; over the past three weeks, Crosby ranks third in total pressures and leads the league with six sacks. He also has the fourth-highest PFF pass rushing grade in that same span.

He will flip between both edges, so it will be a good challenge for starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz — who are both a lot better than the competition Crosby has faced in his last three games. Watch to see how the line handles him and the rest of that group.

5. Andy Reid mind tricks

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee TItans Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

With a 13-day break from games, I’m sure Chiefs head coach Andy Reid dove into the game plan for both the Raiders and his next opponent: the New England Patriots. The Chiefs will be traveling to Foxboro in Week 14 — and don’t be surprised if Reid tries to give the Patriots some extra preparation.

Watch to see if there are unique offensive formations or motions we haven’t yet seen; Reid may see an opportunity to make Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spend time preparing for plays they may not use against the Patriots.

It’s a chess match between two geniuses of the game — and any little advantage here or there could go a long way.

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