Rivals Chiefs-Raiders meet amid logjam in AFC West
Every team in the AFC West has won five games, so a divisional clash at the midway point of the season brings about a potential tipping point.
A logjam heading into Week 10 is not a customary position for the Kansas City Chiefs (5-4), a winner of five straight division titles and host to the last three AFC championship games. Nonetheless, the Las Vegas Raiders (5-3) have a chance to exert their authority Sunday when they play host to the Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes enters averaging fewer passing yards than Derek Carr, with questions swirling about the drop-off that has made the Chiefs quarterback look like a mere mortal. His 20 touchdown passes are offset by 10 interceptions, second most in the NFL. And he is coming off a mediocre 4.5 yards per attempt in a 13-7 win over a Green Bay Packers team missing Aaron Rodgers.
Each week becomes more confounding as Mahomes makes uncharacteristically poor choices, struggles with his accuracy and becomes more impatient attacking deep shell schemes that limit opportunities to connect downfield. To his credit, he vows to keep airing it out.
“Taking those shots during the game, even if they’re not connecting, kind of puts a little bit of a fear into the defense to know they can’t start jumping some of our routes,” Mahomes said.
The Chiefs have relied on touch passes, screens and short slants, while showing some reluctance to pound opponents with their run game, which ranks a serviceable 15th in the NFL at 4.6 yards per attempt.
At least the Kansas City defense looked much better in consecutive wins against the New York Giants and the Packers.
“It’s all about consistency,” said Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi. “As long as we keep stacking good plays and have consistent effort, we’ll be fine.”
The Raiders can strike quickly through the air while featuring tight end Darren Waller, though Carr must regroup coming off a 23-16 loss to the Giants in which he committed three turnovers.
Carr ranks second in the NFL with a 320.6 passing yards per game and has 13 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He has not been prone to turnovers considering the Raiders have committed just eight giveaways compared to a league-high 19 by the Chiefs.
Support from running backs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake could also be key in giving Las Vegas a complimentary attack.
“They are on the verge of maybe forming us a little bit of an identity running the football,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We’ve gotten to be a little bit better play-action team in the last few weeks. I think we’ve done a better job with our boots and our nakeds outside.”
The Raiders cut cornerback Damon Arnette this week after video surfaced of him making death threats. Arnette joined Henry Ruggs III, another 2020 first-round pick cut from the roster following a fatal DUI case that resulted in charges against the wide receiver.
Las Vegas signed veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson this week as a potential replacement for Ruggs. Kendal Vickers has been added to the 53-man roster to replace another defensive tackle, Darius Philon, who was placed on injured reserve.
Three injured Chiefs missed practice to begin the week: cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (ankle) as well as right tackles Mike Remmers (knee) and Lucas Niang (ribs). Three Raiders also missed practice: cornerback Keisean Nixon, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins.
The Chiefs cleared Kyle Long (leg), who has been out since missing the entire preseason camp. Kansas City coach Andy Reid said the opportunity “to move around a little bit doing football,” is most important for Long, a versatile offensive lineman.
–Field Level Media