It may be important to take a step back from the bigger picture for a minute and look at the actual specific match-ups that will take place on the field tonight.
Two actual professional teams will take the field tonight; both of whom have proven professional players. It’s division rival football in primetime, so strange things can happen. Teams and players can play outside themselves. Or in the case of the Raiders, maybe getting back to their old selves.
Karl Joseph vs Travis Kelce
Last week Joseph had one of the worst games of his career. Most notably he was burnt by tight end Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry on two of the Chargers’ scoring drives, including the game-winner at the end. Things go from bad to worse this week with All Pro Travis Kelce coming to town. Joseph will have all he can handle and his coverage will go a long way to deciding this game.
Marshawn Lynch vs Todd Downing
Whether Marshawn has success won’t depend on any particular Chiefs player or what they do to try and stop him. It will depend on whether Downing finally decides to stick with the power run game and give Beast Mode a chance to establish himself.
Like the Chargers last week, the Chiefs do not have a good run defense. It’s one of the few weak areas for them. They suffered their first loss last week to the Steelers in part because Pittsburgh stuck with Le’Veon Bell, giving him the ball 32 times for 179 yards. That’s 5.59 yards per carry. Last week Lynch was averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the first half and got the ball just 5 times in the second half. That can’t happen again. For once this season, that cannot happen again.
Navorro Bowman vs Kareem Hunt
Bowman will get the start at middle linebacker and have the league’s top rusher to deal with. The rookie third round pick leads the NFL with 605 yards rushing. But it doesn’t stop there. Hunt is also a threat as a receiver — an area the Raiders have struggled. Bowman will have a lot on his plate four days after being signed. Having an otherwise banged up linebacking corps around him doesn’t help either.
Vadal Alexander vs Justin Houston
It’s never a good time to be without a starting offensive tackle. But a division game against an elite pass rusher like Houston could mean trouble. Alexander played one series in the season opener. In 9 snaps he allowed a sack, three pressures, and a run stuff. Houston has 5.5 sacks and 10 QB hits already this season. Alexander will have to play a LOT better than he did in the opener or Derek Carr is going to under attack all game.
Derek Carr vs Demons
Since Carr got the first win over the Chiefs in 2014 — largely on the running of Latavius Murray — Kansas City has been his bane. He has lost 5 straight to the Chiefs and half the Raiders’ losses last season were against them.
Carr has to not only silence the demons of his past performances against the Chiefs, but those that have haunted him this season, causing him to throw 4 interceptions in his last three games. Two of those picks happened on the second play of the game. He will not have the luxury of coming back from that kind of turnover against arguably the best team in football. A win tonight would be a miraculous turnaround from his performances during the team’s current 4-game losing streak. It would also stave off a sweep at the hands of AFC West opponents and offer a glimmer of hope the Raiders season isn’t a lost cause.