Raiders host the defending AFC West champion Chiefs
Amidst controversy, the Oakland Raiders were able to show maturity and poise as they picked up a 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos on "Monday Night Football." Now how will they do when they go up against the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday?
Oakland was counting on Antonio Brown to be a dynamic weapon in their offense, but after voiding his guaranteed money following a heated argument with general manager Mike Mayock and several other missteps, the team decided to release him. It's just one game, but the Raiders did just fine without him on Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs looked to be in midseason form in their 40-26 victory at Jacksonville. Kansas City lost wide receiver Tyreek Hill to what turned out to be a sternoclavicular joint injury but still managed to gash the Jaguars defense repeatedly. HIll will be out of action for several weeks and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes also came out of the game with a slight ankle injury but he should be ready to go on Sunday.
Kansas City won both games against Oakland a season ago. Overall, the Chiefs lead the all-time series with the Raiders 65-53-2, including playoffs.
Kansas City at Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Kansas City -7
Three Things to Watch
1. How will the Chiefs offense fare without Tyreek Hill?
Kansas City was able to get past Jacksonville without Hill, but what effect will his extended absence have? Not only will the Chiefs need more from Sammy Watkins but second-round pick Mecole Hardman also figures to see more playing time.
Watkins finished with 198 yards and three touchdowns against the Jaguars. Expect Patrick Mahomes to target Watkins against a Raiders defense that will be short-handed as safety Jonathan Abram, one of the team's three first-round picks this year, is done for the season after he suffered a shoulder injury on Monday night.
Kansas City also may depend more on their running game. In his first game with the Chiefs, LeSean McCoy rushed for 81 yards on 10 carries. Damien Williams also chipped in 26 yards on 13 carries. Both were active in the passing game as well.
2. Can Josh Jacobs have another huge game?
One of the important questions entering their game against the Broncos was how much of a load would the Raiders give to their rookie running back. If that performance was any indication, Jacobs is ready to be a featured part of the Oakland offense.
Jacobs finished with 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 28-yard catch for his only reception of the game. He became the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 to record at least 100 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns in his debut.
Oakland will need a solid game from quarterback Derek Carr, but it helps that he has Jacobs to help move the chains and put some points on the scoreboard.
3. Can the Chiefs defense force turnovers?
During his time with the Raiders, Carr has thrown nine interceptions against the Chiefs, which is the most against any opponent. Kansas City's defense gave up 428 yards to a Jacksonville team that was without Nick Foles for a majority of the game as he suffered a broken collarbone on a touchdown pass.
The Chiefs cornerbacks were on their heels against the Jaguars receivers. Now, they will be against the speedy Tyrell Williams, who had six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos. Tight end Darren Waller also had seven catches for 70 yards so Kansas City's defensive backs will have their hands full.
Kansas City will need to find a way to get pressure on Carr and force turnovers if they're going to pick up the victory.
On paper, the Chiefs are the better team, even if the Raiders have improved. But Kansas City's defense is still an issue, which might make this game closer than some expect.
But with Patrick Mahomes leading the Chiefs' high-powered attack, that should be enough to get the win. Expect LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams to be used a lot to force Oakland to commit more resources to stopping the run. That should open up opportunities for Mahomes to connect with Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman for big plays downfield.
Prediction: Chiefs 40, Raiders 34
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.