This week’s game against the Raiders should be a fun one.
It’s not often that these factors all line up in a single matchup: division rivals, potential playoff ramifications, Chiefs coming off of a bye and both teams with something to prove. The Raiders handed the Chiefs their only loss of the season — but also presented them bulletin board material by taking a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium.
All signs point to the Chiefs being motivated to take out their aggression on the Raiders and prove that Week 5 was a fluke. Here are a few of the Chiefs who may be trending — up or down — heading into Sunday:
- Willie Gay, Jr: We’ve been witnessing the slow rise of the athletic rookie over the past few weeks with the expectation that he’d eventually be a difference-maker. Now in the second half of the season, his understanding of the defense should be building which would allow him to keep playing faster and increase his share of playing time. This week against the Raiders, No. 50 could be key in stopping an offense that put up big plays against the Chiefs.
- Travis Kelce: The Chiefs star tight end is having the season of his career thus far, and he’s historically been particularly dominant against the Raiders. He took the Week 5 loss personally, and he is likely to have a little extra motivation to dominate this Sunday.
I HAVE TO BE BETTER!! For my teammates and coaches.... this loss is on me... and the only way to fix it is to go to work ASAP!!— Travis Kelce (@tkelce) October 11, 2020
- Chris Jones: Jones can affect the game in a number of different ways. His ability to get quick pressure up the middle is nearly unparalleled in the league. He can disrupt Derek Carr early and make sure he's uncomfortable. That can lead to sacks and also turnovers. An uncomfortable Carr will throw a couple passes to the “Landlord” and the Chiefs secondary. The Raiders also feature a sometimes-dominant running game. Jones will need to be at his assignment-sound best this week to make sure the Chiefs can stop the run enough to make Carr take things in his own hands. Then, No. 95 can do what he does best.
Others trending in the right direction: Patrick Mahomes, L’Jarius Sneed, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Khalen Saunders: The rise of Turk Wharton appears to be at least somewhat at the expense of Saunders. A healthy scratch for the last two games prior to the bye, Saunders might be buried on the depth chart at this point, awaiting another opportunity to prove himself. Watch the inactive list this week to see if this trend continues, or if they try to rotate him back in against a Raiders team that likes to run the football.
- Charvarius Ward: The Chiefs suddenly have a full complement of cornerbacks at their disposal, and they are bringing in another (DeAndre Baker). For the first time this season, L’Jarius Sneed will be on the field with Ward, Bashaud Breeland and Rashad Fenton. Someone is going to lose snaps. While it could be Fenton or maybe Breeland, it might also be Ward. If Sneed can return to his early-season form, he’ll be one of the two best corners on the field. Ward spoke about his “slump” in recent weeks and the previous Raiders matchup may have been his worst game of the season. If that trend continues, we could see more of Sneed and less of Ward starting this week.
- The Chiefs offensive line: Mike Remmers has been playing hurt, and doing an admirable job, and he’ll have his hands full again this week, with Mitchell Schwartz now on injured reserve. The Raiders defense seemed to have the Chiefs’ number in their last meeting, getting to Mahomes for three sacks and holding them to 80 rushing yards. The Chiefs line has gone through significant changes since then, with injuries and now COVID-19 exposure adding more uncertainty. They’ll need to be a lot better this week than in Week 5, but there are reasons to believe they could be worse.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Ben Niemann, Le’Veon Bell, Anthony Sherman
Value (sleeper) pick: Frank Clark
It’s not that one of the best players on the Chiefs defense is a sleeper; it’s that many fans are sleeping on him. Frank Clark has been a stud against the run and has been doing many of the little things to help the team win. The lack of splash plays has been an issue for many observers, given the size of his contract. He’s a guy that shows up in big games, and this week certainly qualifies. Expect the “Shark” to get to Derek Carr this week — perhaps even more than once.