The Kansas City Chiefs are seething from letting a winnable game slip through their hands — or clang off them — on Monday night. That would’ve not only strengthened their foothold over the AFC, but distanced themselves further from the in the division, too.
That’s the team that awaits the Las Vegas Raiders this Sunday. And it brings a bevy of areas of concerns for the Silver & Black.
From the Chiefs third-ranked defense, Patrick Mahomes-led offense, and tight end Travis Kelce, Las Vegas will have its hands full in the AFC West clash that can either draw the Raiders closer to the division leader or widen the gap.
“We’re going to deal with that with [Travis] Kelce and probably one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Patrick Mahomes, who we have ultimate respect for, and Andy Reid as a play caller. It’s a good thing for our defense over the last three weeks to do what they’ve been doing. It’s just getting better and better. We’re healthy, guys are flying around, they’re having fun, they’re not blinking. The turnovers have been really critical for us, the guys are just attacking football. You saw that with Nate Hobbs, you see Maxx [Crosby] do it every play, Robert [Spillane] almost had another interception. So, like I told you guys last week, defense travels. I thought they did a good job last week of bringing their lunch pail and getting ready to work, and we’re going to have to do that here at home.”
Another Balanced Rush
The Raiders offense faces another defense that boasts a balance pass rush that can take down a quarterback a variety of ways. The group is led by disruptive defensive tackle Chris Jones (7.5 sacks) and he’s flanked by talented 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis III who has seven sacks on the year.
That duo gets support from Michael Danna (5.5 sacks), Drue Tranquill (3.5 sacks), and Leo Chenal (three). Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo even blitzes from the cornerback spot with Trent McDuffie have two on the year. The Chiefs have a total of 36 sacks on the season.
And it’s that ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks that helps power Kansas City’s third-ranked defense in points allowed (164) and fourth-ranked yards yielded (2,832).
Raiders rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell was teammates with Karlaftis at Purdue is and well-aware of what the edge rusher can do.
“Yeah, I am good friends with George, he was at Purdue for the whole time,” O’Connell said. “I guess I doubled George in Purdue years, but was there the whole time that he was, and he’s a great guy, a great player. I always thought back in the day I’m super happy I don’t have to get tackled by this guy, and it’s going to be fun to play him. I’m already texting with him a little bit, so it’s been super fun.”
Just Three Touchdowns Away
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s career stat line against the Raiders is something to behold.
In 18 career games
- 100 catches
- 1,289 yards
- 11 touchdowns
- Six 100-yard games
The 34-year-old is just three touchdowns away from being the career-leader in receiving touchdowns scored against the Raiders. That spot is currently held by another tight end — Antonio Gates — who hauled in 13 touchdowns in 31 career games against the Raiders.
But get this: Kelce is just 136 yards away from eclipsing Gates on the all-time receiving yards against Raiders list, too. Gates had 1,424 while Kelce is at 1,289. Kansas City has two cracks at Las Vegas this season with this Sunday’s matchup being the first and a Week 16 date in KC the second.
Depending on which statistical service you look at, the number of drops the Kansas City pass catchers have this year is either 26 or 25. According to Pro Football Reference (PFR), it’s 25 with rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice leading the team with five drops. There’s a slew of players with three apiece, including Kelce.
The most egregious drop came from wide out Marquez Valdez-Scantling who watched a would-be go-ahead and potential game-winning touchdown clang off his hands on a dime from Mahomes in the Monday night loss to the Eagles.
To give you context, the Raiders are charted by PFR with 12 drops as Davante Adams has the most with four and running back Josh Jacobs is net with three.
With a rivalry game on tap and the team losing ground in the AFC West, expect Kansas City pass catchers to be better this Sunday in Las Vegas.
No Standing Pat
The 28-year-old Mahomes continues to be the accurate and dangerous quarterback he’s been since taking over the reins at quarterback in Kansas City in 2018.
He’s thrown 377 passes for 253 completions (67.1 percent), 2,619 yards, 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He’s been sacked only 13 times and is a magician at times with the ball in his hands.
While Mahomes can pick apart a defense when given time, he’s shown a penchant to make teams pay with his legs too, rushing 48 times for 296 yards this season (19 first downs). This is an element the Raiders defense must contend with too.