In this weekly Opponent Scout series, we break down the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming opponent by examining their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies — and how those things affect the matchup.
For the finale of the regular season, the Las Vegas Raiders will be hosting the Chiefs, with a different quarterback than Kansas City is used to. Here’s what to know about the Raiders:
After 142 starts in nine seasons for the Raiders, quarterback Derek Carr was sent to the bench in favor of fourth-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who had yet to make a start in his career prior to last week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The move came as the Raiders stood at 6-9, still alive for the AFC’s seventh seed — but a 37-34 overtime loss to the 49ers officially ended Las Vegas’ season. In that game, Stidham completed 22 passes on 35 attempts, totaling 284 yards and two touchdowns; he had a fluky interception. It was an impressive game against an elite defense.
The Las Vegas defense still leaves a lot to be desired. On top of being in the bottom 10 for allowed points and yards, they’ve also forced the second-fewest number of turnovers this season. Despite having some talented edge rushers, the Raiders have the third-fewest sacks in the NFL for the season.
The main thing you notice about the Stidham-led Raiders’ offense is how easy it appeared for him. — not necessarily because he was incredibly impressive; it was the scheme and play calling that constantly put him in positions to succeed.
Josh Jacobs has had a career yr, and he's been set up with a well-schemed run game— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) January 6, 2023
They'll mix up the looks, but they want to get downhill with pulling OL or a FB leading on zone and iso runs.
Jacobs has embraced the physicality that the scheme naturally asks of his position pic.twitter.com/CTvcd4nZbd
For Las Vegas, that starts with running back Josh Jacobs — the NFL’s leading rusher heading into the season finale. The first-round pick has always been a talented back. Still, first-year head coach Josh McDaniels boosts his impact by finding ways to consistently open up downhill run lanes while staying unpredictable from a formation standpoint.
They’ll run the traditional zone lead plays from under center, but they like to weaponize pulling guards and lead blockers from the backfield, even from shotgun. They can get outside on toss sweeps — but also line up and go man-on-man blocking on an old-school iso play.
Jarrett Stidham stepped in and ran the Raiders' pass offense efficiently— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) January 6, 2023
Didn't force anything, then took advantage of shot-play opportunities off play action. Last play is a big-time throw pic.twitter.com/QlXlwrA98X
That rush attack will keep defenses on their toes and can catch them out of position on play-action opportunities. For the game, Stidham completed seven of his 10 attempts on play action — averaging 13.2 yards per throw with a touchdown shown here. His average throw was over 10 yards downfield, indicating Stidham was appropriately taking shots when the play calls for it.
It’s something that Carr struggled with at times, checking down or going elsewhere when it appears the primary route of the play is coming open like it was meant to. Stidham really rode the wave of the offense to a T.
Stidham showed some play making, pocket mobility in flashes against the 49ers last week— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) January 6, 2023
Had 9 rushing TDs in college, has that Tannehill type of movement avoiding rushers while standing tall in pocket pic.twitter.com/3lTXsfg6Tw
On top of that, there were a few times Stidham was forced to make a play — and it revealed flashes of pocket mobility. When you look at his athletic profile as an NFL Draft prospect, it’s comparable to the athleticism of Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Quick enough feet to avoid tacklers, while also big enough to shake off reaching hands and stand tall in the pocket.
Since defensive end Chandler Jones suffered an elbow injury a few weeks ago, it feels like the effectiveness of the Raiders’ defense entirely comes down to defensive end Maxx Crosby. It makes things even harder on a player that opponents already game plan to neutralize.
Raiders have allowed an average of 161 rushing yards/game over the last 3 weeks; 100+ yds every game— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) January 6, 2023
There was a theme in the gashes the 49ers got on the ground: either running away from Maxx Crosby, or kicking him out/cutting his legs pic.twitter.com/WLIJHMfwxn
That’s what the 49ers did last week, gashing the Raiders by constantly running away from Crosby’s direction — or going towards him, but erasing him from impact with kick-out blocks or cut blocks. He still earned a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss, but that’s a win for the offense if you hold him to only two of those.
The last time the Raiders and Chiefs met up, Las Vegas held Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce to a mere 25 yards, yet, he scored four times — all coming in the red zone. They simply don’t have the linebackers or safeties to handle elite tight ends in those short areas. 49ers’ tight end George Kittle scored in the red zone last week.
Raiders' pass coverage can get picked on, feels like they just struggle to cover a lot of ground in the back end— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) January 6, 2023
In 4th Q, Purdy force fed Brandon Aiyuk because of the consistently open throwing windows
On 1 drive, Aiyuk racked up 52 yards on 4 catches. LV had no answer pic.twitter.com/cvV5hsTC6C
For their struggles with tight ends, the Raiders’ back end appears to lack an even worse ability to cover enough ground in pass coverage against wide receivers. 49ers’ quarterback Brock Purdy worked the two-minute drill by just force-feeding receiver Brandon Aiyuk; he racked up 52 yards on four catches when it was most needed.
Even when it appeared the 49ers were locking into a specific target, the Raiders had no answer.
The bottom line
The Raiders’ offense has an efficient enough ground game to set up the pass attack for success, and Stidham did nearly everything you could ask of someone in his position last week. If he continues executing the scheme to that level, they will give the Chiefs’ defense all they can handle.
The Las Vegas defense has cracked and crumbled all year, but it feels like it has given in at this point. As long as Kansas City can keep Crosby at bay, the rest of the unit is exploitable — especially in pass defense.