By Tuesday morning, the Raiders will have played each of their AFC West division foes. Vegas also played an NFC playoff team (Arizona Cardinals) and an AFC Playoff team (Tennessee Titans) from a year ago already this season. Neither look as good as last year, but both of those losses came down to the final series.
In scouting, they say it takes about five games to get a good baseline sense of a player. The Raiders will play their fifth game of the season versus the Chiefs. This is the game where the Raiders bring everything together. We should finally have a sense of the Raiders’ identity and expectations after Week 5.
Last year, three playoffs teams started at 1-3. Vegas still has a lot to prove before they can comfortably say they will keep that trend going this year. Regardless, the season isn’t over yet for the Silver and Black.
Kansas City has been the king of the AFC West and the most consistent AFC contender since they rolled out Pat Mahomes as their starting quarterback. This year is no different as they sit at 3-1 with wins over the Chargers, Cardinals and Buccaneers. Their lone loss came to an underachieving Indianapolis Colts team.
The Chiefs don’t appear as explosive without Tyreek Hill at receiver. However, they’ve still got speed on the outside with Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valde-Scanting. Kansas City also still has shifty and versatile running backs with Clyde Edwards-Halaire, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco. Plus, tight end Travis Kelce always gives the Raiders Problems. Patrick Mahomes also always tears up the Silver and Black.
Defensively, this group is led by Chris Jones. They revamped the safeties adding Justin Reid and rolling with Juan Thornhill full-time. The rest of the secondary are a mix of veterans and young guys, per usual. This is an Andy Reid formula the Raiders should know well. Kansas City wants to bend but not break as well as force enough pressure and turnovers to help their offense stay on the field.
A lot riding on Week 5
Vegas enters this game after two poor performances versus the Chiefs last year. They gave up 40 points and failed to score more than 14 points. The Raiders showed some promise the year before, beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead and nearly beating them in Vegas earlier in 2020.
Nonetheless, we already learned through four games this is not the same Raiders team as last year. In this case, that benefits Vegas. Last year’s team made progress by making the playoffs but they made no progress in beating the Chiefs. This year’s team can show it’s not afraid of the AFC West’s big dog.
The point is, we’ll have a good sense of what this Raiders team is capable of after they play the Chiefs. We’ve been waiting for this team to put together four quarters of winning football through all three facets of the game. They’ll need to do that this week versus the Chiefs just to keep themselves from getting blown out.
On one hand, a win puts them right back at 2-1 in the division. Otherwise, a loss puts them at 1-2 in the division and 1-4 overall. That is not a great spot headed into the Bye Week but this team should come out stronger in Week 6.
Either way, the Raiders will have some time to make some adjustments and personnel moves after the Chiefs game via their Bye. This game in Kansas City will really be the difference between the Raiders riding momentum or licking their wounds during the off week.
What do the Raiders need to do to beat the Chiefs? Here’s some keys to walkaway with a huge road upset.
First off, Vegas has no chance if they let Patrick Mahomes get comfortable. The Raiders need to find ways to pressure, hurry and sack the Chiefs’ QB. They also need to stay discipline with their pass rushing lanes. Mahomes can gash up the Raiders like Wilson and Murray, except for he has a much bigger and more active arm that can make the Raiders pay. That’s d-line 101.
Play disciplined in coverage
Denzel Perryman made his presence felt in the last game versus the run. There’s a chance he plays again Monday. The Raiders will need him to not be a liability in coverage as they have speed throughout the lineup.
Jayvon Brown is solid in coverage, even if he’s not as physical as Perryman. However, Brown is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. That puts more pressure on Perryman in coverage. Not to mention, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce already has over 300 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Vegas defensive backs have made plays the past few weeks, even if they’ve been over-matched. Despite injuries, they’ve found big plays from Duron Harmon and Amik Robertson. Nate Hobbs has continued to look great. Rock Ya-Sin made some plays and even Johnathan Abram looks better this season. Tre’von Moehrig came back and looked improved. He gives the group a little more bulk.
This group will get tested by Kelce’s size, the speed on the outside and the shiftiness out of the backfield. The Raiders defensive backs can’t afford any lapses in coverage or huge penalties. They’ve got to be solid with their tackling too. Kansas City’s receivers aren’t playing too well but the Raiders can’t be the group that helps them find their rhythm.
Please send Crosby some help
Vegas’ x-factor is their defensive line. Andrew Billings got a little bit more push in the passing game. Johnathan Hankins looked better too. Some of that could be on the Broncos’ guards. Clelin Ferrell was effective setting everyone up with his stunts. Chandler Jones’ showed up a little bit even if he lost contain a few times. Jones still needs to get home with that big pay check. Hobbs registered a sack as a blitzer.
Obviously, Maxx Crosby was a beast again with two sacks. He’s playing with more control and that shows up with his tackle for losses and impact in the run game. Crosby can’t do it alone and that’s why eyes will be on Ferrell and Jones to find ways to be effective. He might even miss this game due to the birth of his baby. This has to be the week someone else gets a sack. No one besides Hobbs or Crosby has a sack this season.
Kansas City’s offensive line is playing better than year’s past. The Raiders defensive line won’t have an obvious weak link to attack. Yet, we know we can’t beat Mahomes without applying pressure. Vegas defensive line needs someone to step up and make a play. Let’s see Croby even lineup as a DT in obvious passing situations.
This one’s gotta mean more for Carr
Derek Carr lost his first AFC West dual to the Chargers. He threw some picks that cost them. Last week, the team edged out the Broncos but Russell Wilson got the best of him statistically. Carr’s gotta have a marquee performance to show he belongs as a face of a franchise in the AFC West.
It was great to see Carr take off and run last week. It gave the Raiders an added element to their offense. People forget Derek is not slow. The Chiefs are better in the interior than the Broncos, which might make that a harder outlet this week.
Overall, Carr and company need to be better in the red zone. There’s no reason for them to be one of the worst teams in the red zone when they have Davante Adams. They found ways to get Adams the ball last week but this week Carr needs to find him in the red zone. Darren Waller isn’t a bad second red zone target either.
Keep giving it to Jacobs
Josh Jacobs is running as hard as I’ve ever seen him run in Silver and Black. That manifested a career game last week versus the Broncos. Vegas needs to keep him involved early and often.
Again, Jones will be the biggest foe to this strategy. The Raiders guards have been up and down at best so Jones might be in the backfield a lot for the Chiefs. Vegas can try and use that aggressiveness against him by sprinkling in draws and screens for Jacobs. This offense needs to keep Jacobs going so Carr gets easier reads.
A few sprinkles of Zamir White as well as end around to Adams or other gimmicks don’t hurt. Vegas needs to not only feed Jacobs but not look away if he struggles. He got better as the game went on last week. It’s nice to see him, knock on wood, not deal with any lingering injuries through almost a quarter of the season. Jacobs also could be big in helping this team turnaround it’s red zone woes.
Josh is a good receiving threat out of the backfield. His offensive line needs generate some push for him to be effective in red zone though.
Addressing the biggest red flag
The Raiders offensive line improved last week with starting center Andre James returning to the lineup. Dylan Parham continues to prove he can play anywhere in the interior. Both can improve in blitz pickup and double team timing but that will come together as they get more acclimated to playing together.
Vegas still has some liabilities at left guard and right tackle. Jones’ speed, hands and get off worry me against Alex Bars. I hope John Simpson gets another chance to prove himself. Whatever he did to fall out of the rotation, the Raiders may need him this week. He’s a bit quicker than Bars, he does better at getting up to linebacker and he is younger. Simpson looked solid and improved from last year in the first two games when he started.
Chiefs edges Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap aren’t as great as a few years but they still could give Kolton Miller some competition. Kansas City is also starting rookie defensive end George Karlaftis. None of them have been very good this year but they could be a mismatch versus Jermaine Eluemunor who struggles with speed. His backup Thayer Munford struggles with speed and leverage which might not help either.
This Raiders offensive line has the power to be a liability or a strength versus the Chiefs. They need individual players to step up and win their battles. The Vegas offensive line also needs to come together as a cohesive unit. That should get easier as the rotation settles and they hopefully get another win. Otherwise, some changes could be made in the bye week.
All eyes on Josh
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels started his press conference by saying the Raiders have a big challenge this week. It’s the truth.
After beating his former team and earning his first win as the Raiders head coach, McDaniels talked about how his team is figuring out how to win after those first three tough losses. That’s a hard pill to swallow for a veteran team. This will be the real test to see if McDaniels can really build a winning culture fast.
McDaniels’ gotta prove his offense can go toe-to-toe with Andy Reid’s explosive offense. The last Raiders coaches weren’t able to make the adjustments to avoid blowouts, can McDaniels? This group has far more weapons so the pressure is on McDaniels to help this offense score some points. He can really make a statement with a win over their toughest division opponent in Week 5.