1. How big is it for the Chiefs to be getting Jeremy Maclin back this week?
A healthy Jeremy Maclin would be significant. I have my doubts about how effective he will be with a hamstring injury and temperatues in the teens. I'm not counting on him a whole lot so anything would be a bonus. The Chiefs haven't gotten much out of Chris Conley in his absence so I suspect we'll see an improvement there. I'll also be interested to see how this effects Travis Kelce as he's had three 100-yard games in Maclin's four-game absence. The Chiefs have lost key players at every spot along the way and yet somehow they continue to come through so some of this talk about how much losing a player hurts hasn't really mattered at the end of the day.
2. What areas, if any, have changed on this Chiefs team since these two teams met in week 6?
A couple of rookies have taken steps forward. Defensively, Chris Jones on the interior defensive line has been a monster. He is a good pass rusher which the Chiefs haven't seen from the defensive line in ... I can't remember when. He's a high energy guy who's athletic and will get into the backfield. This is his best test yet against the Raiders offensive line. I'm excited to see how he does. Offensively, Tyreek Hill has flashed as a receiver. He's become a bigger part of the offense week by week. Two catches for 20 yards last time around against the Raiders but in the past month he hasn't been under 50 yards. He is really the only deep threat. You'll probably target him on a go route at least once. He's just as dangerous in the Chiefs screen game too. Always seems to be one step away from breaking one. Oh, and Justin Houston is back. That's pretty big.
3. When you look at the numbers for the Raiders, you can at least say the offense is carrying them. If you look at the numbers for the Chiefs, there is no facet that isn't among the worst in the league. And yet they keep winning. Are they playing with house money at this point?
It's weird. I watch all the games and yet I don't know if I have a good answer for this. They win the turnover battle. That's the biggest factor here. The defense takes it away and the offense doesn't give it back very often. The defense not only takes it away but they score with it too (hi, Eric Berry). The Chiefs defense and special teams account for nearly 50 percent of the points this season. That's up there with the all-time great defenses like last year's Broncos. The offense has done just enough at the right time. The offense can be bad for three quarters but the defense is good enough to keep them in it. As good as the Raiders have been late in games, the Chiefs are right there with them. Wins against the Chargers, Panthers and Broncos the Chiefs offense looked bad until the fourth quarter. Alex Smith historically hasn't been a guy who wins these come from behind games so I'm at a loss to explain some of it. It's truly a team effort all the way around. No one relies on all facets of their team like the Chiefs do.
4. When teams have had success against the Chiefs, or when the Chiefs have stumbled, how did it usually happen?
This one I can answer. They lose when the offense turns it over. The Chiefs offense can be bad and they can remain competitive. But if they are bad and turn it over, they're done. In the loss against the Texans, the Chiefs offense was bad and Alex Smith lost two fumbles. Two weeks later against the Steelers they turned it over twice in the first quarter and it was over quickly. Against the Bucs a few weeks ago, Alex Smith threw a goal line interception that sealed the loss. That explains all three of the Chiefs losses so far this year.
5. How much do you think the recent success the Chiefs have had against the Raiders matters in this game? And do you think that success continues?
It's notable because a good chunk of the personnel is the same but Derek Carr has gotten so much better that I'm not sure how much you can take out of it. 2014 Derek Carr and 2016 Derek Carr are two different quarterbacks the Chiefs beat. The Raiders are an awful lot like the Chiefs late in the game. They are clutch this year. They close games out. That's the difference that I see for the Raiders this year. In previous years, Marty Schottenheimer was right -- just wait for the Raiders to lose it. That's not the case anymore. I like the Chiefs in this game mostly because the short weeks favor the home teams but in no way am I confident.
To see my answers to his questions, click here