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Raiders vs. Chiefs Preview: Has Kansas City solved their Maxx Crosby problem?

The Las Vegas Raiders pass rusher abused Kansas City’s RT last year

NFL: DEC 12 Raiders at Chiefs
Maxx Crosby, Andrew Wiley
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs is a big one, but when you add Monday Night Football and the fact the Raiders need a win to keep pace in the playoff hunt, it sets up for another epic chapter in a historic rivalry. Maxx Crosby had a field day against the Chiefs last season, so I made sure to ask Tom Childs from Arrowhead Pride about Kansas City’s right tackle situation as one of my five questions for the week.

Tom was kind enough to answer that and give Raider Nation a preview of Monday’s matchup, which will dual as some gambling advice over on DraftKings Sportsbook for those interested.

Question: How has Patrick Mahomes adjusted to life without Tyreek Hill? It looks like he’s spreading the wealth more this season.

Answer: Tyreek who?

Questions were being raised — rightly or wrong — after the first 3 weeks about the absence of Hill and what it has meant for the Chiefs’ offense. The Chiefs had just come off two games in which the committee bought in to replace Hill played, shall we say, poorly. Well, even Patrick Mahomes was being questioned, himself: Have the Chiefs offense lost their fear factor?

And the Sunday happened...

Such is how well Patrick Mahomes played on Sunday, he could have the Chiefs receiving core from 2014 — you know, the guys that didn’t score a single touchdown — playing against a defense made up of prime Lawrence Taylor, Deon Sanders, Ed Reed and many other greats, and it still wouldn’t have made a difference. It was football heaven.

The stats might not show it but the eyes certainly did. That level of performance from #PissedOffPat was unlike anything we’ve seen this season.

Have the chiefs lost their fear factor? Pull the other one.

Q: I’m also curious about how Hill’s departure has impacted how the Chiefs have been using Travis Kelce. I’ve always viewed those two as Jekyll and Hyde where Hill could take the top off of a defense and help open things up for Kelce underneath. Has Andy Reid had to change his scheme at all to help get the tight end open?

A: I think Kelce is just at the point of his career in which he will just always get his’ — and I think defensive coordinators know that now. Already this season, we’ve seen a variety of different ways to defend Kelce, and it’s just not working. Double teams, linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks... teams have tried it all. In fact, it’s only been Kelce himself that has stopped him. Most notably the very costly drop against the Colts.

Q: I saw Andrew Wylie has been starting at right tackle for the Chiefs so far this season, and Maxx Crosby kind of had his way against Wylie last year. How much growth has the tackle made since last year and do you expect this time to be different against Crosby?

A: He’s not perfect but he is certainly getting better. I hate saying ‘if there were a weak link then it would be...’ but if I were pressed to answer, I would probably say Wylie. Don’t get me wrong... he is still very serviceable and a valuable piece of the offensive line. It’s just hard to get overly excited about him when you look at the other guys on the offensive line — especially Trey Smith, Creed Humphrey and Joe Thuney.

Despite being the least flashy of all the Chiefs’ offensive linemen, Wylie still has the backing of Andy Reid and offensive line coach, Andy Heck. They still call protections that leave players on an island and I don’t expect that to change against Crosby, this Monday. Vegas has a stud in Crosby who will no doubt get the upper hand in some situations on Monday night. But at the same time, I expect Wylie to also get his fair share of wins too — especially in the run game where Wylie looks far more comfortable.

Either way, it will probably be one of the more important duels of the night.

Q: The Chiefs’ secondary has been playing really well so far this year but they haven’t faced a wide receiver like Davante Adams. How do you think Kansas City’s defensive backs stack up against Las Vegas’ receiving corps, and do you think they’ll be able to keep the Raiders offense as a whole under the 2.5 touchdowns total DraftKings Sportsbook has set for the game?

A: Like the Raiders will likely do with Kelce, I think Steve Spagnuolo will have to accept that Adams is going to get his token 100 yards and there isn’t a great deal that he or his players can do about it. For sure, he can put his defenders in the best possible position to succeed, but elite wide receivers are rarely shut down for an entire game.

As for the other guys, I would probably just give the edge to the Raiders pass catchers as a whole in a straight-up against the Chiefs DBs. But Rashad Fenton winning against Darren Waller or vice versa won’t be the deciding factor for the Raiders’ success.

Getting after — or protecting — the guy throwing the ball will be.

We know that Arrowhead isn’t exactly Derek Carr’s favorite stadium to play in. Outside of winning the Week 5 championship in 2020, Carr has had little to no success playing in Kansas City. I expect the Chiefs will look for that to continue by employing a pressure-reliant scheme. You don’t need me to tell you all that Carr doesn’t react great to pressure. Let’s be honest, not many quarterbacks do — but we’ve seen enough times that Carr can be rattled very easily, especially in that environment. The Chiefs will be hoping for big games from the likes of Chris Jones.

That all being said, I do think the Raiders will score points. What I saw on Sunday from the Raiders was a balanced, Patriots-esque attack. A balanced offense should be enough to keep the hungry defensive linemen of the Chiefs on their toes, as well as enough for the Raiders to keep the ball moving up and down the field. The touchdown line? I mean, that is a tough one. Let’s flip a coin.

Q: It feels like Nick Bolton is an emerging star on the Chiefs defense, especially against the run where he’s a sure tackler. However, Josh Jacobs has forced the second-most tackles in the NFL through the first four games of the year. Has Bolton faced a running back as shifty as Jacobs and are you confident in the linebacker in that one-on-one matchup?

A: When Josh Jacobs played in the HoF game back in early August, I genuinely questioned his future with the Raiders. How wrong I was! Having watched the Broncos game this past week, I cannot believe how good Jacobs looks right now. Is it safe to say he is in the form of his life? Probably.

Speaking of the form of his life, Nick Bolton can certainly claim that too. In a Chiefs’ defense full of young players, it is the second-year player that is really standing above the rest as a leader. It doesn’t matter what happens in a play, you can guarantee that Bolton will always end up somewhere in and around the ball.

When the suspension of Willie Gay Jr. was announced, I feared the worst for the second level of the Chiefs’ defense. I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest as Bolton has been phenomenal.

Obviously stopping the run isn’t simply running back vs linebacker. Yeah, there is an element to it at times but essentially it’s an offensive front vs a defensive front. And based on what we saw last weekend from both teams, this particular match-up should be very tasty.