Editor’s note: We welcome editor Cyril Penn of Silver and Black Pride — our sister site covering the Oakland Raiders — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the Week 13 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Raiders this Sunday.
1) The Raiders’ 34-3 loss to the New York Jets caught just about everybody by surprise. What was the problem?
The Jets seemed like they could pull an upset prior to that game because of their ability to shut down opposing rushing attacks and Oakland’s reliance on running the ball, but nobody thought it would be a blowout of epic proportions. While the offense couldn’t find the formula to put themselves in third-and-manageable situations, the defense was truly horrific all day. The Jets crushed the Raiders with myriad crossing routes that left Raiders linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow bewildered when in zone coverage. Then in man coverage, those same linebackers couldn’t keep up with the Jets shifty slot receivers. In all, the Jets didn’t punt until two minutes left in the third quarter. None of that bodes well for this week’s outing at Arrowhead.
2) A storyline headed into this game is QB Derek Carr’s lack of success in Arrowhead Stadium, as he comes in with an 0-5 record. Is there a belief, with the Raiders playing better this season, this could finally be his breakthrough game?
Derek Carr is a polarizing figure among Raider fans, but one thing they all agree on is that he’s been horrendous in cold-weather games. Carr has been playing out of his mind this year due to his growing comfortability in Jon Gruden’s offense and his newly-found decisiveness, but his record in sub-40 temperatures speaks for itself. Carr has posted an 0-4 record while completing 51 percent of his passes. His total QBR of 9 (yes, 9) in those games, plus his already poor record at Arrowhead will make this a daunting task.
3) WR Hunter Renfrow won’t play vs. the Chiefs. What has he meant to Oakland, and how do the Raiders make up for his loss?
Hunter Renfrow, or “Third and Renfrow” as fans like to call him, has been a critical piece of the puzzle in the Raiders offense. As the starting ‘F’ receiver, Renfrow would typically be on the field any time Gruden elected to trot out 10 or 11 personnel, which has been about 60 percent of the time to this point. As his chemistry with Carr grew this season, Renfrow became the third-down security blanket who was called upon during the rare instances when Oakland would face third-and-long situations. With Renfrow unavailable, the Raiders will likely be using starting ‘Z’ receiver Zay Jones more often at the ‘F’ spot and bringing in rookie undrafted free agent Keelan Doss or recent practice squad call-up Rico Gafford to intermingle in the offense. With neither of those options sounding too appealing, I’d expect Gruden to go with a lot of heavy personnel against the Chiefs.
4) Who is one offensive and one defensive under-the-radar player more people should be talking about? Why?
The underrated offensive player that hasn’t gotten enough of the spotlight is Foster Moreau. The rookie tight end was expected to be mostly used as a No. 2 blocking tight end when he was drafted in the fourth round out of LSU, but he’s hauled in four touchdowns this year on only 17 catches. With Renfrow out, Moreau might be relied on for a bigger role in the passing game as he’s shown versatility to plan in-line or in the slot.
Defensively, the most underrated Raider is probably safety Erik Harris. With season-ending injuries to Johnathan Abram and Karl Joseph shuffling the deck, Harris has been a consistently capable back-end defender who truly broke out with a pair of interceptions in Week 10 against the Chargers. Besides that game, Harris hasn’t gotten much publicity despite being the most consistent player in the Raiders secondary since being elevated to the starting lineup in Week 4. That’s probably because the Raiders secondary has been awful. But nonetheless, Harris has gone from CFL stud to solid NFL starter.
5) What is your score prediction for the game? How does it play out?
The Raiders defense just doesn’t seem capable of stopping Patrick Mahomes and Co. at this point in the season. They probably won’t suffer the same kind of blown coverages that led to long touchdowns in Week 2, but last Sunday’s performance in the Jets doesn’t inspire much confidence. I expect that the Raiders grind the ball out on the ground and try to “out tough” Kansas City by running the ball down the throat of a subpar run-stopping front. They may grab another early lead like in Week 2 after starting things off with a long, methodical drive, but if the Chiefs can turn it into a shootout (which they will. I mean, it’s the Chiefs) the Raiders won’t have the firepower, nor the defense to keep pace. Chiefs 38, Raiders 21