Alex Smith, Chiefs Offense Looks To Take Advantage of Raiders on Thursday Night Football

Don't be surprised to see Oakland playing straight zone coverages against Kansas City's complex offense, just like Pittsburgh executed last weekend.
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Previewing Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders on NFL Week 7 Thursday Night Football...

Did Pittsburgh lay the blueprint for stopping Kansas City’s offense? Sure, but it’s not something that every coach in the league didn’t already know. The Steelers played straight zone coverages (often Cover 2) where defenders could keep eyes on Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ deceptive misdirection tactics, and Kansas City didn’t create voids in those zones until late in the game.

It will be shocking if the Raiders don’t play a lot of straight zone on Thursday night. Not only is that the easiest approach for Oakland on limited preparation time against a complex offense, but the Raiders have also been forced to play more Cover 2 lately, due to injuries to cornerbacks Gareon Conley and David Amerson.

This could be a big night for Kareem Hunt through the air. Given Oakland’s issues at linebacker, expect the rookie running back to run a few downfield routes. (With Charcandrick West out, the alternative is to keep Hunt in as an extra pass protector, where he’s underdeveloped.) The Chiefs are one of the few teams who send running backs on vertical routes, as opposed to routes only underneath and in the flats. Defenders are unaccustomed to seeing this. In most zones, the linebackers are responsible here. The Raiders’ had better be ready.

Speaking of Oakland’s linebackers, NaVorro Bowman’s arrival couldn’t have come soon enough. The longtime Niner is a sound, sagacious veteran—the opposite of everything Oakland has had at linebacker this season—and it’ll be interesting to see how much he plays after joining the team just three days ago. As soon as Bowman is up to speed on Jack Del Rio and coordinator Ken Norton’s scheme, he’ll likely see every snap.

The Raiders are at their best spreading out and letting QB Derek Carr work the quick game. Kansas City, however, has been sharp against this, often rushing three and dropping eight into coverage. Carr, remember, struggled against the Chiefs last year.

Bold Prediction: Kareem Hunt will have at least one 30-plus-yard reception and at least 75 yards receiving overall.

Score Prediction: Chiefs 23, Raiders 14

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