Now the tables are turned, with the Raiders surging and the Chiefs reeling. And the game is no less crucial for both teams. In order for the Raiders to think about winning the war, they must think smaller. Not just the battles week by week, but the individual fights within those battles. Win those and you win the battle to live to fight the next battle.
Nicholas Morrow vs Travis Kelce
Last week, in relief of Cory James at linebacker, the Raiders put him on tight end Evan Engram a good portion of the time and outside of one incredible one-handed grab by Engram, Morrow played him quite well.
Engram is a first round rookie and he is among the best tight ends in the game. Kelce arguably IS the best tight end in the game. Morrow showed his athleticism to stay with the tight end as well as the running back in coverage and will at time get help from the likes of Karl Joseph.
Michael Crabtree vs Darrelle Revis
With Marcus Peters out, Revis could be the Chiefs’ best cornerback. That speaks volumes considering Revis is not the player her once way. He just signed with the Chiefs and saw his first game action last week against the Jets. He is clearly not in football shape and may not be for a while. Ideally, the Chiefs would prefer not to throw him out there as a starter, but Reid opted to send a message to Peters, so Revis it is.
Crabtree is returning after what is essentially two games away. He was ejected early against the Broncos for fighting with Aqib Talib and was suspended for last week’s game against the Giants. He will be well rested and looking to make up for lost time.
Marshall Newhouse vs Justin Houston
This isn’t the pass rushing team it once was. Tamba Hali is a part time player at the age of 34 and his heir apparent Dee Ford was placed on injured reserve this week. Justin Houston is pretty much it for them. But make no mistake, he’s still an elite player who can take the edge as well as break double teams. He will often line up on the right side where Newhouse will attempt to stop him from wreaking havoc.
NaVorro Bowman vs Kareem Hunt
Bowman was playing in his first game in Oakland with three practices under his belt for the Raiders meeting in week 7. Hunt had 87 yards on 18 carries in that game. The veteran All Pro middle linebacker has settled in since then and is playing great football for the Raiders. The Chiefs have had some trouble getting the running game going of late and it will be up to Bowman to keep it that way.
Reggie Nelson vs Tyreek Hill
This reminds me of the Patriots game with Brandin Cooks. And that should scare you. Cooks did to Nelson just what we feared he would. He got behind him for a long score. How did we see that coming? Because Hill did the exact same thing to him in the Raiders first meeting with the Chiefs. Similar receivers, similar mistakes by Nelson, similar results.
Last week Alex Smith hit Hill on three long passes, two for touchdowns, which is why he had an insane 366 yards and 4 TD’s on just 19 completions.. John Pagano said this week that the answer to stopping Hill is to ‘Pray’. Well, he best be praying Nelson keeps his eyes out of the backfield and doesn’t let Hill take the top off the defense.