After a dominant win over the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders now shift their focus towards the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have been the gold standard for the AFC West since Peyton Manning retired in 2015.
One of the many great NFL cliches is that it doesn’t matter who you play, so much as when you play them. Led on the field by Madden cover athlete and reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have the deadliest offense on the field.
But they have some areas of concern moving forward as they attempt to navigate around not having Tyreek Hill.
Breaking down the Chief’s offense in Week One
Mahomes is the Chiefs offense and his throwing arm is anointed with the strength of the football gods. As the current perfect prototype of a modern day NFL quarterback, Mahomes has no flaws.
From the pocket Mahomes went 25/33 for 378 yards and 3 TDs. He didn’t get sacked but was under constant harassment. On his only attempt at scrambling he gained two yards and sustained a sprained ankle, early in the game. Displaying toughness and grit Mahomes would finish the game, but it did greatly impact his ability to take off and run.
At running back, the Chiefs signed LeSean “Shady” McCoy, in order to avoid having Damien Williams have to start all season long. While the final numbers for Shady read at 10 rushes for 81 yards, with a long of 31 yards and adding a 12 yard reception. Williams, rushed 13 times for 26 yards and a touchdown, but was a much larger force in the passing game catching all six of his targets for 39 yards with a long of 18.
Despite losing Tyreek Hill early to a sternoclavicular dislocation for the game and quite possibly the next 4-6 weeks, Sammy Watkins went off. Finally healthy, Watkins looked like he was “the guy”, catching nine of his 11 targets for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Kelce caught 3/8 targets for 88 yards with a long of 42 yards.
The new Chiefs defense
Under Steve Spagnuolo the Chiefs are in the process of jamming a square peg into a round hole. Traditionally a 3-4 defensive front for as long as one can remember, Spagnuolo is in the midst of building his 4-3 defense currently using the pieces he has. Last years defense was nearly dead last in yardage and against the run. What they did well was force turnovers and get sacks.
The Chiefs defensive front did an excellent job of not allowing Leonard Fournette to dictate the tempo of the game and limited him to 66 yards on 13 carries. Fournette clearly was the main focus of the defensive gameplan after Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles broke his clavicle in the first quarter of the game.
The defensive backfield was a horse of a different color. Nick Foles was 5/8 for 75 yards with a touchdown before getting injured and rookie Gardiner “the stouche” Minshew was 22/25 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Chiefs defense managed a measly single sack, two quarterback hits, and only two tackle for losses the entire game. Nearly allowed two hundred yard receivers, and no Jaguar receiver missed more than two of their individual receiving targets.
What the Raiders need to address on defense
The Raiders have a huge challenge in front of them, but in order to take a step towards claiming the division title from the Chiefs, they must first beat the Chiefs. They have been gift wrapped a blessing as Mahomes is hobbling through practice and doesn’t possess the mobility he used to. The rush will have a much easier time containing him and limiting second and third opportunity plays.
Defensively, the Raiders largest challenge comes in protecting the middle of the field and against intermediate routes. Mainly against the Chiefs tight end Kelce. Burfict is going to have to put a hit on him every opportunity he gets. Kelce does get a tad bit out of his element when he gets hit on every route and doesn’t get a clean release. The Raiders actually try to use their own tight end Darren Waller in similar fashion as Kelce. Tight end has been an Achilles heel for the Raiders for nearly two decades.
Hill being out is a massive blow to the Chiefs wide receiving corps and enables the Raiders to truly be able to matchup with the speed of the Chiefs. An all expense paid trip to Gareon “Conley Island” is what the Raiders defense should have in store for Watkins. After a colossal game Watkins has painted the number one target on his back and preventing him from taking the top off the defense is imperative.
The Chiefs screen game has been a staple of the Reid offense but appears to no longer be a weakness of the Raiders defense. All the defensive lineman are adept at recognizing the screen stopping the rush and getting out to the receiver or batting it down. This will need to continue.
McCoy at this stage in his career will sting you the moment you disrespect him, however he isn’t the feared back he used to be either. Williams is more of a gun runner who will get the ball after the field is spread out.
Pressures and quarterback hits came frequently from the Jaguars dline, and the Chiefs pass protection wasn’t the greatest by any stretch of the imagination. Raiders defensive line must continue this trend and take advantage of Mahomes inability to run or break out of the pocket. Sacks and turnovers become easier to achieve with sticky coverage, the Raiders must cover well.
How the Raiders will win
Running game, pass protection and winning both the turnover and time of possession battles. Welp, that was easy. More like easier said than done. In order for the Raiders to have the best chance to win the game they need to buckle up their chinstraps, bring their hard hats, lunch-pails, and play big boy football.
Derek Carr was straight money against the Broncos. Didn’t make a bad decision was nearly perfect with his ball placement and truly appeared comfortable in the offense. Throughout his career he has rarely seen time to throw the football without being under duress from the Chiefs. This will without a doubt be the worse version of this secondary he’s faced in his career. If provided time to survey the field, he will feast against this weak Chiefs secondary, which was lit up by a rookie.
Having one of, if not the biggest offensive line in football is truly an advantage when seeking to control both tempo and the clock. This line needs to flat out dominate the Chiefs front seven in similar fashion or even more so then last weeks performance. Josh Jacobs, and the o-line stole the will from the Broncos defense down the stretch of Monday’s game. Jacobs needs to be the Chiefs nightmare because time of possession is crucial.
Offensively even without Hill the Chiefs offense is a bad matchup for all defenses. But the longer Mahomes stays on the sidelines the more pressure to be perfect in the pocket on one leg is being applied.
The Raiders displayed excellent man to man coverage and produced three sacks one forced fumble and what should have been another. In one week they nearly equaled 20% of last seasons sack total. The edge rushers need to have a field day, and dominate the edges forcing Mahomes to step up into the pocket and into the rush.
If the defense is able to limit the first read opportunities of Mahomes and force him to hold the ball it will be a double edged sword. One one side it gives the line extra time to get home, but on the other hand it forces the Raiders defensive backs to hold up against speed that much longer.
In Week Two, coming off multiple injuries to intricate parts of the Chiefs passing offense makes this the optimal time to play them in order to achieve victory.