It’s getting really redundant for those who follow the Raiders closely to hear about their issues covering the tight end. It goes back to at least last season and for the most part has continued into this season. They have issues covering even marginal tight ends and this week they face the best tight end in football over the past month. And they will do so missing starting safety Karl Joseph.
Travis Kelce has put up over 100 yards in each of the Chiefs’ past three games, and four times this season, including an eye popping 140 yards last week in a win over the Falcons. A Pro Bowler last season with 875 receiving yards, he is well ahead of that pace, with 815 yards receiving through 12 games. That’s just 5 yards shy of Greg Olsen of the Panthers who leads the NFL in receiving among tight ends.
The Raiders know what they are up against with Kelce.
“No question,” Norton said when asked if Kelce is a key matchup. “He’s a premier player in this league. You see he’s high(ly) targeted. He’s a guy that’s really hungry for the ball. We’re going to have to deal with him.”
On one hand, the Raiders held Kelce to just 3 catches for 32 yards in their last meeting, and they also managed to do a decent job on Olsen two weeks ago, keeping him at 4 catches for 45 yards.
On the other hand, they did that with rookie top pick Karl Joseph in the lineup. He will not play in this game with a toe injury on a short week.
Replacing Joseph will be veteran safety Nate Allen, who came in for Joseph in the second half last week against the Bills and had an interception.
How much of a step down is Allen? Perhaps not as much as you might think.
Most Raiders fans remember Nate Allen only for his five games last season, when he was injured in week one, placed on IR with designation for return, struggled in four starts before being sent to season ending IR after week 12. It so happens he was injured the second time facing the Chiefs.
That sample is not really a great indication of his abilities.
He was signed by the Raiders to a long term deal after a solid season in Philadelphia in which Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 80.3. He also had a 75.0 grade the season before. Karl Joseph has had a 79.9 grade this season.
Allen also looked very good this preseason working with the first team in place of Joseph.
As for Kelce, he could see his targets come down with the return of Jeremy Maclin to the lineup. Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride detailed this morning the differences in targets with and without Maclin and rookie Tyreek Hill.
Kelce with Maclin: 6.4
Kelce without Maclin: 9.5
Tyreek with Maclin: 3.2
Tyreek without Maclin: 8.5
Facing Travis Kelce is something I warn readers about just about every time the Raiders face the Chiefs. And I expect he will see plenty of looks and be a factor. Though if Nate Allen can play like the starter the Raiders expected him to be when they signed him prior to last season, and Maclin takes targets away, Kelce may not completely destroy the Raiders as he has done several opponents this season.
If not? You will hear a lot of sarcastic “Stop me if you’ve heard this one...”