Chiefs look to continue recent dominance of Raiders when the AFC West rivals meet up in Arrowhead
Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs have dominated the AFC West since the head coach arrived in 2013. With a 10-2 record over that span, the Chiefs have put away the Las Vegas Raiders better than any other team, and they'll get another chance to do that again when the teams meet on Saturday.
The Chiefs (4-0) have won all four of their games that Patrick Mahomes has started against the Raiders and have won 10 of their last 11 against the team overall. Three of those four Mahomes wins have come by more than two scores, and Kansas City is averaging 35.8 points in those contests.
Mahomes and Co. have been clicking all season too. Thanks to nearly turnover-free play — just two fumbles and no picks — the Chiefs have cruised to wins against teams that had a combined seven playoff appearances over the past two seasons. They needed a comeback and overtime to topple the Chargers but trailed against the Texans, Ravens, and Patriots for a combined eight minutes and 21 seconds. Just absolute dominance.
The Raiders (2-2), meanwhile, entered the season with playoff aspirations and are on track to contend. They've been incredibly consistent on offense — totaling between 372 and 383 yards each game — but can't seem to stop much on defense. And the Chiefs will be a much taller (and faster) task than their Week 2 and 3 opponents in New Orleans and New England.
Can the Chiefs stay atop the NFL, and is there even much the Raiders can do to slow them down? There's plenty to keep an eye out for in this Sunday afternoon matchup.
Las Vegas at Kansas City
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Line: Chiefs -12
Three Things to Watch:
1. Is there anything the Raiders can do to bring pressure?
This section may sound familiar if you read last week's Patriots-Chiefs preview, but that's because there's nothing more important for a team playing the Chiefs. Without pressuring Patrick Mahomes, he'll have to much time to find a receiver, but if you bring the house, Mahomes' receivers are fast enough that they'll break open in man coverage. The Raiders need to find a way to pressure the QB with just four defenders.
The problem is that the Raiders haven't had much success in this category since trading Khalil Mack. They rank just 30th in adjusted sack rate (3.6 percent) this season after finishing 27th in 2019 (6.1 percent). Maxx Crosby has been excellent with 3.0 sacks, but former No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell has been absolutely silent with no sacks or TFLs. No one else on the team has even one full sack.
If the Raiders can't bring pressure, it may be more of the same for a beat-up secondary. They're giving up 7.7 yards per attempt (22nd in the NFL), and only four teams have picked off fewer than their two passes. It's not likely that Las Vegas will turn into the 2019 49ers overnight, but it's hard to imagine them winning without a season-best performance in this category.
2. Is this Clyde Edwards-Helaire's time to shine?
The rookie out of LSU burst onto the scene in Week 1 with 138 rushing yards against the Texans, but he's been relatively quiet since. The Chiefs have still fed him the ball (46 carries), but he hasn't had the same efficiency (3.6 ypc). Edwards-Helaire has been used more as a receiver (14 receptions for 129 yards), but there's more potential than he's shown lately on the ground.
Much of his production (175 out of 304 yards) has come after contact, but he hasn't been able to capitalize on home-run plays. Despite his speed, Edwards-Helaire's longest run has been 27 yards. The Chiefs have used him more on inside runs (41 percent) than other top running backs have been used, which may be bogging down his numbers. Considering Raiders linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has been limited with a pectoral injury, it would be nice to see Edwards-Helaire utilized on more outside runs.
Teams have absolutely punished the Raiders on the ground this season, as their 5.0 yards per carry allowed ranks 28th in the NFL. That's a massive departure from last year when it was actually a strength (3.9 ypc, 5th). Especially if the Chiefs go up early, as expected, this could be Edwards-Helaire's opportunity to put up big numbers.
3. How will Henry Ruggs III's return change the Raiders' offense?
Derek Carr has had an excellent season (in a contract year, I might add) by playing mistake-free ball. Despite a depleted receiver corps, he is completing a career-best 73.6 percent of his passes and impressively has eight touchdowns to no interceptions.
Carr has never been a deep-ball artist, but he's been able to succeed in part by playing it safe. He's just 29th in the league with 6.6 air yards per attempt, with 57.7 percent of his targets going to his tight end (Darren Waller), a slot receiver (Hunter Renfrow), and a running back (Josh Jacobs). But first-round pick Henry Ruggs III is set to return after missing the last two weeks with knee and hamstring issues, which could completely open Las Vegas' offense.
With apologies to Tyrell Williams, Carr has never had a speedy receiver like Ruggs before. Ruggs didn't even make it through the first half of his debut before getting hurt, but Las Vegas went to him early and often, utilizing his speed however they could whether it was on deep passes or out of the backfield. Expect to see a more aggressive offense with Ruggs back, especially if they fall behind early.
The Raiders looked like postseason contenders after upsetting the Saints in the first-ever game at Allegiant Stadium, but they've taken a step back the last two weeks after disappointing losses. Don't cross them out of the playoff picture quite yet, but this is not the game (or the place) to expect another big upset. With a defense that ranks 21st in yards allowed per game and is giving up 30 points per contest, the Raiders may not be able to keep Patrick Mahomes contained for very long.
Prediction: Chiefs 38, Raiders 20