Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders: Preview and Prediction
The Kansas City Chiefs have come out on the other side of their bye week with an 8-1 record as they take their first-ever trip to Las Vegas to face the 6-3 Las Vegas Raiders, the only team to hand them a loss in the 2020 season. The Raiders come into this game on a three-game winning streak after defeating the Cleveland Browns 16-6, Los Angeles Chargers 31-26, and Denver Broncos 37-12.
Fact to Know: Derek Carr's last three games have been his worst statistical games.
In his first six games of the season, Carr had over 200 passing yards and over seven yards per passing attempt, along with 13 total passing touchdowns. In his last three, Carr has failed to hit 200 yards or seven yards per passing attempt in any of them and he has had three total passing touchdowns. The kicker is that much of it may not be his own fault.
In his last game against the Broncos, Carr had 154 passing yards and zero passing touchdowns. Despite that, Carr had his highest-graded game of the season by Pro Football Focus (PFF). Why was this? Well, a big part of it certainly had to do with drops. Carr had three deep or impactful passes dropped, and two of them were either likely or certain touchdowns, including what should have been a 30+ yard pass to Henry Ruggs III, a 45+ yard potential touchdown to Darren Waller and a wide-open six-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. That doesn't account for all of Carr's evaluation, but that was certainly the most impactful part in his favor in terms of his grade and to his detriment in terms of his box score.
Matchup to Watch: Chiefs right-side wide receivers vs. Trayvon Mullen
The Raiders' top cornerback for snaps played is Trayvon Mullen, the 2019 second-round pick out of Clemson. According to PFF, Mullen has played 436 of his 458 cornerback snaps at left outside cornerback, so it is likely he will get a good serving of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson.
Mullen is one of two AFC West defenders to have 400+ yards allowed in coverage, three or more touchdowns allowed and no interceptions, along with Michael Ojemudia of the Broncos. Meanwhile, Hill is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns with nine, Hardman has 395 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns which only trails Hill and Travis Kelce on the team, and even Robinson has stepped up lately in Sammy Watkins' absence, which will continue against the Raiders, with three of his last four games having either a touchdown or 60+ receiving yards.
Keep an eye out for the Chiefs wide receivers lined up against Mullen on the right and look to see if they make some noise there.
Key to the Game: Will Derek Carr and Henry Ruggs III come to play again?
Obviously, in the first game, the combination of Carr and Ruggs was the biggest factor in the Raiders' ability to hand the Chiefs their lone loss of the season. In that game alone, Carr had four of his 13 deep completions all season and Ruggs had 118 yards of his 251 yards all year.
Carr and Ruggs having that much of their season production in a small percentage of their games played indicates to me that this was a bit of a fluke, but it could also be an issue with the Chiefs defense. We will see on Sunday which one it was.
Prediction: Chiefs 41, Raiders 24.
Patrick Mahomes is not going to allow this team to get swept in a season series by the Raiders. That would be the anthesis of everything we've been blessed to witness in Mahomes' tenure in KC. I believe Carr has a solid day once again, but I think Mahomes takes advantage of a weakened Raiders defense and has a nice four-touchdown day to increase the narrow gap between him and Aaron Rodgers for the 2020 NFL MVP front-runner.