We have entered the dog days of summer, where most of us wait for football to return. Here, we will continue to look at the Chiefs schedule and dissect each game. After a tough win over the Steelers, Kansas City must turn around and travel to Oakland four days later. The Raiders are a very great threat in the AFC. Will the Chiefs be able to maintain their grip on the AFC West? Let’s find out.
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December 8, 2016: Chiefs 21, Raiders 13
The Chiefs brought it on defense against the Raiders in December. Their 21 point second quarter, highlighted by a pair of Tyreek Hill touchdowns, put them ahead for good. They held Derek Carr to 117 yards passing on 41 percent completion. There weren’t many throwing lanes with the dominance of the secondary. Kansas City did allow 100 yards to Latavius Murray, but the dominance in the passing game proved enough. They also found balance on offense, with Alex Smith finding Hill and Travis Kelce down the field. Chris Conley turned in a 70 yard performance as well. This game not only put the Chiefs back into first place, but it also showed that the Raiders weren’t ready to take the next step.
October 16, 2016: Chiefs 26, Raiders 10
October provided a similar story. Although Derek Carr had a better game, the Chiefs won the day by keeping the Raiders out of the end zone. Their lone issue on defense was containing Amari Cooper, who finished with 10 catches and 129 yards. On offense, Alex Smith was near perfect, with only three incompletions all game. Spencer Ware dominated on the ground, with 131 yards on 24 carries. The balance on offense, combined with the suffocating presence on defense, humbled the Raiders.
What Has Changed?
The Raiders have added new weapons to their offense. Jared Cook will certainly help the tight end position as a field stretcher. The team also added Marshawn Lynch, who will help out the running game, especially with the departure of Latavius Murray. Oakland fortified the offensive line, despite losing right tackle Menelik Watson. The secondary will continue to improve with the additions of Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu via the draft. Oakland can win now, but they are young enough to wait on the development of their young guns. Lynch and Cook make the Raiders a serious threat to put up 30 points a game, and it will be up to the Chiefs to hold them off.
Controlling The Trenches
Like many games for the Chiefs this coming season, the trenches will decide this one. Kansas City and Oakland both possess good offensive line play, along with strong edge presence. Khalil Mack can give Kansas City fits off the edge, and the group behind him continue to get better. But, the Chiefs offense can win with the quick passing game. Plus, the running game should find holes up the middle, a big weakness for the Raiders. Spencer Ware and rookie Kareem Hunt should thrive all game long. Despite an improving defense, Alex Smith will have the offense moving efficiently.
Defensively, the Chiefs must find a way to pressure Derek Carr. There are plenty of weapons at his disposal, and if he is given enough time, Kansas City won’t stand a chance. Justin Houston must lead the group and find a way to exploit the right tackle position. The secondary is strong, but there may be too many weapons. That puts a huge weight on the pass rush, but the development of young guys will prove they are up to the task.
Kansas City has been near the top of the division for some time now. But, things are certainly changing. Oakland has made enough moves to seriously contend for the top spot. Despite growing pains on defense, there is enough of an influx of talent to improve. Plus, the Raiders have made enough moves to be a top five offense in 2017. The Chiefs have a tall order here, especially on the road. The continued ascension of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, plus the rise of new weapons, could force the Chiefs into a shootout. With no huge changes on offense, Kansas City will find it tough to win shootouts in 2017. Oakland is rising, and this is a tough road game.
Raiders 27, Chiefs 21
Current Projected Record: 4-3
— Jake Schyvinck is a Managing Editor for cover32 and covers the Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow him on Twitter here.