Entering Week 14 with three-quarters of the season now complete, the Oakland Raiders begin the home stretch at Kansas City with 1st place in the AFC West at stake. There is no better way to prove that you belong in the playoffs than to march into Arrowhead and snatch first place.
Momentum and confidence go a long way in the league and the Raiders have won two straight games for the first time since Week 2. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have lost four straight and are free falling fast. Not only are the Chiefs in real danger of not making the playoffs, their best defensive back, Marcus Peters, seems to have lost his cool and given up on the season as he threw a flag into the stands and walked off the field without even being ejected.
New defensive coordinator John Pagano has made a difference for the better after taking over two weeks ago. Last week against the New York Giants, no other edge rushers in the league were more productive than Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, per Evert Geerlings, Raiders Media Relations (see Tweet below). However, the biggest test for the Raiders defense comes this week at Kansas City.
Per @PFF, no one was more productive off the edge in Week 13 than Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
— Evert Geerlings (@E_Geerlings) December 4, 2017
To figure out how to hand the Chiefs their fifth straight loss, we put our coaches hat on and went into the lab. Below are the three main things the Raiders need to do to escape Arrowhead with a win.
Blanket Hill All Game
Although the Chiefs have lost four straight and six out of the last seven, speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill continues to be consistent. Last week against the New York Jets, Hill single-handedly kept the Chiefs alive with 185 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
And against the Raiders in Week 7, Hill burned cornerback David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown reception with Reggie Nelson coming over too late to be of any help. A pattern too familiar as Raider Nation is fully aware of.
In order to avoid giving up long easy touchdowns to Hill, the Raiders need to blanket him with a safety at all times, even on 1st down where you might expect a run. The Chiefs offense is very unpredictable and Raiders defense needs to be ready. A cornerback needs to be in Hill’s face disrupting his routes and breaking on the short ball with safety Shalom Luani shadowing him from the free safety position.
Minimize Kelce with Obi and Irvin
Tight End Travis Kelce is another dangerous offensive threat who has continued to produce during the Chiefs losing streak. Kelce is a nightmare for linebackers and safeties to cover as he can beat you with size and speed. On third downs, quarterback Alex Smith consistently looks to him to move the sticks. In Week 7 the Raiders did a good job limiting Kelce to just 33 yards by using Irvin to Harass him in the line of scrimmage and not letting him get a free release.
Raiders have safety Obi Melifonwu this time around and can utilize his size and speed by having him exclusively cover Kelce. Melifonwu has not played much since John Pagano took over but was drafted for games exactly like this, to take away Kelce. The rookie has the size and athleticism to stay with any tight-end and should be used heavily in defense.
Open up the offense
Last week against the Giants, offensive coordinator Todd Downing was forced to draw up creative plays as the Raiders top two receivers were inactive. Due to the change in play-calling, we learned that Cordarelle Patterson is a dangerous threat in the screen game. Last week was the first time Marshawn Lynch eclipsed
Last week was the first time Marshawn Lynch eclipsed 100 yards in a game as he looked to be in top form. With an Amari Cooper still battling an ongoing ankle issue, expect to see another heavy dosage of Marshawn Lynch.
We also learned from the first meeting between these teams in Week 7 that the Chiefs cannot stop the Raiders’ aerial assault. In fact, this year they are having a hard time stopping anyone as they rank 30th in total defense.
Against a poor defensive team, you cannot be one-dimensional and let them get comfortable. Downing should throw everything the offense does well at the Chiefs with best case scenario being the team has no answer. Deep passes to Cooper (who might not be cleared to play) and Holton, screens to Patterson and an effective running game behind Lynch should be too much for a struggling Chiefs defense to handle.
Being effective rushing and receiving deep and short makes it almost impossible for the defense to game plan against as the defense cannot load the box in fear of the deep ball and cannot drop deep in fear of the screens and an effective running game. Downing needs to be on his game to call the right plays in the right situation to take full advantage of the Chiefs poor defense.
Defensive Scheme Illustration
Below is an illustration of the defense and personnel the Raiders should put on the field on second and third downs. It is a man/zone mix coverage which gives the defense their best shot at shutting down the Chiefs high-powered offense.
- Where ever Hill lines up pre-snap, Safety follows
- Obi takes on Kelce exclusively
- Joseph a chess piece and moved around
Prediction: Coach Pagano learns from Ken Norton Jr.’s mistakes from their first meeting in Week 7 and holds the Chiefs to under 25 points. The Oakland offense does enough to score in the high 20’s against the Chiefs poor defense. Raiders win 27-24