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It’s Officially Raiders Week for the Chiefs

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With the taste of Monday night’s loss behind them, the Kansas City Chiefs are back at work today getting ready to face their most hated of rivals, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. The Silver and Black have already had a coaching and culture change this season, while the Chiefs are still searching for an offensive identity. On Sunday in Sin City, we’re going to learn a lot about these AFC West rivals.

I admit it took about 24 hours to get over Monday Night’s 21-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but there’s not a lot we can do about it now. The Kansas City Chiefs have to get ready to face a team they’ve dominated in recent years but have enough talent to beat the boys in red if they don’t get their act together offensively.

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The Raiders have a terrific defense and held the Miami Dolphins to just twenty points. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull off the upset, they only lost by seven points. The Chiefs offense has struggled to find any real consistency, and for the first time in the Mahomes era in Kansas City, there is doubt this offense can turn things around.

Don’t get me wrong the Chiefs are still the best overall team in the AFC, they just aren’t playing up to the standards of themselves or the fan base that expects perfection. Well, hate to upset the fans, but this offense will never be perfect, and I doubt it will ever return to its explosive self.

Instead, Mahomes must be more of a game manager, ala his mentor, Alex Smith, if he wants to win another Super Bowl in Kansas City. Without an explosive wide receiver, relying on an aging 34-year-old tight end isn’t going to work any longer.

Travis Kelce is in the midst of the worst stretches of his career. He’s been beaten up, hit at the line of scrimmage, and triple-teamed with packed zone converges that are suffocating his success.

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Mahomes tried to make Justin Watson the focal point against the Eagles, and who could blame him considering, up until the Eagles game, he’s been the Chiefs’ best receiver. However, he couldn’t handle the increased workload and struggled to run the correct routes and he dropped two key passes that could have changed the trajectory of the game.

I’ve already harped on Head Coach, Andy Reid enough this week so I’ll focus my energy in other places. The difference between the Chiefs standing 7-3 and 10-0 boils down to a single play missed in every loss.

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All of them fell on the wide receivers who couldn’t make the key catch when their team needed it most. That tells me this group has yet to grasp the foundation of what makes the Chiefs offense so successful.

For six years now, we’ve watched Patrick Mahomes do the impossible. He leaves it all on the field, and even though his delivery might be unorthodox at times if he’s facing 4th and twenty yards to go, he’ll find you for a first down. All you have to do is catch the Darn Ball!

To date, his receivers have let him down time and time again. For the season, twenty-two percent of Mahomes passes have been dropped by his receivers, tight ends, and running backs. That’s nearly a quarter of his pass attempts.

How can this be?

It really boils down to a lack of concentration, and understanding the expectation you must play with if Mahomes is your quarterback. In Kansas City, winning is everything. Losing any time in the season is unacceptable. That same philosophy has to equate to the Chiefs receivers when they don’t run the correct routes, or they don’t sit down in the open places of the zone defenses they face each week, or lastly, understand that failing in the game’s biggest moments is punishing the team.

Mahomes will never call out anyone, though privately, I’m sure those conversations were different. The fact Mahomes didn’t single out Marquez Valdes-Scantling after this big drop Monday Night, tells me he’s all class, but he’s not happy.

However, I suspect Mahomes will be weary of throwing the ball to him again. The same likely will be true for Watson. 

So that means Kadarius Toney, Rashsee Rice, Mecole Hardman, and now Ritchie James should be the center point of the receiving group. I want to include Skyy Moore in that group, but he’s just not progressing enough to give him the reps he’s been getting through 10 games.

Unless at least two of these receivers step out of the shadows of disappointment this season, Kelce will continue to struggle to find yards and touchdowns. Further, aspirating his frustration, he recently stated in the Wall Street Journal, that he’s been thinking about retiring. 

That makes the importance of the next seven games and the postseason ahead all that more important should 2023 be Kelce’s last rodeo in the NFL.

Still, Mahomes is the key to all of this, and Sunday against the Raiders, he’s only lost to them one time in his NFL career. Generally speaking, he’s had some of his best games against the Silver and Black, but he’s also not faced the Raiders with a defense playing great football.

So what happens Sunday in Las Vegas, will likely change the fortunes for the winner. If Kansas City wins, they go back atop the AFC Standings and separate from the AFC West pack, but if the Raiders win, they’ll move a game closer to the Chiefs with the tie-breaker.

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