Sunday Night Football: Deep Dive

Warren Sharp
·4 min read

The Chiefs are looking to enact revenge against the Raiders after Las Vegas handed them their lone loss of the season. The Chiefs are also looking to quite a boisterous Raiders squad that drove around Arrowhead Stadium multiple times in their team bus after the game, celebrating the win.

I never thought a bus would bring so much passion out of a rivalry, but here we are in 2020.

And one thing we know about athletes in general.

They take everything, especially the small things, personally.

The Chiefs need to take their offensive efficiency personally, because the last time they played the Raiders, the Chiefs Offense looked anything but normal.

Patrick Mahomes dropped back 39 times from 11 personnel and averaged 38% success on passes, 8.8 YPA and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio. Part of the problem was that he was pressured on 54% of these dropbacks.

The Chiefs, typically a team that will play around with formations and try new things, threw 85% of their passes from 11, and their other 15% resulted in: 43% success, 3.3 YPA, -0.11 EPA/att and a 57% pressure rate.

The Raiders Defense got after Mahomes far too often.

But as it turns out, that was the best week for this Raiders pass rush of the entire season.

After pressuring Mahomes on 54% of his total dropbacks, the Raiders haven’t pressured an opponent on more than 30% of dropbacks since.

And on the season, the Raiders pass rush has recorded just a 28% pressure rate. And they rank 29th in sack rate, 30th in QB hit rate and 26th in pass rush win rate.

It seems unlikely that those pressures will get to Mahomes this week. Especially because of what the Chiefs have done since then:

In the games since that one, Mahomes has been pressured on just 29% of dropbacks from 11 personnel. He has 7:0 TD:INT. He is averaging +0.31 EPA/att with 57% success and 8.7 YPA.

Now, the Chiefs are practicing without their two starting tackles (Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher) due to being in COVID protocols for contact tracing.

Not ideal when headed into a massive game with the Raiders for the AFC West crown. As well as chasing the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers for a first round bye.

What is a positive is that teams coached by Andy Reid have an 18-3 record coming off a bye, the best mark as a head coach since his first season in 1999.

Since 2018, Reid’s Chiefs are 5-0 off a bye, and score an average of 39 points per game.

With extra rest of any kind, Reid’s Chiefs are 14-5 since 2017 and average 31 points per game.

Raiders DC Paul Guenther has done a great job of containing Tyreek Hill, but life will be tough for the Raiders Defense this week.

Almost all of the Raiders starting defense is on the COVID list due to their close contact with DE Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell wil definitely miss the game, as could slot DB Lamarcus Joyner who was deemed a high-risk contact. However, the team also had to place multiple other defenders on the list who are unable to practice this week, including DE Arden Key, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Maliek Collins, DB Isaiah Johnson, and DT Kendal Vickers.

This makes formulating a game plan even more difficult for them this week.

While the Chiefs have had Derek Carr’s number, it should be noted that typically, he’s performed much better in home games against the Chiefs.

Carr has led the Raiders to outscore their team total at home in 3 of the 6 home games since 2014, helping to send the game’s final score over the total in 4 of the 6 games.

But on the road, Carr’s Raiders have outscored their team total in just 2 of 7 games, and the under has cashed in 5 of these 7 games. The Raiders had never scored more than 17 points in their prior 6 trips to KC, before putting up 40 points in their Week 5 win.

Note that in the last game against the Raiders, the Chiefs used play action on only 7 of 31 early down attempts (23%).

That was a low-water mark for the Chiefs. Because in the next 3 games, they used play action on 68%, 60% and 58% of early down passes.

In the 2019 games against the Raiders, the Chiefs used play action on 25 of 53 early down attempts (47%).

Examine the play action splits in the game’s first three quarters last season:

With play action: 8.2 YPA, +0.08 EPA/att, 46% success

Without play action: 9.1 YPA, +0.39 EPA/att, 51% success

Since that Week 5 meeting, the Chiefs have actually thrown MORE early down passes with play action than without play action.

Thus, I expect the Chiefs to do something offensively they did not against the Raiders in the first meeting, and ramp up play action usage.

The combination of more play action and a better handling of pressure should give this Chiefs Offense even more upside in this critical division rematch.