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Focusing on one angle for the game tonight is no easy task. That’s because this game is a potent mixture of several important dynamics, none of which can be ignored in favor of the others. Here are the top three.
Last Sunday the Raiders were still reeling from the tragic accident in which wide receiver Henry Ruggs got behind the wheel of a car drunk and killed a young woman in a fiery crash and put Ruggs in jail facing considerable prison time. The emotions weighed heavily on the team along with suddenly being without their top receiver and the results on the field were palpable.
After the game, Derek Carr and the players downplayed emotion as a factor. And they may have been telling the truth. But there’s no question that at very least the emotion throughout the week disrupted their process.
It was quite obvious Carr was off his game, throwing several passes well off target that you’d expect he would complete. Including three times throwing off-target to Darren Waller in the end zone and once not seeing him open in the end zone at all.
What they have a chance to do tonight is prove that they were simply tripped up last week and that it’s not a sign of things to come. That they can recover at least in terms of the loss of the player Ruggs was in their offense in the same way any good team would when losing a key player to an injury or otherwise. They must prove their built for sustained success.
That loss to the Giants made the Raiders the only AFC West team to lose last week. And it made the division quite interesting. There is literally a half-game separating first and last place. With the Chargers and Raiders at 5-3 and the Chiefs and Broncos at 5-4. And this is the only division game, so winning it will mean a lot to either team.
If the Raiders lose and the Broncos win, the Raiders fall to last place in the division. If the Raiders win and the Chargers lose, the Raiders move to first place in the division. Granted we are a long way from the end of the season, but it’s still the difference between controlling your own destiny and being on the bottom having the claw your way back up.
We’re also at the point of the season where the Raiders have started to fall apart the past few seasons. The last two years they started out 6-4 only to crumble down the stretch, losing a combined total of nine of 12 games. Each instance included a loss to the Chiefs. No question this game has playoff implications.
Regardless of any other factors, this is the Chiefs vs Raiders we’re talking about here. Longtime bitter rivals. The Chiefs have kind of owned the Raiders in recent years. Since 2014, when Derek Carr took over as Raiders’ starting QB, the Chiefs have won 11 of 14 meetings between the two teams. This included a five-game win-streak from 2017-19 with Mahomes winning his first four matchups with the Raiders.
But as any Raiders or Chiefs fan can tell you, you can throw the records out the window when these two teams take the field. For instance, the Chiefs went 14-2 last season and made it back to the Super Bowl. And heading into week 17, their only loss of the season was to the Raiders at Arrowhead. The Raiders would finish the season 8-8 and miss the playoffs. But Carr got his long-awaited first win at Arrowhead in his seventh try.
The Chiefs are not playing like the same team as they were the past couple of seasons when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one. But they are not to be underestimated. It’s still Mahomes and Andy Reid. They didn’t suddenly forget how to play or coach football.
It can’t be understated how crucial this game is for the Raiders in terms of sending a message. Both to the Chiefs, themselves, and to the rest of the league. That message will be whether or not the Raider are for real this time.
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