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Holiday Preview: Chiefs Host Raiders on Christmas Day

Happy Holidays, Chiefs Kingdom! It’s hard to believe how fast this season has gone. This is the season’s final Raiders Week, and it looks like it could be an exciting matchup, but it could end up with a Merry Christmas for Chiefs fans on Monday.   

The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off a decisive and confusing win. Any time the Chiefs play the Patriots, it’s bound to be a fight. I’m just concerned that KC still has the dropped pass issues, and it hasn’t looked like they’ve addressed it thoroughly.

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The Chiefs now lead the league in dropped passes with 35. On the surface, it’s a promising tally that doesn’t look like that of a playoff-bound, let alone a Super Bowl-bound squad. The platitudes delivered by the coaches and players (“We’ll get this fixed”) are empty when the product on the field is consistently on the opposing side.

Our favorite QB1 has a turnover problem partly because he is trying to force positive yardage in the face of a sub-par receiver corps. Patrick Mahomes is a fixer, a mechanic. He knows the problems, and his emotional and competitive side can get the best of him when he can’t do the job himself. I get the fire he has, and I admire his stamina. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get the job done when you don’t have the right tools.

Mahomes did have some decent output against New England. He went 27-37 for 305 yards and two scores. However, he was picked twice, but only one was his fault. He was also sacked three times. The offensive line play needs to be emphasized by Andy Heck in practice, so these guts stay with their blocks. I’m more specifically talking about the tackles. Wanya Morris is still growing as a left tackle and was beaten often.  Jawaan Taylor, on the other hand, needs to wake up and earn his paycheck.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire stood out in this game, with 101 yards from scrimmage and a tasty catch and run for 48 yards. He also added a nice grab in the end zone with a reach that belies his shorter stature. Rashee Rice had nine receptions for 91 yards and a score. Jerrick McKinnon used all his tools on Sunday as a passer and a runner. He added another 30 yards from scrimmage and a score, as well. Despite the drops, the receivers did add a total of 309 yards of offense. All three touchdowns were receiving scores.  

Defensively, the Chiefs were as efficient as always. They kept Bailey Zappe contained for most of the afternoon. Four players were credited with sacks, including Derrick Nnadi, Charles Omenihu, Drue Tranquill, and Jaylen Watson. Those four were also credited with 5 QB hits. Willie Gay got a pick that went for 24 yards. L’Jarius Sneed was productive, with eight solo tackles and an assist. He also had two passes defensed. The defense also had seven tackles for loss, and Omenihu forced a fumble.

An overview of where Kansas City is statistically should give us an idea of where they stand as they approach Las Vegas on Christmas Day. The total offense for the Chiefs ranks 7th with the 3rd-ranked passing game and 20th-ranked running game. The Chiefs are 10th in scoring. The Raiders total defense is currently ranked 17th with the 9th scoring defense. They are 11th against the pass and 23rd against the run.

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Coming off a win against the hapless and rudderless Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t believe the Raiders will seriously threaten KC dominance in the AFC West, this game included. The Chiefs can prove they have what it takes for the post-season if they can exert their will at a loud and boisterous Arrowhead.

The Chiefs still boast the 4th ranked total defense in the NFL. Along with the 3rd ranked scoring defense, Kansas City is 5th against the pass and 13th against the run. Las Vegas is ranked 24th in total offense with the 22nd-ranked passing game and dead last at 32nd in the running game. Again, you can’t take any team lightly at this time of the year. Any given Sunday (Monday), right?

Chiefs and Raiders is always a brawl. This week is the first time these two franchises have met on Christmas Day since 2004. I was there, and it was quite a show. Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez, and Larry Johnson were the stars. It was a close one, but the Chiefs beat them 31-30 on a Lawrence Tynes field goal with 22 seconds left. Although the Chiefs missed the playoffs and were 7-9 for the season, the game was a blast, and both teams came to play. It’s too bad I’ll miss this one in person.

Let’s talk more about Monday. With the move of Skyy Moore to injured reserve and the likely elevation of Justyn Ross to the active roster, could we possibly see an elevation in receiver play? Will Kadarius Toney be benched or limited in snaps? I’m optimistic. I expect we’ll see an inventive and carefully laid out game plan. I expect Rashee Rice to be the focus. Richie James will likely get some snaps, and Justyn Ross may get some action. Marques Valdes-Scantling should see some throws.

With the expected return of Isaiah Pacheco, the running game will be an emphasis. We’ll see good doses of Pacheco, Edwards-Helaire, and McKinnon. Watch for some inventive tight-end sets, as well. Travis Kelce could have a monster game. I believe Andy Reid has refocused his team, and I expect we’ll see a few things deep in the playbook that will allow the offense to make some progress.

Steve Spagnuolo will dial up his usual disguises to make the Raiders’ mistakes glare and show how offensively challenged they are. Las Vegas acting head coach Antonio Pierce is trying to make a case for the permanent position, and if he can somehow beat the Chiefs at home, he makes a good argument. It’s not likely, but it’s a good argument. Watch for Maxx Crosby and company try to make Mahomes uncomfortable. I hope Wanya Morris is ready for a heavy load of defensive end play because he will get it.

In Summary, the Chiefs are on a mission. The Raiders are, well, they’re the Raiders. All Kansas City must do is take care of business, and I believe they will be fine and ready for post-season play.

My Prediction:

Chiefs 31, Raiders 17

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