Last Sunday the Raiders just lost their fourth straight game to drop to 2-4 on the season. They were surprised by a team in Washington that completely changed its defense, unable come back against a tough defense in Denver Broncos, lost to a struggling Baltimore Ravens team, and only put up 16 points on the Chargers’ NFL worst defense. This is who the 2017 Raiders are.
Before the start of the season, this Thursday night match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs was thought to be the true test of the Raiders championship potential. Now it looks more like another time the team will have disappointing results in a nationally televised game. The only question seems to be, how bad is this going to be?
Home teams traditionally have the advantage during the short week but that may be all the Raiders have in their favor. They went from being in the Super Bowl conversation during the offseason, to looking more like a team that will struggle to finish 8-8. While Kansas City has looked like the best team in the NFL. Lets take a look at what the team needs to do if they want to have a chance in this game.
Kansas City has done a remarkable job of reinventing their offense this season. They use misdirection masterfully and follow it up with deep attacking plays. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt looks like the offensive rookie of the year and has to be the first player the defense attempts to neutralize. This is the first part of the offense that requires the Raiders defense to stay in their gaps though getting Hunt on the ground is a whole other challenge.
The other way Kansas City attacks a defenses discipline is through the aforementioned misdirection plays. The most infamous of these this season have included a jet sweep motion with a triple option and screen possibility. It is not simply window dressing either. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith reads the defense and has been deadly at attacking which ever aspect of the play the defense leaves open. Maintaining gap integrity will be key in this game, the Chiefs offense is designed to attack it.
Power running game
This is most likely wishful thinking but could open up the offense for the Raiders. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing has gone with much more zone running this season than the Raiders ran under former coordinator Bill Musgrave. After ranking 6th in rush yards in 2016 the offense currently sits at 31st. An outside observer might question if there is a correlation between these two facts.
Even if we dismiss the season stats and just focus on this game, gap runs are the way to attack how the Chiefs have dismantled the Raiders offense in previous meetings. Carr and company have had a difficult time beating the Man-2 looks that they have faced against Kansas City. The “rule” when facing two high safeties has long been to “run them out of it.” If a defense is going to play 7 in the box with 2 high, the offense has to run at them and force one of the safeties to have to come down.
This in turn opens up the passing game and puts the defense in a bind. Of course once the defense has to start guessing between a run or pass, play action becomes a dangerous tool. The Raiders sadly do not seem be aware of this fact as they have only utilized it 11 times this season.
This is THE TEAM the Raiders front office and coaching staff had on their minds when they brought running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Now is the time to unleash Beastmode or they are better off just moving on to fellow running back Jalen Richard as he better fits the west coast style of offense the Raiders are running this year.
Marquette King doing his thing
This is going to be a field position battle type of contest. The Raiders will have an edge with their punter Marquett King. King is currently averaging 52.7 net yards per punt and has had 13 of 27 punts (48%) downed inside the 20 yard line. This is obviously going to be key in winning field position.
The Raiders defense will be the other unit who will play a pivotal role in shaping field position. That 28th ranked run defense will really need to step up this week. If the offense struggles to sustain drives and the Chiefs are able to run the ball, this game could get really ugly.
From being considered Superbowl contenders to an embarrassing 2-4 record has to be a real slap in the face to the players and coaching staff alike. If the team wants to live up to their lofty offseason goals, they have to start this week. They have to win this game and vanquish that repulsive red and yellow cloud that hangs over this franchise.
Who wins this game?
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