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Breaking Down the Opponent: Keys to Victory Week 13

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 brings the Raiders to Arrowhead Stadium in a matchup against a bitter division rival. The Kansas City Chiefs were the toast of the NFL this offseason and media and experts alike lauded 3rd year QB Patrick Mahomes, anointing him as the perhaps the most talented signal caller to ever play the game.

Expectations were so high that the Chiefs were invariably in for a letdown. While they have been explosive on offense, they just haven’t matched their scoring output from 2018. An injury to Mahomes didn’t help either, and the Chiefs have hit some bumps in the road during their 2019 campaign, sitting just one game ahead of the Raiders in the AFC West standings. The Chiefs have shown some chinks in their armor that makes this a winnable game for the Raiders.

Offense built to explode

Whether its Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins or rookie Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs offense has the potential to turn a short catch into a house call. Tackling receivers and limiting their catches to short gains will be paramount. Unfortunately, the Raiders defense has struggled in this area, but if they can force the Chiefs to string together long drives instead of relying on big plays they have a chance.

Travis Kelce is the best TE in football (sorry Darren Waller truthers). Kelce can make an impact in the passing game like elite WRs around the NFL. The Chiefs love to split him out away from the passing strength and force defenses to decide which side of the formation they will focus their attention. Kelce has proven the ability to defeat man or zone coverage and is exceptionally dangerous in the redzone. The Raiders will need to get very creative in order to limit the All-Pro TE.

Sunday has the potential to become another exclamation point for Maxx Crosby’s rookie season. Benson Mayowa got in on 2 sacks during their last meeting in Week 2. Crosby, Mayowa, Dion Jordan, and Maurice Hurst will likely be Oakland’s most used defensive line rotation, and imrprovement from the configuration that was used in week 2 (Arden Key, Clelin Ferrel, PJ Hall, Mayowa). The Raiders pass rush has taken a huge step forward in recent weeks and they will need to step up yet again if the Raiders have any chance of winning.

Defense is vulnerable

The Chiefs defense ranks 30th against the run, meaning Josh Jacobs should be able to reel off some explosive runs against this unit. Running the ball effectively and shaving time off the clock is the only true way to beat the Chiefs (by keeping Patrick Mahomes and the offense off the field). Another Alabama back, Derrick Henry, did just that against the Chiefs just a few weeks ago. Here, Henry takes a wide zone play and cuts back when the defense over-pursues. Once he gets to the second level, he steps through a poor tackle attempt and takes this run the distance.

When an offense runs the ball effectively against a defense, it opens up the entire playbook. The play action pass was another way the Tennessee Titans upset the Chiefs, as Ryan Tannehill parlayed the success of the run game into plenty of time to hit his target downfield. If the Raiders offense can get back to running the ball with the dominance fans are accustomed to seeing, they will have a shot or two go down the field like this.

While Kansas City’s defense has not been great, their best quality is creating turnovers. They rank 7th in INTs with 10 and have forced 12 fumbles on the season. That equates to almost two turnover-worthy plays each game. One of the players who can take credit for this playmaking on defense in rookie safety Juan Thornhill. Going back to the Chiefs meeting with the Texans, Thornhill is in man coverage on the slot. Thornhill showcases his incredible range to cut off the receiver, squeezing him towards the sideline before getting his head around and making an acrobatic INT. For my money, this is as impressive of an INT as we’ve seen all year.

Keys to Victory

Offense

  • Pound the rock, control the clock
  • Scheme shots open in the passing game
  • Avoid turnover-worthy plays

Defense

  • Keep short gains short
  • Prevent Kelce from taking over
  • Disregard the run, rush the passer on all downs