The Kansas City Chiefs started the 2022 season with three of its four games on the road, but went 3-1 over that stretch.
But four of the Chiefs’ next five games will take place on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, beginning with a matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders (1-3) on Monday Night Football; Kansas City entered the weekend as a seven-point favorite, per DraftKings SportsBook.
Both teams are coming off rebound victories, but one has a lot more on the line than the other. Desperate to avoid starting 1-4, the Raiders will be ready to give the Chiefs a hard-fought contest.
I have five things to watch in this rivalry game.
1. Can the Chiefs match their Week 4 energy?
But now, they need to make that success snowball into a stretch of dominance. There can be no more slip-ups or letdowns, because the strength of Kansas City’s schedule doesn’t allow for them: the team will face the Buffalo Bills in Week 6.
So will the running game be multiple and downhill — or predictable, like it was in Indianapolis? Will the scheme open up receiving opportunities, rather than relying on pass-catchers to get open? Will the coaches be aggressive in fourth-down situations — and will the players match that aggression with impressive effort?
The attacking offense we saw on Sunday night needs to continue for every game in the upcoming calendar — starting by continuing the team’s offensive momentum by overwhelming a below-average Las Vegas defense.
2. Corralling Davante Adams
The Raiders’ new wide receiver has as high a target share as any wide receiver in football, combining his incredible route-running with the relationship that he and quarterback Derek Carr began as college teammates. Adams is averaging nearly 12 targets and 72 yards a game this season — with three scores so far.
With the way the Chiefs are playing on both sides of the ball, I would think the Raiders will believe that their best chance to put up points is to attack Kansas City’s outside cornerbacks with Adams — the same way the Los Angeles Chargers picked on them with wide receiver Mike Williams.
Last season, cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton got some experience against Adams in the Week 9 win over the Green Bay Packers — although Adams had backup quarterback Jordan Love throwing him the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, the duo combined to allow Adams only three catches on six targets for 16 yards, one first-down catch and an interception that Sneed pulled down.
Along with rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson, Sneed and Fenton will be tested early and often on Monday evening.
3. More Skyy Moore
In Week 4, rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore saw the most opportunity he’s had so far this year, earning 22 snaps and turning those into two catches and 31 yards on four targets.
You could tell the offense set him up as the primary receiver on a few routes, furthering his development in the system. It’s important that this continues — because so far this year, Moore’s ability to create separation against man coverage is a skill that the rest of the team’s wide receivers have been lacking.
With opposing defenses trusting more man coverages on passing downs, Moore is an important guy to have out there — but that means another receiver would have to be on the bench. In this game, Moore may get the opportunity to prove his worth, since starting wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster popped up on the final injury report as questionable, managing a hamstring injury.
4. Continuing a strong run defense
The Chiefs’ defense has been stifling against opposing ground games. That will continue to be important against Las Vegas, which ranks eighth with an average of five yards per carry as a team. The Raiders use Josh Jacobs as a bell-cow back — and he has responded. Jacobs has the third-most yards after contact among running backs this season.
With receiving weapons like Adams, tight end Darren Waller and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, the Chiefs’ defense can’t overcommit bodies to the run — thereby sacrificing coverage. That’s why Kansas City’s interior players like defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and linebacker Nick Bolton need to win their assignments, overcoming blockers when they are outnumbered in the box.
5. Red zone battles
Las Vegas has turned only eight of its 18 red-zone drives into touchdowns; that 44% success rate ranks 28th. But outside of the pick six in Week 2, the Chiefs’ red-zone defense hasn’t been good, either; the unit ranks 30th in red-zone touchdown percentage, allowing 12 of 15 possessions to score touchdowns.
Adams will often be a target. He leads the NFL in red-zone targets (13) — and all three of his touchdowns have been in the red zone. Darren Waller, however, also has the tools to create separation — especially against Kansas City linebackers Nick Bolton and Darius Harris. They’ll need help from the safeties to lock Waller down.