Patience against zone coverage
What I’ve seen on tape: Teams are teaching Zone Defense 101 against Mahomes and the Chiefs right now. Align safeties deep, play with zone discipline and limit the explosive ability of Hill, Kelce and the Chiefs’ weapons. Plus, with more defenses playing 2-man (two-deep, man-under), we’re seeing aggressive, grabby coverage underneath — especially against Kelce — with two safeties putting a tent on top of the secondary. With Mahomes unable to hit deep shots and having issues on intermediate throws, his entire game is off.
What the numbers show: For the past five weeks, Mahomes has seen zone coverage on 64.8% of his dropbacks, the second most in the NFL behind only Lamar Jackson, and 2-man coverage 14.4% of the time. His 40.5 QBR against zone coverage during this stretch is a steep drop from his 79.9 QBR against zone last season, which ranked first.
To wit: In Weeks 1 through 5, Kelce ran 50 routes against defenses playing man, according to TruMedia. On those 50 routes. he drew 14 targets — a 28% target rate. He turned those 14 targets into eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, as well as three explosive plays. That was good for an average of 1.92 yards per route run, which was right in line with his season-long average through five weeks (192 routes, 42 targets, 30 catches, 369 yards, four scores, six explosives, 1.92 yards per route run).
Since Week 6, Kelce has run 35 routes against man and been targeted nine times — a 25.7% rate. Incredibly, he has just TWO catches for 14 yards on those nine targets. That’s 0.40 yards per route run. It’s brought his overall yards per route run average during that period down to just 1.50.
What to watch for: Two of the game’s best tight ends — Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Las Vegas’ Darren Waller — face off on Sunday night. Kelce, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, is looking for his third straight game against the Raiders with at least eight catches, 100 yards and a TD. He is averaging 108.0 receiving yards in his past four games against the Raiders. Waller, who set a franchise record with 107 catches last season, is looking to catch a TD pass in his third straight game against the Chiefs — and he has four TDs in his past five games against the AFC West. — Paul Gutierrez
Bold prediction: Kelce will catch a couple of touchdown passes. The Raiders have allowed a 75% completion percentage and 95.1 QBR when the tight end has been the target. Kelce has generally fared well against the Raiders, including two 100-plus-yard games last season. — Adam Teicher
Stat to know: The Raiders are allowing the second-fewest yards per attempt (6.3) in the NFL this season behind the Bills, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is throwing for 6.0 yards per attempt since Week 5 (No. 31 out of 34 qualified QBs over that span).
7. Chiefs reach AFC Championship
I think some people will think that the bold take surrounding the Chiefs should be that they miss the playoffs, but that’s currently where they are entering Week 10. I think it’d be much more shocking if Kansas City not only sneaks into the postseason but unlocks its potential and finds a way to the conference title game. All of the key pieces from their Super Bowl appearance last season are still in the fold and if Patrick Mahomes morphs back into the generational talent we’ve seen him be, they’ll be an extremely tough out in these do-or-die playoff games.
Bryan Edwards vs Rashad Fenton
Rashad Fenton is far from a household name on Kansas City’s defense. He had started just three games in the two seasons prior to 2021, but he has managed to crack the starting lineup in five out of seven contests this year.
The increase in playing time is both a reflection of how well Fenton has performed and how poorly the Chiefs’ other cornerbacks have played.
The South Carolina product boasts the fifth-highest coverage grade (80.9) among corners and ranks tied for 14th with 8.7 yards per reception allowed, per PFF. Meanwhile, Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed rank 64th and 91st, according to PFF’s coverage grades. So, while Kansas City’s secondary as a whole might be down, Fenton is still a potential problem for Las Vegas.
Fenton is an outside corner so he’ll likely draw a lot of one-on-ones with Bryan Edwards. There’s no doubt that the Raiders need one of their wide receivers to step up with Henry Ruggs III no longer in the lineup, and Edwards needs to be that player, meaning he’ll have to find a way to break free from Fenton on Sunday.
“One day, Coach Reid called me into the office,” Charles said, before beginning to paraphrase Reid. “‘Hey, I got these five plays right here on the board right here, we’re thinking about giving you the ball right here.’ I never had no coach approach me like this. ‘Hey, come talk to me in the office, I got these plays drawn up just for you.’ And I’m like, I’m hyped up! So stuff like that, Coach Reid, he does it his way and he knows his way is successful.”
Around the NFL
The NFL released a statement, categorizing the lawsuit’s claims as disreputable.
“The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a Friday statement obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Gruden’s attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, also released a statement:
“Jon Gruden has filed suit against the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada. The complaint alleges that the defendants selectively leaked Gruden’s private correspondence to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in order to harm Gruden’s reputation and force him out of his job. There is no explanation or justification for why Gruden’s emails were the only ones made public out of the 650,000 emails collected in the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team or for why the emails were held for months before being released in the middle of the Raiders’ season.”
The New Orleans Saints’ offense will be even more depleted Sunday at the Tennessee Titans after they ruled out running back Alvin Kamara (knee) and left tackle Terron Armstead (knee, shoulder).
The Saints (5-3) also ruled out safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (foot). The team Thursday had placed rookie defensive end Payton Turner on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
All four injuries were suffered during New Orleans’ costly 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9. Kamara is not expected to be out long term, but it’s unclear if he will miss more time beyond this week.
“A knee injury that he’s rehabbing [to return] as quickly as he can get back,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who added that Kamara was experiencing “soreness” toward the latter part of last week’s game. “There was a play or two that you could see that you could tell.”
The Seahawks activated Wilson off injured reserve Friday ahead of Seattle’s Week 10 game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
The team also announced it was activating wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge.
With Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll having said Friday that Wilson was “ready to go” and having stated Monday that “the intention is if he’s OK, he plays,” Wilson’s activation leans to him getting the starting nod on Sunday.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
The psyche of a rivalry
Somebody once asked me: Which do I like better? Watching the Chiefs win, or watching the Raiders lose?
It was a fair question. I had to think about it for a moment.
Intellectually, I know that I should enjoy watching a team I love succeed more than I like seeing a team that I hate fail. It just seems like the healthier way to go about your fandom.
And I wish I could say it was true — but I’m not that good of a person.
I love to watch the Raiders lose. It invokes something primal in my DNA that justifies my dislike of everything silver and black.
And lately... the Raiders have seemed more than willing to help me find joy.
Over the last ten years, the Raiders’ record is 68-100 — which means that regardless of everything else that has been going on in my life in the last decade, the Raiders have been kind enough to gift me 100 Sundays of happiness.