On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense — and three on defense — to watch as the world champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the team that early on looks like the biggest threat to their AFC West title — the Las Vegas Raiders.
Here are three focus points on offense and defense to watch on Sunday:
Will the Raiders only rush four?
We’ve seen the Chargers have success rushing only four. We saw New England focus primarily on coverage rather than pressure. In between those games, the Ravens got torched sending a variety of pressures. Will the Raiders try to rush four and play with seven in coverage? Las Vegas doesn’t have the kind of front to get home at a high rate with four (especially with the loss of Maurice Hurst), but does defensive coordinator Paul Guenther think they do? There is no good answer, but the closest thing to slowing the Chiefs down has been not to blitz.
Will the Vegas secondary hold up?
The Raiders have invested significant draft capital in their secondary to try to keep up with Mahomes and his offensive weapons. How will younger players like Trayvon Mullen, Amik Robertson and Jonathan Abrams hold up in the back end of the Raiders secondary? Communication will be key for this group if they’re going to play zone coverage. Don’t be surprised if coverage busts and one of the lesser targeted weapons at the Chiefs’ disposal — like Mecole Hardman or Demarcus Robinson — goes unchecked down the field for a big touchdown on blown coverage.
Is this a Mahomes bounce-back game?
We saw and heard the displeasure Mahomes had in his performance as well as the offense after Monday’s 26-10 against the Patriots. Bill Belichick had a great game plan for slowing the unit down. I expect things to be different this week. A big divisional game at home is the perfect place to light up the scoreboard, and I expect Mahomes to bounce back with a big game after a bad performance by his standards. The reigning Super Bowl MVP is due — and no better team to do it against than the Raiders.
Do the Chiefs play more man or zone?
The Raiders present a variety of weapons at all three skill positions that present unique challenges. Be it Darren Waller at tight end, the speedy Henry Ruggs at wide receiver or running back Josh Jacobs, the Raiders have some difficult matchups the Chiefs will have to be mindful of if they’re going to try and play man coverage against the diverse group. You may not see the Chiefs challenge in man as much as they did against New England’s depleted offensive skill position group. How they treat the Raiders will be interesting.
Rushing against a good offensive line
The Raiders do have a strong offensive line and should get Trent Brown back at right tackle to help strengthen that group. The bookends: Brown and Kolton Miller are good players. Old friend Rodney Hudson is still playing at a high level. Guard Gabe Jackson can be exploited and the return of Chris Jones could be huge for interior pressure — something Derek Carr does not like.
What run defense shows up?
There was a good stretch of the first half where the run fits were very good from the Chiefs defense. That didn’t last as the Patriots found more success as the game went on. The Chiefs will need to be strong against the run with a good offensive line and a great back in Jacobs running behind them. Steve Spagnuolo is displeased with where the tackling has been to this point in the season — improvements in that area will go a long way in replicating the good snaps from last week in the run game.
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