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Know the KC Chiefs' Week 12 Opponent: Key Facts About the LV Raiders

Seeking to avoid a third loss in four games, can the Chiefs return to form in a critical AFC West tilt against the Raiders?

Four weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs (now 7-3) flew into Mile High sporting a 6-1 record, a convincing three-game lead over the second-place Las Vegas Raiders (now 5-6) and a claim to boast as the only team in the AFC West with a winning record.

Despite entering as 10-point favorites, the Chiefs will be forced to enter Allegiant Stadium with perhaps amplified urgency, acknowledging the unwanted competition that it could invite with a third consecutive loss in four games.

Many of the Chiefs’ problems from Week 1 remain in play some 10 weeks later. Perhaps a matchup against a team that they’ve gone 17-3 against dating back to 2013 could be exactly the much-needed remedy. In the meantime, here’s what to consider.

Is a Patrick Mahomes resurgence another week away?

It speaks volumes that despite having the No. 26-ranked EPA per dropback over the last three weeks, Patrick Mahomes remains arguably the NFL’s most feared quarterback. If for no other reason than built-in reputation, it’s expected that Mahomes and Andy Reid are going to find their rhythm on offense at any given time. Given the Raiders’ strengths, one must wonder if that resurgence is better suited for a different Sunday.

No longer the laughingstock it once was defensively, the Raiders — particularly under interim head coach Antonio Pierce — have toughened up, allowing just 12.6 points per game over their last three weeks. A large part of that stems from their speedy, aggressive defense, one that has found a way to force six turnovers over that three-game stretch.

Alignment-wise, it makes more sense for this to be Isiah Pacheco’s week than that of an elite passing performance. Per The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, the Raiders are among the NFL’s leaders in lighter defensive personnel with 79.6% of their snaps coming out of nickel (fifth-most) and just 9.2 snaps per game with more than two linebackers.

For all of its flaws, we’ve seen the Chiefs brutalize these types of alignments in the past. It’s difficult to predict whether or not Kansas City overcomes one of its bigger setbacks from this season — the league-worst 5.3 points per game in the second half — but the strengths of their running game should allow them to dictate the terms.

One big factor we’d be remiss to ignore: Maxx Crosby (knee), arguably the Raiders’ best player, is deemed doubtful. His presence alone could prove the difference in how competitive the Raiders are.

The X-factor: Travis Kelce

Given Jerick McKinnon’s injury, perhaps Clyde Edwards-Helaire boasts a case atop the list of subtle players who could alter Sunday’s trajectory. Nonetheless, it feels as though much of Kansas City's chance rides on No. 87.

The matchup has proved profitable for Kelce in seasons past; his 11 touchdowns against the Raiders are his most against any team. Kelce’s off-field, high-profile dating lifestyle will remain the top-fold story but recently, he also flirted with that dreaded “r-word.” A strong outing here could alleviate some of those concerns.

Since the 173-yard performance in Week 7, Kelce has only produced a combined 116 games over three games. Equally important is that Patrick Graham, the Raiders’ defensive coordinator, has found ways to scheme up defensive alignments to keep Kelce’s yard totals down. The last three meetings against Graham read as follows:

  • Four catches, 27 yards, zero touchdowns (vs. NYG, 2021)
  • Seven catches, 25 yards, four(!) touchdowns (vs. LVR, 2022)
  • Seven catches, 38 yards, zero touchdowns (at LVR, 2022)

Until the Chiefs’ receivers consistently prove their worth, teams will elect to double and bracket Kelce, something Philadelphia frequented on Monday Night Football.

The attention he draws continues to create plus matchups for those around him (i.e. Justin Watson’s touchdown on Monday), but with each passing week and with the postseason looming, pressure continues to mount. Expect the Raiders to steal some of what’s worked historically.

What are the Raiders saying ahead of Week 12?

Antonio Pierce on Josh Jacobs’ lack of usage after getting just 14 carries in the loss to Miami:

“Obviously, we don’t want those touches to be at that 14 mark, that’s not our number. Our magic number is 20 plus, and we got to stay with it. It’s not always pretty; there are some one-yards and two-yards in there. Yesterday, there were some fives and eight and nines, and we just gotta remember that as we’re calling it, and stick with it.”

Outside of his relationship with Steve Spagnuolo during their time with the New York Giants and his prediction on how Spags will scheme for first-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell, this was perhaps the most preview-friendly quote of the week.

The Chiefs’ defense continues to be elite, but if there’s one area they’ve continually struggled, it's defending the run game. Like the Raiders, they are among that dreaded six-team group allowing more than 4.5 yards per carry. Even if the defense can’t stop Jacobs, the NFL’s reigning rushing champion, Mahomes and the offense can by getting ahead early and forcing the Raiders to pass.

Last week, by virtue of building a lead, Miami forced Las Vegas into a pass-happy approach, with Jacobs only yielding one carry over the final three drives. It only took a 20-point performance from Miami. This, perhaps, could be the Chiefs' best way to avoid getting put on “upset watch."

DVOA Ranks

Chiefs: No. 3 in total DVOA | Raiders: No. 28 in total DVOAChiefs: No. 7 in offensive DVOA | Raiders: No. 29 in offensive DVOAChiefs: No. 4 in defensive DVOA | Raiders: No. 16 in defensive DVOAChiefs: No. 10 in special teams DVOA | Raiders: No. 9 in special teams DVOA

Score Prediction 

Chiefs 25, Raiders 16. Even while playing at a suboptimal level, the Chiefs are the better team, arguably, in every phase. Injuries to key players (Crosby, Miller) on both sides of the trenches proves to be too much to overcome as the Chiefs finally begin to look something like the team we envisioned.