Out of the frying pan, and into the fire.
The Oakland Raiders have completed step one of their quest to the post-season. After taking care of the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, Oakland now must run the gauntlet against four talented teams that no doubt will be tougher than their last two opponents.
Many have downplayed the Raider’s last two wins but there is a lot to be said for a two-game winning streak. Especially for a team whose season was considered by many to be all but over only a few weeks ago. Let’s take a look at how Derek Carr can get his first win of his career in Kansas City.
Hunt Down Kareem
Kareem Hunt has been quiet the past few weeks only racking up 57 yards on 20 touches with zero touchdowns. Oakland’s 11th ranked run defense has a good shot to keep that trend going this Sunday and needs to keep Hunt in check to put the pressure on Alex Smith.
As seen in these runs, six defenders in the box are enough to disrupt the running lanes and bring down Hunt, and in the last run against the Jets, the safety is able to come up and make the play so look for Karl Joseph to be a key in helping Oakland stop Hunt.
But if Oakland can contain the Kansas’ run game with only six in the box it will allow more defenders to help slow down Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and company.
Rely on the Raider’s offensive “Lynchpin”
Opposite the Chief’s run game, Oakland’s rushing attack has begun to take off thanks to Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has finally begun to get the kind of touches many have been waiting for, racking up 168 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks. Once again this week Oakland faces a porous run defense that currently ranks 30th in the league.
Not only is Lynch getting it done on the ground but is also becoming a threat out of the backfield totaling five receptions for 64 yards in the past two games. Look for Lynch to be featured early and often out of the backfield if Oakland wants to pull out a win in the Chief’s Kingdom.
Be King of the Hill on Special Teams
Marquette King has been his usual self this season averaging 49.2 yards per punt with 24 of them settling inside the opponent’s 20. Oakland’s cover team is also playing well only allowing an average of 6.5 yards per return. King was instrumental in keeping the field flipped in Oakland’s favor pinning the Giants deep in their own territory multiple times as Oakland’s offense was slow in getting started.
The Raiders will once again need to rely on King and co. to corral the always dangerous return man in Hill. He’s already returned one to the house this season and Oakland cannot allow any easy points.
On the flip side, Oakland’s own punt return man Jalen Richard has struggled only averaging 5.6 yards per return. However, his biggest issue has been ball control as he muffed three of six fielded punts last Sunday against the Giants.
The Raiders cannot afford to give Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense short fields to work with so King and the coverage unit has to help the Raider’s defense and force the Chief’s into long drives for points. Also, Richard must do a better job of protecting the ball on punts and not allow the Chief’s easy scoring opportunities.
This is really a must-win game for both teams in my opinion. Kansas City has a huge advantage playing at home but given their recent struggles getting Hunt and the ground game going along with Oakland’s rejuvenated front four on defense it will be a long day for Alex Smith.
Look for John Pagano to roll the dice and bring the heat come Sunday. Also, the Chief’s top defender Marcus Peters is suspended so Lynch shouldn’t be the only one feasting on that defense. I like Oakland in a shootout, Raiders 30 Chiefs 26.