In our weekly Opponent Scout series, I break down the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming opponent by examining their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies — and how those things affect the matchup.
In Week 5, the Chiefs welcome in the Las Vegas Raiders to Arrowhead Stadium for an AFC West showdown on Monday Night Football.
Here’s what to know about this year’s Raiders.
This is the ninth season that Derek Carr has quarterbacked the Raiders; first-year head coach Josh McDaniels is the fourth coach of Carr’s career. They started 0-3 this season — and then in Week 4, beat the Denver Broncos 32-23 at home.
The Raiders have the NFL’s tenth-highest point total this year — but are tied with the Chiefs for the highest rate of drives ending in a score (50%). They have a top-10 rushing attack in terms of yards per attempt, but only an average third-down conversion rate. They rank 20th in offensive DVOA.
On the flip side, the Raiders are 23rd in points allowed and 22nd in total yards allowed; they’ve forced the second-fewest turnovers in the NFL (3). Their pass defense gives up the league’s third-highest net yards per attempt. They do have the 11th-best third-down conversion rate. The Raiders’ defense ranks 20th in Defensive DVOA.
Las Vegas doesn’t beat around the bush with its personnel or formations. The offense lives in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) and 21 personnel (two running backs and one tight end).
For the vast majority of the snaps, the same players are used in each formation. Wide receivers Davante Adams and Mack Hollins have both played over 92% of the team’s snaps, with Hollins primarily as an outside receiver and Adams moving all over the formation. The slot receiver in 11 personnel is always Hunter Renfrow. While he has missed the last two games with a concussion, he was a full participant in Thursday’s practice.
Dynamic tight end Darren Waller will be featured, but they also have a solid second tight end: Foster Moreau. He missed Week 4 with a knee injury. Starting running back Josh Jacobs is one of the most heavily-utilized backs in the league, currently taking 89% of the entire backfield’s carries.
Davante Adams has 22 more tgts than any other Raiders player— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 7, 2022
Carr will force him the ball in any single-coverage situation, and they beat Surtain on a couple backshoulders last week
Fenton/Watson will be challenged plenty on the perimeter #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/1HmBgBQHG5
Adams hogs the target share, with 22 more targets than anyone else on the team. When Carr recognizes him in any sort of single coverage, he will force the ball to him in a variety of ways. For opposing defenses, the most dangerous of these may be the back-shoulder throws on outside vertical patterns.
In Week 4, the Raiders started the game with their eighth combination of players on the offensive line — then by the second half, switched to their ninth.
Raiders help their OL in the run game by having Carr use a draw action before handing off frequently— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 7, 2022
The OL doesn't block like a draw, but the LBs/DL might hesitate at the pass look. That gives the blockers an advantage with momentum and leverage pic.twitter.com/dfx8hQmPKN
To help the shifting front five, Las Vegas dropbacks from under center will feature a subtle draw action, which makes linebackers hesitate before committing to attack the line of scrimmage. The offense wants to be running downhill — and this helps get it a step ahead.
Raiders started their 8th different OL combination in Week 4 -- then got to their 9th by the 2nd half— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 7, 2022
LT Kolton Miller and rookie 66 Dylan Parham are the bright spots, but the other spots have been exploited pic.twitter.com/QDzeASJ4Jr
In pass protection, the mixed line has sometimes shown leaks. Still, it doesn’t allow a high rate of pressure. Instead, it’s allowed the 11th-most sacks because Carr surrenders to pressure much more readily than many other quarterbacks do. The line’s best blocker is left tackle Kolton Miller, but right tackle has been manned by multiple players.
Up front, the Las Vegas defense is strongest on the ends, where edge defenders Maxx Crosby and newly-signed veteran Chandler Jones play the vast majority of the snaps. So far, Jones has not lived up to expectations — he has no sacks and only one tackle for loss — but on passing downs, Crosby has once again been a force, racking up four sacks and the league’s sixth-most pressures.
Maxx Crosby was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL last yr, but I feel like he's making more plays against the run this season— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 7, 2022
He has solidified himself as one of the league's most disruptive DL on any down pic.twitter.com/02TmBrKrX3
Crosby has also been a force against the run, improving in that area enough to become one of NFL’s the most all-around disruptive defensive lineman. Crosby has been instrumental in Las Vegas allowing the eighth-lowest yards per rush.
On running downs, the Raiders’ best linebacker is Denzel Perryman — but he has missed a lot of time this year with an ankle injury and a concussion; he was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice. Divine Deablo is the linebacker who plays on all three downs. While he never leaves the field, he’s much more comfortable in coverage; he can be picked upon in the running game.
Raiders' 3rd down pass rush package against Denver was effective, bringing in 3rd DE Clelin Ferrell to rush from an inside position— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 7, 2022
His superior explosion to a typical interior rusher helps gather enough attention to set up two sacks in these clips pic.twitter.com/g0y9JLf0Gg
On passing downs, the Raiders have started to use a defensive-line package that is similar to Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s NASCAR package. The third defensive end Clelin Ferrell — a former first-round pick — lines up inside, using his athleticism against guards and centers who aren’t used to it. This frees up other rushers.
Either way, the Raiders still haven’t been very consistent at getting pressure — earning the league’s fifth-lowest pressure rate. It makes life hard on their secondary, which is a mixed bag of unrealized promise that also includes veteran safety Duron Harmon. Second-year cornerback Nate Hobbs is the best playmaker of the bunch; he’ll play on the outside and in the slot.
The bottom line
When he drops back to throw, the easiest (and most comfortable) thing for Carr to do is to throw to Adams — and with the current injuries, outside cornerback is one of Kansas City’s weakest points. If that connection catches fire, it could help the Raiders’ offense keep up. The Chiefs’ defensive front can help by dominating their matchups — which looks entirely possible.
For the Las Vegas defense, success begins with Crosby being the game-wrecking force he has truly become. If right tackle Andrew Wylie can neutralize Crosby’s impact (as he’s previously been able to do), the rest of the Raiders’ defense has shown it can be exploited — not only in this season, but in past matchups against Kansas City.