Chiefs-Raiders Keys and Matchups: Rivalry Game Carries Big Playoff Implications
The Chiefs (7-4) return to Arrowhead Stadium for the first time in nearly a month on Sunday hosting the Oakland Raiders (6-5). The Chiefs can virtually clinch the AFC West title with a victory, while the Raiders seek to avenge a 28-10 loss at home to the Chiefs in Week 2.
Matchups To Watch
Chiefs Speed Receivers vs. Raiders Secondary
Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson ran wild against Oakland last time out, beating the Raiders’ secondary deep three times. With a healthy Tyreek Hill back in the line, the Chiefs hope to further torment Oakland defensive backs.
Chiefs LB Anthony Hitchens vs. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs
Hitchens flowed well to the ball against Oakland in Week 2, showing a good feel for the Raiders' run game. That brought him face-to-face with Jacobs in the hole several times, with Hitchens winning a majority of the battles early before Oakland turned to the pass game. Look for Hitchens to pick up where he left off and continue meeting Jacobs in the running lane.
Chiefs DE Frank Clark vs. Raiders LT Kolton Miller
Clark comes off of one of his best games this season against the Chargers in Week 11, and he gets a juicy matchup this week against Miller. Miller is still finding his footing in the NFL. He often struggles against some of the better pass rushers in the league, especially when facing a bull rush.
Chiefs LT Eric Fisher & RT Mitchell Schwartz vs. Raiders DE Maxx Crosby
Crosby quickly developed into a solid pass rusher. He remains a raw talent, however, often relying on speed, and physical gifts instead of technique to win. Crosby’s relentless motor makes him a tough assignment for any offensive linemen, but the veteran book ends for Kansas City should be able to take this rookie to school more often than not.
Chiefs Defense vs. Raiders Pre-Snap Motion/Shifts
The Raiders used a lot of pre-snap motion and formation shifts against the Jets last week trying to create confusion and mismatches. The Chiefs need a plan in place to handle the funky player alignments, shifts and motion they will see this week to avoid playing right into the Raiders’ hands.
Keys To Victory
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid needs to take a page out of Ricky Bobby’s playbook and tell his team, "I wanna go fast!" The Chiefs’ offense needs to get back to their highflying ways and use their team of track stars to run the Raiders right off the field. Hill missed the last matchup between these two teams with an injury, but that didn’t stop the offense from scoring four touchdowns from more than 25 yards out with another 72-yard touchdown wiped out by penalty. Add in Hill, and this offense becomes an even bigger nightmare for the Raiders.
Force Oakland to Pass
If Kansas City starts fast and scores early, they can force the Raiders to abandon the run game, which is their bread and butter. The more points that go on the board and the more defenders packed in the box keying on Jacobs, the more likely the Raiders must open things up. With wide receiver Hunter Renfrow out, the focus of the passing game shines on receiver Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller. Williams makes his hay with deep receptions while Waller works in the seams and outside the numbers. Without Renfrow, the Raiders lack the middle of the field weapon who can consistently keep the chains moving. The limited options for the Raiders should give the Chiefs an advantage if they can get Oakland into trying to win a shootout.
Limit Yards After Contact from Jacobs
Jacobs is an incredibly gifted runner with patience, vision, speed and power. What makes him the most dangerous is the way he keeps his feet moving on contact, pushing defenders backwards and helping him breaking tackles that lead to huge gains. The Raiders’ offensive line will open him up some decent holes, but if Kansas City’s defenders can make sure-handed tackles on first contact, they can hold Jacobs in check and limit the damage.
Cross ‘Em Up
The Raiders have been trying to run a Man-Free coverage scheme, but they often pass off shallow crossing routes to the linebackers. But their linebackers lack the athleticism to cover these routes, leaving receivers running wide open across the field. Once the catch is made on these crossing routes, all the help defenders have their back turned to the play chasing their man, leaving the receiver to rack up huge yards after catch.
It’s a divisional matchup for a share of the lead in the AFC West for the Raiders, who are coming off one of their worst games of the year. They own a 1-4 on the road so far this year, but with a chance to match the Chiefs at the top of the division and make things interesting down the stretch run of the season, expect to get the best effort from Oakland. The Chiefs have to match this intensity, or they could be in for a long night against a motivated team.