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Dual in the Desert Chiefs versus Raiders

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After the absolute offensive debacle on Monday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs try to rebuild their offense with a road game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Bringing a suspect offense into the not-so-friendly confines of a boisterous Allegiant Stadium, a site the Chiefs hope to be playing at in February, seems to be a distant possibility with the state of their current offensive output.

As I’ve been saying, without effective, complimentary pieces, Patrick Mahomes can’t win every game by himself. This was most evident in the second half of MNF. The Chiefs have become the worst second-half offense in the NFL and clearly not a capable contender for another championship, or are they?

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Let’s diagnose the problems, as I see them. First, the Chiefs are struggling to find another receiver who can play multiple snaps per series. As the evidence shows, when Travis Kelce is double and triple-teamed, there is no viable option. The Chiefs rank 1st in dropped passes for the entire NFL. Not a good statistic, and it’s anyone’s guess if that will change on Sunday.

In my opinion, it’s too late to bring in a top-performing veteran or two who can show the young guys how to do it. However, in the offseason, it will cost a bundle and that will likely result in lost pieces on the defensive side of the ball likely starter, Chris Jones. Either way, it won’t happen in 2023.

The drops are one thing, but Travis Kelce’s fumble probably changed a win into a loss on Monday Night. What the fun is going on? The rest of the receivers continue to make mistakes.

It’s hard to put my finger on the reasons for the drops and turnovers, perhaps the team is tired or lacks focus. From my cheap seat, I’ve said often Mahomes hasn’t been right since the start of the season. Is it the lack of playmakers or is his growing mistrust in live game action causing the offensive problems?

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This season, he hasn’t been able to generate sustained drives in the passing game.  That’s completely out of character for his game. He typically elevates mediocre receivers into actual playmakers as we’ve seen in previous seasons but that hasn’t happened in 2023.

I’d like to be a fly on the wall in the receiver room between passing game coordinator Joe Bleymaier and wide receivers coach Connor Embree are tasked with fixing the unit in 2023. If not, are they guys to fix it next season if the Chiefs make an early exit from the playoffs?

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There is literally no excuse for dropping passes. Justin Watson and Marques Valdez-Scantling had at least three critical catches bounce out of their hands. These are inescapable truths and it’s a real problem.

While the players and the coaches all sing from the same sheet of music regarding the problems with the offense, all we hear from the staff is, “We’ll work on it and get it fixed”. It might be too little, too late for this season.

I also think both Andy Reid and Matt Nagy abandon the run too soon in games. I can’t believe Eagles DC Sean Desai figured out the perfect way to stifle Isaiah Pacheco in the second half with only fifteen minutes to gather their thoughts. So much so that the balance from the successful first half turned into a mess in the second half? Further, Reid and Nagy didn’t make any adjustments either.

This game plan got blown up early in the first half because of how effective the run game became. The Chiefs amassed the majority of their 168 rushing yards in the first half! As I watched the first half progress, I could see how uncomfortable Andy Reid was running the ball. All he needed to do was adjust the gameplan to get a little deeper into the playbook pull out a couple of exotic formations and keep forcing the ball forward. Coaches coach, players play.

Alright, enough lamentations on the last game, let’s look at the Chiefs and Raiders’ first meeting of the season. This should be an interesting tilt because of the way acting head coach Antonio Pierce has his group playing.

While the Chiefs are currently ranked 8th in total offense, 6th in passing 14th in rushing, and 14th in scoring; the Raiders come in at 21st in yards allowed while they rank 11th in passing yards allowed and 27th in rushing yards allowed and 13th in scoring defense.

This appears to be on the plus side for Kansas City. My input to the game plan would be to get the run game going, though the Chiefs will be without Jerrick McKinnon. The good news run defense appears to be the Raiders’ Achille’s heel. If the Chiefs can get the receiver piece adjusted so that they are able to move the ball on Las Vegas, they should be fine. With the run game clicking, everything else should work.

Defensively, the Chiefs are ranked 4th in total defense and 3rd in scoring defense. They are ranked 4th in passing yards allowed and 18th in rushing yards allowed. The Raiders, on the other hand, rank 29th in total offense and 26th in scoring. They have the 23rd-ranked passing game and the 31st-ranked running game.

Granted the Raiders have some good skill players in WRs Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, and Hunter Renfrow. RB Josh Jacobs is a tackle breaker, but the center of the KC defense will push him to the edge and Drew Tranquill, Willie Gay, and Leo Chenal will clean it up.

Also, watch for Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed to take care of anything that might squirt through. I don’t see a lot of opportunity for the Raiders to do any real damage with rookie QB Aidan O’Connell. O’Connell threw for 271 yards on 24 completions for 41 attempts with only a single touchdown and 3 picks against the Dolphins last week.

The Chiefs’ defense is one of the NFL’s stingiest on scoring and looks to still be on the plus side for this game. I’m sure we’ll see a Raiders-type effort to try and get a home win, but I don’t believe it will be possible.

Even watching the tape of the Eagles game won’t bring much in the way of how to stop the Chiefs because of how different Kansas City plays divisional opponents. Good news with Maxx Crosby likely out Sunday with a knee injury, Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor should be able to handle the outside rush with ease.

I’m still not convinced that either Smith or Taylor are long-term solutions, so we will have to wade through the remainder of the season and see where they stand in the final evaluation. My hope is that they can limit their own penalties. DE Malcolm Koonce and both of their tackles, John Jenkins and Bilal Nichols will bring some pressure. Lurking in the secondary, former Chief, CB Marcus Peters, and CB Nate Hobbs will try to force more turnovers from Mahomes.

All in all, I like this matchup, and a win will be good medicine for the Chiefs, especially on a short week. Looking ahead, can the Chiefs run the table and reach 14-3? I think it’s a distinct possibility, but it won’t be easy if they continue to make mistakes offensively.

I would like to see nothing less than a strong push for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. I still believe that the AFC runs through Arrowhead and only time will tell if I’m right.

My Prediction:

Chiefs 31, Raiders 14

EDITORS NOTE: On Saturday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that Wide Receiver, Kadarius Toney is out with a pair of injuries.

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