The Kansas City Chiefs are getting ready to face off against the Las Vegas Raiders on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 10. Nothing would help this team get their season back on track more than a prime-time win over their most bitter rival. With each AFC West team sitting at five wins, this game will be big for the division standings and could go a long way toward determining the outcome of the season for both Kansas City and Las Vegas.
With all that in mind, here are four things that we’ll be keeping an eye on during the course of the game:
Can the right tackle spot hold up for Kansas City?
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The Chiefs will be without their top-2 players at the right tackle position on Sunday. Mike Remmers was recently placed on injured reserve and Lucas Niang has a rib injury keeping him on the sidelines. Kansas City has a number of options to choose from, but they’ll likely rely on Andrew Wylie to fill in at the right tackle spot this week.
Wylie has filled in at the right tackle position at times for the Chiefs. He had a successful outing last week in relief of Niang, and he also found success against the New Orleans Saints last season. The lasting memory of Wylie playing the position, though, will be his performance protecting Mahomes during Super Bowl LV.
This week he’ll be tasked with slowing down his former Eastern Michigan teammate Maxx Crosby, who leads the NFL in pressures this season. They’re going to have to chip, rub and leave some help on that side of the line to help slow down the Raiders’ pass rush. Another way the Chiefs can help whoever fills in at the right tackle spot is by running the ball. Las Vegas has allowed 4.6 yards per carry this season and an average of 133.5 yards per game on the ground. The more short-yardage situations Kansas City finds itself in, the fewer opportunities Crosby will have to pin his ears back and go after Mahomes.
A get-right game for Patrick Mahomes
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Assuming the protection holds up, this could serve as a bounceback game for Patrick Mahomes. The fourth-year veteran is coming off one of the worst games of his career, completing less than 55% of his passes with just 166 passing yards against the Green Bay Packers in Week 9. Historically speaking, some of Mahomes’ best performances have come against Las Vegas.
If there is one team that Mahomes has dominated during his career it’s the Raiders. In six career games so far, Mahomes has a 5-1 record against the franchise rival. He has completed 61.8% of his passes against Las Vegas, averaging over 313 yards per game with 17 total touchdowns and three interceptions. The Raiders have a new defensive coordinator this season in former Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, but that really won’t help them here. In five games against Bradley’s defense, Mahomes is 4-1, completing 61% of his passes for over 1,400 yards, 12 touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Can the Chiefs get pressure on Derek Carr without blitzing?
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Raiders QB Derek Carr could see a lot of success in the passing game on Sunday night because of his tendencies against the blitz this season. By most measures, he has been one the best quarterbacks in the NFL when blitzed, completing 158 passes for over 1,700 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps most impressive, among starting quarterbacks, Carr leads the NFL in average depth of target when blitzed with 11.2 yards. Basically, he’s hitting a lot of deeper throws when he’s blitzed.
Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has been one of the most frequent to blitz this season, primarily because of their struggles getting pressure with four. That could change with the addition of Melvin Ingram, but they’ll need to be careful this week. If you blitz Carr too frequently, he’s bound to hit a deep shot eventually.
Is this the week Josh Gordon gets going?
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It seems like an evergreen question to ask at this point, but is this the week that Josh Gordon gets going for Kansas City? Patrick Mahomes chalked things up to luck when it comes to Gordon’s involvement over the past few weeks. They’ve had some situational stuff come up (like playing from behind) that limited his involvement in the game plan early on. Really, the QB and WR duo have yet to show any sort of on-field chemistry.
There are reasons to be hopeful that this is the week that Gordon emerges as a real threat for the Chiefs in the receiving game. Receivers have 28 receptions for 333 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders in the last three weeks. In Week 7 and Week 8, it was the secondary and tertiary targets of opponents that did the best against Las Vegas.
There is also the health of the Raiders’ secondary coming into question. One starting cornerback this week is listed as doubtful in Keisean Nixon. A backup safety has been ruled out in Tyree Gillespie. They’ve also got a backup nickel corner dealing with an injury in Amik Robertson.